Writing Glossary

What is a Trade Journal and Are They Reliable?

March 20, 2023 by

This is a guide covering everything you need to know about trade journals.

We’ll be covering the following topics.

Table of Contents

What is a Trade Journal?

A trade journal deals with news and developments related to a specific industry. It is also called a professional journal or a trade paper.

If you work in a specialized industry, chances are you would want to keep yourself on top of the latest developments in the field.

Trade journals are resources that serve that highly niche demand of knowledge and information-seeking businessmen, trade professionals, and technicians.

Providing juicy nuggets of the latest information along with industry wisdom, trade journals are a breed apart from other commonly circulated publications.

Instead of pandering after each and every consumer or subscriber, the business model attracts only the die-hard enthusiasts.

For example, to an average joe out there, a trade journal on trucks and truck parts may be meaningless, but to a truck enthusiast, the trucking trade journal is gold.

Almost all industries and professions out there have some sort of a trade journal, either open to everyone or released only to a select few.

Trade journals are usually in a magazine format containing articles, infographics, or researches conducted by the leading experts in the field.

Every industry or profession has its own story, trends, and industry-specific information that is useful for people working in it. There are different types of trade journals.

Depending on the type, trade journals are issued weekly, bi-monthly, or monthly. Scientific journals or journals dealing with complex issues might require longer to compile, and therefore, it would make sense that the issue would take time.

Another feature that sets trade journals apart from other forms of publications is that they aren’t widely available.

In fact, getting a subscription to one can be like joining a secret club. Some trade journals only send copies of their issues to select subscribers.

Trade journal example
trade journals

What is a Trade Journal Used For?

A trade journal is used by professionals to stay informed on the latest scoops and events happening in their industry.

In this fast-paced world, if you miss out on something, you risk getting left behind.

Staying informed and on top of the game is a must for so many industry professionals.

The need and pace of information are important, but equally, so these days is the relevancy. So much of the content in news and books is fluff or irrelevant.

Trade journals, in serving a select market of professionals, produce quality content that is highly specific to an industry.

Pick up a trade journal on, say, entrepreneurship and you find the most relevant information about entrepreneurship. Even the ads are targeted towards a specific group.

Are Trade Journals Reliable?

Trade journals are more reliable than general magazines, websites, or newspapers, but they are less reliable than peer-reviewed articles or research.

Peer-reviewed researches or articles go through many steps to be published. During each step, they are cross-checked by experts of the field for authenticity, relevance, and plagiarism. Therefore, peer-reviewed researches are the gold standard in terms of reliability.

The trade journals, on the other hand, are not peer-reviewed, but still, they contain contributions from the leading experts in the field.

Who would you listen to if you wanted to know something about a problem related to a specific industry? Obviously, the professional, right?

Say, you want some financial help? You would obviously contact an auditor or an accountant to check if your logbooks are tight and there is no wastage.

Similarly, if you need to stay reliably informed in your own industry then you would listen to the industry experts.

Trade journal industry expert
industry experts

Trade Journal Advantages and Disadvantages

So until now, you have formed some idea of what a trade journal is, and what purpose does it serve.

But to make it even easier to understand, let’s try and look at this in terms of advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of a Trade Journal

Trade journals provide highly practical information that is highly significant to a select group of professionals.

1. Exclusive Access

Having a trade journal subscription is like having access to an elite group of industry leaders.

Hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth kind of explains the novelty that a trade journal carries.

2. Opportunities

As trade journals are geared towards a specific profession, they contain ads or job postings related to the profession. Also, posting ads in a trade journal can have a high-conversion effect for advertisers.

Disadvantages of a Trade Journal

Trade journals provide highly practical information that is highly significant to a select group of professionals.

1. Not The Most Reliable Resource

Although trade journals are highly reliable, they still can’t even come close to the reliability of a peer-reviewed journal.

2. Jargon

The use of industry-related jargon is also commonplace in trade journals.

3. Layout

Content is sometimes displayed in a graphical manner that is jarring to some readers, i.e. the use of big ad spaces or intense colors is also a feature of the trade journals.

Difference Between Journal and Trade Journal?


A journal is a generalized term given to the publications appearing cyclically. Usually, the submissions to a journal follow a specific format.

Journals are not graphical, i.e. they don’t contain flashy images or fonts.

The articles in a journal are written with the expert reader in mind, therefore, there is a heavy emphasis on jargon and terminologies with little to no explanation.

Trade Journal

Trade journals, on the other hand, are also cyclical publications, but they are more specialized, meaning that a trade journal doesn’t cover more than one industry.

The trade journal for advertising, AdWeek, publishes articles on what’s new in advertising exclusively.

The content of trade journals is also written by experts for experts, but it can also be of interest to a general reader.

Trade Journal vs Scholarly Journal?

Another distinction that needs to be made is that between the trade journal and scholarly journal.

Scholarly Journal

Here is a list of features that are unique to scholarly journals:

  • follow a methodology and structure
  • writers are credited with important information regarding their qualifications
  • scholarly journals are usually academic
  • these journals are peer-reviewed which increases their authenticity
  • citations are provided at the end
  • references to other researches are common
  • jargon usage is highly common

Trade Journal

Contrasting these with features of a trade journal:

  • trade journals are for professionals written by professionals
  • they are practical
  • they have no citations or references
  • jargons are used, but sparingly and along with definitions 
  • they are not peer-reviewed.

How to Find Trade Journals?

You can search for trade journals in online libraries. A few of the libraries that have a never-exhausting catalog of trade journals are:

1. The New York Public Library

Visit this articles and databases page to search for trade journals related to any industry.

2. BrownZine Library

This is another extensive resource where you can find trade journals either by subject/field, or even keyword.

Here is their database page.

3. Simon Fraser University (SFU)

You can find their database page here.

To further explore how to find trade journals, we also recommend this video by Amy Whitson:

Popular Trade Journals

The following are popular trade journals in their own industries.

1. Advertising Age

This is a global media and marketing ad magazine that caters to the latest in advertising. It has a wide following among marketers and advertisers. It is based in New York.

2. The Hollywood Reporter (THR)

This is an industry leader when it comes to news related to Hollywood. It runs a magazine, a newsletter, and a website.

People related to the Hollywood industry or who follow the latest entertainment-related news follow this trade journal.

3. Architects’ Journal

The architects have their own journal that covers not only the latest news in construction and architecture but keeps the readers up to speed on the latest in products in the industry. They also cover architecture award shows.

Final Remarks

Trade journals are specific and industry-related resources that contain the latest news, updates, product listings et cetera of the industry.

The articles or features in a trade journal are written by experts. They follow a closed circulation model, catering only to subscribers.

If you want to keep yourself informed on the latest developments in your industry then you should definitely subscribe to a trade journal of your industry.