Rule number one in journalism and mass communication: know your audience. The business equivalent: know your market. Defining your market is interesting for an entrepreneurial journalist because, supposing that you’re launching a blog or magazine that will be ad supported, you have two people to think about: the reader and the advertiser. The reader is the person you write for, but the advertiser is your actual paying client. Is this a chicken-and-egg scenario? Absolutely not. You’re a writer and you know your priority: the reader, first and foremost. But as you’re also now the publisher, you have to keep your advertisers in mind as well.
Here are a few suggestions to help you define your market:
Define your offering.
First, decide what you would like to bring to the market and do this from a purely personal perspective – by defining your passion. Answer these questions: Who are you and what makes you tick? Are there specific topics that you love to write about (or maybe read about – what you consume, you will likely express) or industries that you’ve always been curious about? Do people tell you that you’re exceptionally articulate or enthusiastic about something in particular? This should help clarify exactly what you are both willing and able to offer to a mass audience.
Describe your target audience.
After you’ve defined what you would like to write about, think about what type of person would be interested in your content like other article writers. Marketers often talk about two types of information: demographic and psychographic. Demographic data is basic – the age, gender, income level, education level of your reader – while psychographic data is more about mindset, meaning values, lifestyle, attitude. If you’re launching a blog about video games, for example, your demographics will probably skew younger, maybe age 18-25, with a psychographic profile that values entertainment, an unconventional lifestyle, and the latest tech stuff. Get as specific as you can with your description of your potential reader.
Analyze the competition.
Once you have your offering and audience defined, you’re ready to do a competitive analysis. This takes the form of a spreadsheet in which you will list all the potential competitors already in your market – other video game information channels – and compare their product (content) to yours. The various columns in your spreadsheet may include: competitor’s unique offer, target audience, relative strength, relative weakness, and, most importantly, how you you can create a competitive advantage. The idea is to look at who is already talking to your target readers and see what you can offer that will give you a distinctive higher appeal and set you apart from everyone else. If there are many blogs about gaming, a reader who comes across yours will say, “why should I read this one?” The competitive analysis helps you answer this question in a way that makes the reader vote in your favor. A sample answer: “Because, unlike most gaming blogs, MY blog is written by a woman gamer, offering a female perspective in a male-dominated sphere – and with a whole lot of attitude.” Now you’ve got my attention. You’ve got a well defined product that will appeal to an even more specific audience.
A competitive analysis is work but it should help you further define your unique offering. With that, you can revisit your target audience definition and find an even more defined niche. Get as specific as you can. This will not only help you know who you write for (important to keep in mind when you are developing content, style, and tone), it will also help you promote your blog by identifying other blogs or magazines that you can do banner ad trades with to augment your readership. Additionally, this will help you attract potential advertisers – your clients – as companies are looking for well-defined products with niche audiences that will be interested in what they sell.
Maryl Celiz is co-founder of www.HLifeMedia.com, a holistic health lifestyle publication that integrates the mind, body, and spirit and approaches wellness from the inside out. She can describe her niche market in four different ways in under a minute.