The value of niche content
Brad Williams put together a list of the recommended WordPress sites from the three editions of his book, Professional WordPress Design & Development. In the list, he notes whether these sites are active or inactive today.
It’s a sad list. Obviously, keeping a site active with such a niche topic (WordPress) has been tough over the years. Although, as the industry matures, it seems it’s more possible now than ever.
I, as readers probably know, am trying to make Post Status viable for the long term. So far, things look great. I’m wrapping up agreements for corporate sponsorships for the next year as we speak (that should end up being $30,000 in private, upfront funding), and I’m opening up Club memberships next week.
Other sites — like WP Tavern, ManageWP.org, and TorqueMag — are running successfully with single-corporation backing; obviously the companies behind these sites see them as important entities, considering it’s not cheap to run such a venture.
Additionally, there are hundreds of agencies and freelancers spending valuable time to maintain their own company or personal blogs.
Our “brands” — be they individual or corporate — are so tied to our digital presence that I think people are slowly realizing just how valuable a consistent, high quality, niche content website can be.
Writing authoritatively about a particular topic broadens your audience (and potential customers). It further establishes your professional authority as an individual, or care for the market you are in as a company. It shows commitment and passion for your chosen career path or corporate ecosystem. It helps you learn to be better at what you do. And much more than this.
Content is king. Our computers are in our pockets and on our minds all the time. When we need information, we search or we ask folks on social media, and then we go to websites that help us settle whatever was on our mind in the first place.
Industry specific news sites are not a new concept. Most industries have professional associations and super structured ecosystems for industry standards, certifications, awards, and events that serve as the de facto authorities for those industries.
The web, and WordPress in our case, is different. People and companies have to consistently produce the best ideas, put themselves forward, and do things to attract the attention and respect of their peers. These people become some of our industry’s leaders, and help shape the conversations that can end up affecting the entire industry. In our case, these conversations can eventually affect the entire web.
This is the kind of thought that drives me forward, and makes me know that creating WordPress “news” (for lack of a better way to say what I write) is worth it and also a viable endeavor.
That no-one has really shown it can work before doesn’t stop me, because I know the value that I can deliver if I do it right. And I know the impact such a site can have. For instance, have you noticed in years past when there have been WordPress news “quiet times” how many people bemoan that there isn’t a great WordPress resource? People want to keep up with their industry; that’s natural.
In the past, niche content providers haven’t always known the value of what their best content is worth. They’ve thought that they had to write affiliate-driven content to pay the bills, and big lists to attract a broad set of eyeballs. This isn’t so. You don’t need all the eyeballs to run a successful niche site. You need the best ones. You need readers that have a strong desire to stay on top of their industry, and then you need to offer the kind of content those top-of-the-market eyeballs deserve.
Watering down content may attract more pageviews and income that’s easier to get (affiliates driven listicles); but it’s the real-world, raw, to-the-point, make-me-better-at-what-I-do content that will get the attention of the best kind of readers (and sponsors). If we (niche content providers) serve those folks well, then they’ll be the ones to support our efforts with real money, and this kind of website can be on Brad Williams’ list of WordPress websites to read for years to come.
I wonder why more tech industry rags (re/code, Tech Crunch, Mashable, etc.) don’t have dedicated sub-brands for WP news. Seems like they ALWAYS get .org/.com/Automattic confused and have mostly glancing coverage of just about anything WP-related.
I think it’s because they have historically monetized eyeballs, and WordPress is still too small if that’s the only way you monetize. More big news sites are getting heavily into events though, and are seeing a lot of promise in that space.
I think, at nearly any scale, eyeballs and banner ads just won’t cut it anymore. So they, like us, are exploring new options.
Part of what makes a niche site possible is that it’s not available from everyone. Loads of folks are covering the big tech companies. Loads of eye balls, loads of providers. That’s the primary reason I’d rather be in my position than theirs. I have fewer sites I’m battling for your eyeballs. That helps a micro-niche site work well.
Good point. I was at a .js Meetup last night and the presenter asked how many had done some WordPress development and I bet at least three-quarters of the room raised their hands.
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