What Niche Publishers Know That Mass Media Overlooks


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Article ImageWhile publishers continue to battle for audience, relevance, and engagement, some niche publishers are quietly making an impact—and money—from narrowcasting. Consider, for example, the following:

  • Emu Today & Tomorrow, a magazine for emu farmers
  • Twins, a magazine for parents of multiples, which launched in 1984
  • Spudman, a publication for potato farmers
  • The Chimney Sweep News, serving a decidedly niche market of chimney sweepers as the name suggests

These and other publications are finding success by casting a narrow net to appeal to smaller, more exclusive market segments. Publishers can draw inspiration and insight from the retail sector. Large retailers, such as Sears and JCPenney, are continuing to struggle while newer, niche players are narrowly targeting specific audiences and achieving success through their efforts. In fact, even mega retailers are taking steps to capitalize on the benefits of narrowcasting. Walmart’s subsidiary, Bonobos, is making its mark in the men’s clothing space.

Sam Parr, co-founder and CEO of The Hustle, a niche publication focused on Millennial entrepreneurs that quickly blew past the 1 million subscriber mark, says, “There is a 100% parallel here with the retail industry. Look at the niche of direct-to-consumer brands. They go super deep on one kind of customer—and then that customer will buy anything from them.”

In an era in which digital communications allow consumers to find, follow, and engage with people who are just like them to drill down on information specific to their needs and interests, mass marketing and mass publishing are having diminishing appeal. It’s impossible to connect deeply with an audience “when you’re covering everything from the latest car model release to the Iran nuclear crisis to hurricanes to the POTUS,” says Chane Steiner, CEO of Crediful, a personal finance site. Instead, savvy publishers are learning that they can build mass success by narrowcasting.

Author Alina Adams is an author who found her niche after a successful career writing books for traditional publishers that reached a large audience. Adams has self-published two books—Getting Into NYC Kindergarten and Getting Into NYC High-School—to appeal to a market she knows well. “I felt that I knew how to find my niche audience, and how to market directly to them, better than a traditional, general publisher would,” says Adams. She’s leveraged her knowledge and marketing savvy to spin the books into podcasts, videos, a weekly column, and, she says, “most lucrative of all, private consults with parents looking for guidance in finding the best fit school for their children.”

When considering a niche, publishers should be looking for an intersection of what they are uniquely qualified to provide in terms of content and an identifiable/reachable audience to target. Niche doesn’t mean no one—there must be certain economies of scale to make any content offering worthwhile. Parr recommends considering “a combination of what do we enjoy working on, what can we be world-class at, and what has the highest lifetime value per customer.” Basically, he says, “we look at audiences and say, ‘which audience desperately needs us for their job?’”

Perhaps it goes without saying, but one critical element for successful niche marketing is a deep and thorough understanding of the target niche market—what do they value, what are their pain points, and how can you deliver relevant content to engage and retain these readers? Fortunately for today’s publishers, especially those in the digital realm, both the ability to reach prospects and the opportunity to strategically monitor and analyze results are more possible than ever before. Groups on LinkedIn and Facebook can provide the opportunity to join—or create—networks to engage with and learn about audience interests. All social media channels also offer the ability to finely target specific audience segments with ads based on their unique interests.

“Niches make riches,” says Parr. “I think going narrow and deep versus wide and shallow can be 10 times more lucrative. Eyeballs are a commodity at this point. It’s very easy to get vanity views, but to build a big business, you need loyalty.” That, Parr and others have found, is easier to do if you “go niche.”


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