One of the joys of doing Web journalism is the ability to carve out a niche even more completely than I ever could have done as a print reporter. That’s not to take anything away from what I wrote for the newspaper — because I got to do a lot despite having primarily niche beats.
But as print represents mass media and the Web is all about niche, journalists starting blogs and sites have a tremendous opportunity to go even deeper with their expertise than ever. For me, as a longtime beat writer and journalist who reveled in an off-the-beaten-path approach to my work, being on the Web has revived my passions anew.
As a sportswriter, I cultivated niches in women’s college and pro sports and soccer during the 1990s, as both entities were becoming more visible via television and mainstream media coverage. So it’s only natural that these are the things to which I want to return in depth.
Shortly after I took my newspaper buyout, I was approached by a friend who runs a women’s basketball site to write for him. And by an acquaintance and fellow freelancer to blog weekly about ACC and SEC men’s basketball. Shameless promo alert! — here are my latest contributions: the men, and the women.
Obviously, this is my favorite time of the year, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to write for people who appreciate my expertise and passion. The best part of this is that the style I’m honing is quite different than what I was expected to file for print.
For example, here’s the soccer blog I penned for ajc.com, which was a lot breezier and much more geared to hardcore soccer fans who used to complain to me that we didn’t give them enough to nosh on in the paper.
Ultimately I wasn’t able to maintain it as I liked because of time demands of my Web editing job there. But in this new phase of my career, I’m planning a restoration, indeed some way of blending these interests together in one place.
I don’t know how the concept will finally play out, but I’m working to sharpen it all the time. I’m finding it’s not as easy to nail down a niche as it seems. Before I launch my site, I’ve still got research to conduct and much more to learn.
I’ve posted links here in the past on what displaced journalists are doing to redirect and continue their careers. Here’s another piece on how a reporter leveraged her many years covering U.S.-Mexico trade and economic issues to a start a highly-focused niche blog. Says another niche blogger turned out by his newsroom:
“Old-school journalists have to broaden their perception of what constitutes content. For my blog, I hesitate to do a post without a photo, music download or video.”
That’s certainly something I need to keep in mind as I acquire more multimedia training and practice. The story also advises how to avoid some of the hazards of going solo — which for many journalists is all about grasping the business side of their ventures.
A few other links about niche blogging that I’ve found helpful: A three-step method to choose your niche; some ideas to do keyword research; what platform is best (hint: It’s WordPress!); and joining a niche blog network if that suits you.
If you’d like a printed reference to help you, I’d recommend Darren Rowse’s ProBlogger. He’s got an entire chapter devoted to niche blogging.
There’s a lot more to niche blogging I want to get to in later posts — such as marketing, social media and search engine optimization — that I’m still learning about as I proceed.