Friday, October 20, 2006

Why 'niche' isn't 'niche' anymore - and the global solution

Mass marketing may well be ass-whipped, but should that be a major concern for niche publishers?

There’s an argument that adverts in niche market mags are altogether more effective and engaging than, for example, a TV ad broadcast at all comers just before the 10pm news.
Interest in the niche magazine ad is self-selecting by virtue of the reader.

So niche magazines are the future – hurrah!

Yet magazine ad teams report dwindling ad response – and prefer to think this is wholly a result of dwindling eye-balls as circulations slide. "Bloody editorial should pull its finger out" (etc etc mutter, mutter).

They may well have a point. But incremental improvements in editorial quality can only be a small part of the answer.

We know audiences are fragmenting – and they are doing this because more precisely targeted experiences are available to them. ie why buy a car title when what you are really interested in is your type of car. And if there’s a website focused on it, peopled by a passionate and knowledgeable community tempting you away from your old medium…

Those niche market mags that are holding up well are those that either still supply news content which beats (by virtue of cast-iron exclusives) alternative sources (and for whom news is a core brand value) or those that are already incredibly well focused/segmented (ie one marque titles in the car sector).

Those one-marque titles are (usually) so small as to stay under the market-share radar. They rarely have ABCs. But you can bet that’s where much of your missing market has gone.

Not so many years ago a reader of a magazine about old cars had little choice but to enjoy the variety offered to him. Now there is still a subset of readers who enjoy that variety. But those who were itching to have more focus on their specific area of interest can now get it. And if that market is too small to warrant a glossy print publication, now it can migrate online.

Once online, that market becomes global with the potential to achieve commercially viable scale in a new way.

I guess this is just another example of listening to what your community is telling you.
So, do you know enough about how your community is behaving and how it is fragmenting? Have you placed any value on joining with the new (often global) communities that are emerging? Or are you content to watch your pot getting smaller?

If you know of niche mags which are doing well and which don't fit the model described above - please share and tell us what you think their formula for success is.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?