How to Start a Blog in 2016: Have a Niche

June 28, 2016

10:15 am

Just jumping on Medium won’t turn a single blogger into a phenomenon. People are getting picky, and they have too many Facebook notifications to sort through. You’ll need a sharp angle or insight, combined with articles that people actually care about.

Startup failure rates in general are pretty rough, and blogs aren’t any better. If your niche blog is going to make a name for itself as a small publication, it needs to be some combination of unique, straightforward, and in-demand.

Blogs Need a Niche, Quality

Some of my go-to bloggers have an incredibly specific niche. TIME, Inc. has a website specifically designed to draw people with the shallowness of its niche: breakfast. Nick Quah covers nothing but podcast news.

Coincidentally, one major supporter of only starting a business with a great mission behind it offered his opinion through a podcast: Here’s Brian Lam, a Gizmodo blogger turned founder of The Wirecutter, speaking on Recode Media with Peter Kafka about the need for a strong editorial vision behind a publication:

“We’re not going to do it because it’s a business opportunity. We’re going to do it because we think we can be helpful, and there’s also a business opportunity. The business serves what we’re trying to build.”

Lam’s emphasis is on quality over chasing profits, a fact that he illustrates with an example that I will admit makes me fear a job interview with him:

“Interviewing business people, I always set this trap. I was like, ‘How big do you think we can get? The number didn’t matter, I didn’t even listen to the number sometimes. And I was like, ‘How do you think we’d get there?’ They’d have these ridiculous answers. It’s unbelievable how many people don’t get it on the business side of media.”

OK, Any Startup Needs a Unique Idea

Needing a great idea isn’t unique to a niche blog, either: It’s a lesson any startup or app could stand to know by heart. A lot of people treat Kim Kardashian as a punchline, but she’s proven incredibly adept at monetizing a big new idea: Her mobile game earned her $100M thanks to a savvy design and unique concept. As The Verge put it in a recent feature, “she’s turned a video game into a kind of personal blog — something no one else had thought to do, much less pull off.”

Taking a different approach to an old concept is easy to say, but tough to do. But no niche blog survives without it. Once you figure out how to tackle a unique issue with a quality approach (or a quality issue with a unique approach), you’ll have the two things media needs in 2016: Something that’s both attention-grabbing and worthwhile.

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Adam is a writer with an interest in a variety of mediums, from podcasts to comic books to video essays to novels to blogging — too many, basically. He’s based out of Seattle, and remains a staunch defender of his state’s slogan: “sayWA.” In his spare time, he recommends articles about science fiction on Twitter, @AdamRRowe

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