opinion

The Most Popular Niche

Stephen Yagielowicz
Niche (or "target") marketing embodies the very essence of "narrowcasting" (or delivering specific information and entertainment to specific audiences), and the World Wide Web makes the process an accessible, but often misunderstood, reality for nearly everyone...

Niche n.

  • A situation or activity specially suited to a person's interests, abilities, or nature.
  • A special area of demand for a product or service.

A Quick Cup of Coffee
One of the first things that I do most mornings while waiting for my coffee to kick in is to catch up on the latest happenings on XBiz' popular message boards. This usually begins with a quick glance at the "Today's Board Threads" listing on XBiz' home page – a great way to grab a quick "snapshot" of the action.

There's usually something that catches my attention, and this morning was no exception. While I will rarely waste a click on an obvious "fluff" thread, I'll check out nearly anything of value (meaning, something that makes work easier, more productive, or more profitable).

And so it happened that I found a thread posted by deanselby entitled "What do you think are the top 5 niches?"

Since I have some opinions on this matter, I figured that I would join in the discussion, learn from others, and share my thoughts. Of course, many of you who have seen some of my "morning posts" realize that it doesn't take too long for me to turn a few thoughts into a damn book on the subject, and this morning I caught myself as it was about to happen again. So now in order to spread my opinion a bit wider, and without further adieu, I present the following:

No Time for Niches
I'm not entirely certain that I'll be able to explain this correctly, because what I'm about to get into is at best contradictory, so please bear with me as I try to sum up my feelings thusly: "While niche marketing is one of the main keys to success in this business, an over-emphasis on it can be detrimental to profits." Damn, that didn't quite do it, so let me continue...

When folks started getting into online erotica (the old BBS days - before anyone was building porn sites), they by and large focused on "beauty" and seriously sexy models. Indeed, many of the old .gif images (.jpeg wasn't around yet) that were being circulated featured stunning examples of the perfection of womanhood. Barbie dolls to be sure, but wonderful examples of the breed.

As the market matured, and the Internet evolved into what we know as the World Wide Web, more and more people started putting pornographic images online. The problem was that many of them were literally putting the "same" (gotta love Z-Master) images online, and trying to charge for access to them. As more of these "pay sites" came on to the market, it was clear that something besides "big titty blondes" needed to be offered – after all, with nothing else to distinguish "Site A" from "Site B" having a competitive edge was difficult.

These "mainstream" porn sites often reflected the mainstream people who were building them, but as time went on and accessibility grew, more and more folks found themselves in a position to produce / provide online porn. Some of these people were not "Barbie" fans and their sites reflected their own sexual preferences. And guess what? These sites not only stood out from the pack, but they sold like hot cakes.

More so as a result of the number and diversity of adult Webmasters than through any conscious act of classically trained marketers, the concept of "niche sites" was born.

At their best, niche sites are specialized sites built by devotees to showcase their specific fetish. At their worst, they are the product of Webmasters working off a checklist, for example, "Today I'll build a foot fetish site, and tomorrow something with balloons." This latter example is typified by posts such as the one I was drawn to, where someone wants to know "the top niches." While I am not privy to what motivated the question, it makes a great example.

Consider now that if a few people opined on what they thought were the top niches, and a bunch of folks read the post and all go out to build sites targeting those markets. Without an understanding of the devotees of those niches, the sites will likely be lackluster at best, and offensive at worst. And if *everyone* built such sites, they would become arguably "mainstream" and not "specialized."

In a marketplace where everything imaginable is now available, and "micro niche" sites the norm (want to see Bulgarian Ballerinas Busting Balloons? You can probably find it online!), too much emphasis is being given to "the best niche." Want to make some money? Figure out what really "flips your switch" (if you haven't already) and build the best damn site about it on the Internet! The market is so huge that if it pleases YOU, it will please others, and guess what? In the process, you'll discover just what "the best niche" really is!

Stay focused! ~ Stephen

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