Niche Publishers

Three ways that niche publishers stand out on social media


By   |   May 17th, 2017   |   Reading time: 5 minutes Digital Journalism

We look at three characteristics of successful niche social publishers, and pick some examples of sites that are succeeding at capturing attention with a narrower focus. 

You may have noticed niche media outlets popping up with increased regularity in your social feeds lately.

These are the pages that you keep seeing posting stories on your timeline on the topics that keep you interested. Or perhaps they’re responsible for the specialist email newsletters you get in your inbox. What each has in common is a dedicated focus on a particular topic, to keep their readers engaged. 

The theory is that in the era of social distribution, there’s much more opportunity to reach a more highly engaged audience by breaking coverage up into specialist beats. If you have the editorial resources, you can create more pages and push content to different audiences, rather than solely focussing on building out a generalist page that tries to cut across various interest groups and demographics. To a large extent, it works. Social media readers respond best to content that directly interests them. By engaging, they’re more likely to see repeat posts from the niche publishers, who post solely on a single field. 

While there are plenty of sites that target a specific area of coverage, it’s becoming increasingly popular for larger mass audience sites to diversify their content offerings on social media by breaking up their output by vertical. 

Earlier this year, Mic announced that it would be adding nine new content brands to their site, including the personal finance focussed ‘Payoff’ and ‘Multi Player’, a gaming site. Rather than simply giving them their own category page on the main site, each section has been uniquely branded and given their own social media accounts.

Meanwhile, the Huffington Post ran 79 Facebook pages as of February, including pages aimed at parents, and fans of weird newsNow, looking through the list of the most engaged Facebook pages in Spike, it’s clear that some of the most engaged pages each week are now targeting dedicated audiences, something that’s appears on Instagram.

Luckily, there’s more opportunity than ever for publishers to reach smaller, more focussed audiences. There’s often a fairly low barrier for setting up a ‘test stream’ using a social channel. Eventually, this page may spin off as its own site section. So, what are some of the common characteristics of the most successful niche social publishers online today?

1) They speak to a common audience

Here’s a crucial aspect that differentiates most niche social publishers from the mass audience competition – the narrowness with which they define their coverage.

Niche publishers must be clear on what they’re offering readers, and then aim to be the best in the market at creating and distributing that content. Otherwise, the publisher hasn’t made enough of an impression to grow a dedicated community around a specialist topic.

One successful example is Cheddar, the live streaming business news site that uses Twitter, Facebook Live, Snapchat, and a variety of paid subscription video services. Cheddar have decided to target millennials interested in business news and tech – a distinction that sets the service apart in its mission statement. 

As a recent Digital Content Next report on strategies for niche sites noted “in a crowded digital content ecosystem, a strong, unique POV is critical and it’s just as critical to know who you are as who you aren’t.”

2) They listen closely to reader feedback

Listening to your audience more closely is good advice for any publisher, but for niche sites, it’s vital. 

Like all social publishers, data is crucial in informing the editorial output of their site and its future direction. One way of supplementing the data available through on-site metrics and social data is by getting your readers’ feedback on what they’d like to see covered. 

The Boston Globe has created a Facebook group just for subscribers to their site to discuss content from the site, while the Wall Street Journal run a book club via Facebook group, overseen by a culture writer at the site

Meanwhile, ProPublica, the investigative journalism site, conduct reader surveys with the aim of finding out more about the people that make up their readership. This gives valuable insights into the As the publisher notes: “While unscientific, these results are extremely useful as we try to understand who you are, what you value about ProPublica, and how we can better serve you.”

3) They’re cross platform, but focus on what works best for them

Niche publishers typically use whatever social platforms and content formats are available to them. However, niche publishers more than others, are often quicker to double down on what works best, largely because their audience often congregates around particular platforms.

One example of a niche publisher that leverages a particular social network is Delish, the recipe publisher. Pinterest is a hugely popular avenue of engagement for Delish, so the site has worked particularly hard to amass an impressive following on the network.

Delish Pinterest

Here, analytics will again be vital for editors in deciding what platforms and formats are worth pursuing.

Learn more about what makes for successful niche publishers at our WhipSmart conference in New York on June 7. Limited tickets are still available – get yours today

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