I subscribe to the weekend edition of the Daily Telegraph just to read the Body + Soul lift out over eggs on toast on a Sunday morning. It doesn’t feel like the weekend if I haven’t accidentally glued sheets of newspaper together with runny yolks and avocado.
I’m not interested in the rest of the paper. Why would I wade through 30 pages of general news when I can go online or buy a magazine and read 30 articles on topics that I care about? This is one of the reasons newspapers are struggling: they can’t be everything to everyone anymore.
General content isn’t working for newspapers, and it doesn’t work for bloggers. So, in this week’s Better Blogger, Better Writer post, we’ll look at why finding (and sticking to) your niche is important and how it can help you build an audience for your work.
What’s a niche? Why do I need one?
A niche blog focuses on a particular topic (i.e. guinea pigs, modern poetry, cosmetics) that appeals to a specific market (guinea pig lovers, poetry aficionados, people who would like to know the difference between illuminator and concealer). Still confused? Here are a few examples of niche blogs:
Still confused? Here’s an example of a general blog that has absolutely no theme, direction or focus:
If you’ve been following the rest of this series, you may have noticed that almost all of the blogs I’ve referred to in previous posts have been niche blogs. There’s a reason for this: it’s easier to build an audience if you focus on one topic.
Readers are lazy, and they don’t like surprises. They were attracted to your blog because they loved the way you wrote about vintage cars/cats/venture capital. Post a recipe for pumpkin soup, and you’ve lost their attention. Figure out your passion and write about that.
Niche blogging also allows you to build a reputation as an expert in your field. You don’t need to become the next Arianna Huffington (founder of the Huffington Post) or Pete Cashmore (who founded Mashable as a teenager in 2005) to benefit from this. Post regular, well-researched content in a niche area and people will come to rely on you as a trusted source of information.
But Amy, a bunch of better, more established bloggers have taken all of the good niches!
Stop it. No they haven’t. That’s like a journalist turning up to an editorial meeting and refusing assignments on the grounds that all of the best news has already been written. New markets and trends are evolving every day. Stuff happens. Things change. Write about that.
Also, you’re definitely allowed to take parts of what you like about one blog and combine it with aspects of another, or put your own spin on it. Like Humans of New York? Why not start a similar project in your city?
As Jennine Jacob writes on Independent Fashion Bloggers:
“Everything is a remix. Nothing is original, so if you don’t have an original idea, don’t worry. What you can do, is transform the market by mixing concepts.”
Finding your niche can be difficult. I’m still working on mine. Here are a few tips that might help you identify yours:
- Make a list of your interests. Can you write about one of these regularly without losing interest or running out of ideas?
- Is there a market for your niche blog? Do you need to expand or limit your scope? (Hint: books is too big a topic to be a niche. On the other hand, coffee table books about 16th century artists written by Italian authors with long hair and nice moustaches is too narrow a niche.)
- What are other bloggers in your niche area writing about? What could you do differently?
I should confess. It’s taken me a long time to figure out this blog’s niche. Have a look through my post archive and you’ll understand!
When I first started blogging, I didn’t think about the advice I’ve just given you. I wrote about anything that I thought was interesting or controversial. Over time, I’ve worked out my strengths and what makes me unique, and I stick to that a little more than I did in the past. I have a job that’s fairly unusual for someone my age, and my most popular posts are on how I got a start in my career and how others can land their dream writing/journalism job. This method is slower, but if it’s what works for you, go for it.
And, if all else fails, do this:
And this, just because.
Next week we’ll look at how writing for online is nothing like writing for print. Any requests? Comment below. x
Also in this series
I have a blog, now what?
Better writer, better blogger: Getting started
Want to be a better writer? Be a better blogger