The State of Niche Media: 6 Perspectives from the Super Niche Conference

The State of Niche Media: Super Niche Conference 2017

Recently, the folks at Niche Media held their first “Super Niche” Conference in Charlotte, NC. These are always great events to take the pulse of the niche publishing community. Here are the three trends I spotted.

1. Publishers need to provide native advertising.

As Google and Facebook dominate advertisers’ digital budget, publishers have a unique opportunity to create content that is going to get noticed—and thus benefit the sponsor. In his talk, Andrew Hanelly of Revmade said that “ads need to be the experience.” By this, he meant that the quality of the ad content must engage the reader as much as editorial content. This is a way to clearly differentiate a publisher’s value proposition relative to Google or Facebook.

2. Reader revenue is getting more attention.

Relative to even just 12 months ago, more and more publishers are realizing they need to compliment digital advertising with reader revenue. That is, charging consumers for access to premium content. Ted Williams, CEO of the Charlotte Agenda, said this issue is the one that “keeps me up at night.”

3. Traffic for the sake of traffic is taking up too much mindshare.

I observed that many of my co-participants focus on increasing website visitors or social media fans, but do not always have a clear idea on how to monetize that traffic (besides hoping it would lead to more ad sales). I’m not advocating letting your traffic atrophy. But I think publishers should be spending equal, if not more, time on developing a strategy for turning traffic into dollars.

What’s Next for Niche Media

But enough about my take. Here are the main trends six leaders in the niche publishing community see coming together in 2017. I asked each person, “What was your #1 takeaway from Super Niche?”

1. Andy Crestodina, Co-Founder, Orbit Media on Data

Andy tells me, “In one word: data. There is hidden value in the information that we all collect, all the time. And publishers have more information than most. This data can be monetized directly or used to increase engagement. Here are three quick examples from several sessions:

  • Historic data about events can drive better programming for future events.
  • Data can be segmented and used for deeper engagement through marketing automation.
  • A data component can be added to an advertising package.

I didn’t realize that the sessions at Super Niche would be so focused on the quantitative side of marketing. This was a common theme and a fantastic takeaway!”

2. Mike Savino, CEO, Engaged Media, Inc. on Adapting Business Models

Mike Savino notes how publishers are evolving their business models. “I was seeking and received validation of the trend that publishers of great content are adapting their business models to create unique content for their advertising partners. Creating media services to sell in addition to premium content creation without having to call yourself an agency is a nice place to be.”

3. Marin Bright, CEO, Bright Business Media on Native Advertising

Marin says she is “inspired to implement many new ideas gleaned from my time spent here and Carl Landau [the “Grand Poobah” of Niche Media] and his team always make it fun!” Specifically, Marin and her team “are changing the way we do native… editors write, then sales finds a sponsor! We used to do the way around.”

4. Kenzie Lohbeck, Vice President/Corporate Development, Rowland Publishing on Social Media Advertising and SEO

Based on what she absorbed from other publishers, Kenzie is going to make some changes to her marketing budget and SEO efforts. She says she is going to “use our social media channels as a distribution channel and allocate budget in the same respect I allocate to printing and direct mail.” Kenzie adds, “The [social media] algorithms are so sophisticated and targeted that we publishers should take advantage of that. We pride ourselves on creating engaging and interesting content, this is another opportunity to connect with a targeted audience.”

Kenzie continues, “The [social media] algorithms are so sophisticated and targeted that we publishers should take advantage of that. We pride ourselves on creating engaging and interesting content, this is another opportunity to connect with a targeted audience.

“I also loved the keynote speaker Andy Crestodina who spoke on how to increase your SEO without spending any money. I believe some of these key, small changes will make a significant difference, and also a much more strategic approach when creating content and the lifespan and platforms it is used on.”

5. Mike Obert, CEO, OpenLook on Analytics

Mike Obert shares that his “biggest takeaway is how publishers are becoming more data driven. Our industry has always been about great content, but the analytics behind how publishers are delivering their content and monetizing has been a great transformation over the last few years.”

6. Kyle Walkenhorst , CEO, Sprocket Media on Strategy and Prioritization

Kyle says, “When managing a media enterprise, it is so important to know when to say NO and when to say YES. Ted Williams’ session [about understanding your business model and prioritizing accordingly] was refreshing and packed with great advice that any publisher could benefit from.”

Kyle also notes one area of opportunity for publishers: “I was surprised at how many publishers are unclear in terms of their overall website, mobile, digital and print strategy. These should all be integrated to optimize reach and monetization across the board.”

It Wasn’t All Business

Many of the contributors to this article also comment on how great the Super Niche event is. (Sterling Woods does not receive any compensation for promoting the event!)

Kenzie Lohbeck notes, “I enjoyed talking to other leaders in my same industry who aren’t my direct competition. We all felt safe to be very transparent with challenges, ideas, and accomplishments that are currently happening. I felt refueled with fresh ideas and concepts to bring back to my company, as well as satisfied and proud to see a lot of progress my company has made in the industry. I know I made a lot of great relationships that I will keep in touch with and continue the conversation with.”

Marin Bright adds, “The Super Niche event in Charlotte was an exceptional show. If you are in publishing and looking to learn how to accelerate your business and connect with like-minded professionals, this is a must-attend!”

Super Niche 2018 will take place March 5-7 in Louisville, KY.

About the Author, Rob Ristagno

Rob Ristagno is the founder of The Sterling Woods Group and partners with companies to drive rapid digital revenue growth. Prior to creating Sterling Woods, Rob served as a senior executive for several niche media and e-commerce companies. Rob started his career as a consultant at McKinsey and holds degrees from the Harvard Business School and Dartmouth College. He has taught Product Strategy at Boston College.