According to David Carr, niche news sites have the edge in the media world: “Giant ocean liners like AOL and Yahoo are being outmaneuvered by the speedboats zipping around them: relatively small sites that have passionate audiences and sharply focused information.”
As it turns out, though, niche isn’t always profitable. Take gay news sites and blogs — which should be perfect illustrations of booming niche sites that can monetize off a predictable and loyal audience looking for news and information it can’t find elsewhere. It’s possible, it seems, to be too niche for advertisers. Consider the following:
Whether corporate-run or one-man shops, the outlook for gay news blogs is that most of them are not turning a satisfying profit.
Yochai Benkler, in the The Wealth of Networks, argues that corporate consolidation cannot, and will not, become a dominating force on the web because people congregate around specific clusters and communities that they are interested in. But this seems to break down in practice. Even with corporate consolidation, niche sites may suffer, and niche sites themselves generally can’t support their own activities.
Blogger Bil Browning, of Bilerico, contends that the problem isn’t establishing the niche; his audience is fine, he says. And Daniel Villarreal of Queerty said that, before the April shutdown, his blog’s audience was within striking distance of The Advocate’s traffic.
For a long time, gays were seen as a lucrative advertising market — that is, if your company was willing to be caught advertising to a gay market. The image conceived of by advertisers (and welcomed by gays), as Katherine Sender chronicles, was of single gay men with lots of disposable income that they were ready to pour into lucrative goods. While there’s evidence that LGBT population as a whole doesn’t resemble this image much at all, image, when it comes to ad buys, image is generally what matters — so what’s the problem?
Again, there’s the question of how niche is too niche. Among the potential business-side problems for gay news sites:
Gay news sites may have a unique set of problems because of advertising hesitation. Still, their uncertain future may indicate that, even with a clearly defined niche market and a reliable audience, niche isn’t always the answer to capturing online revenue.