7 Niches to Explore for an Online Information Business

Sunday, November 11, 2007 at 9:30pm by Site Administrator

Are you thinking of launching a startup business but you’re not quite sure what market to focus on? You’ve heard that it’s possible to have a successful business online, if everything aligns. So why not explore some online niches?

Below is a list of a few niches that are considered hot right now by my colleagues, especially for blogs. To turn them into the semblance of an online business, you need more than just a blog. Following the niche list are a few suggestions for site-building, based on my research over the past three calendar years, as well as informal conversations with successful online publishing colleagues.

Online Niches:
These are only a few of many niches that are currently considered “hot”.

  1. Productivity and personal development. These topics can actually be split up into two primary sub-niches, since productivity typically relates to work and personal development is usually, well, very personal. While there are many top blogs in this space, you can still stand out with the right premium content.

  2. Personal finance. Personal finance is on the mind of pretty much every adult in North America, not to mention probably the rest of the world. Effective money management comes from learning BEFORE problems arise. Hence there’s also a potential for an audience in different age groups, especially for premium content. But it is a very competitive niche, with hundreds of good personal finance blogs (aka pfblogs).
  3. Health. If you believe popular media about the diabetes epidemic due to obesity, as well as all the other diseases we’re learning to cope with, then you know how much interest there is in health. It’s a huge, profitable niche, with many sub-niches – such as specific diseases – that are profitable on their own. But this niche requires a significant amount of knowledge. If you are interested in health but not qualified to write, hire someone who is, and act only as an editor, publisher and webmaster.
  4. Travel. Travel has always been a multi-billion dollar market, and the many thousands of travel-related blogs listed in Technorati suggests huge competition. Travel, like health, can be a good niche for setting up mini-sites for specific sub-topics. You can also stand out by catering to specific types of travellers on different sites: budget, post-college, honeymooners, luxury, adventure, geek travellers, business travellers.
  5. Style/ fashion. With the huge interest in celebrity lifestyle, there’s a sizable market for fashion. However, not everyone can afford high-end designer clothes. So you could focus on affordable but stylish fashions. Add affiliate links/ ads, or add an online shop.
  6. Home renovation. There are consumers out there who’ll take a second mortgage to improve their house, either with additions or renovations. If they’re going to spend the money anyway, why not help them? Offer how-to articles, sources of financing, where to save money without compromising quality, resources listing manufacturers, subcontractors, etc. This is an ideal niche for having a paid directory of relevant businesses.
  7. Sports. Pick the right sports and you could have a lucrative online business. Which sport? Why the one you love the most of course. Your passion will show through in your articles, and an online store could supplement advertising revenue.

General Advice:
In addition to blog posts, consider setting up an FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions), glossary of terms, resource list (sites, software). You can also setup very subject-focused mini-sites that link back to your main site. I feel that blogs are merely a way to build expertise and the web traffic that will potentially lead to conversions in terms of paid content or advertising. So provided that you can find the right means of monetization for your niche, you can give away content, even someof your premium content.

In addition to quality resource articles, you might want to participate in/ run a blog carnival for competitive niches – not to mention use the appropriate social media sites to promote your business and content.

Types of Content:
Don’t just rely on a blog and the static pages of mini-sites. Here are some other forms of content that can win you paying customers in the future. Some of the content below is premium. Premium content should be written by people with the appropriate knowledge. When your capital allows, hire qualified freelancers.

  1. Forum threads. If you have the time and inclination, consider adding a forum (if you are targeting some sub-niche of your topic). Just keep in mind that forums take a great deal of time, but after there is momentum, ask some of your regular members if they’d like to be volunteer moderators. If you think you’d like to pay them in the future, you can mention that – but don’t promise it.

  2. E-newsletters. Feedburner and other services will take your blog feed and produce an automated e-newsletter. You can configure the delivery frequency.
  3. Screencasts. Screencasting simply means to record a video of someone using a piece of software. Screencasts are an ideal way to teach specific software-related skills, and in the right niche, this could generate revenue.
  4. Podcasts. Podcasts, strictly speaking, refer to a piece of audio recording. It might be yourself reading and discussing niche news, or someone you’ve hired. The intent is to offer visitors a handy way to consume content, since MP3 files can be downloaded to an iPod or other media player. Podcasting is relatively easy to do.
  5. Video. If you have the capital to buy the video and editing gear, as well as the time and skills, producing video content can be a lucrative effort for the appropriate niche. Travel is an example that comes to mind. Offer video travel tips to premium subscription customers, as well as free teasers.
  6. Ebooks. Ebooks can be massaged collection of your blog posts, though adding some fresh content gives you more credibilty. Ebooks can be sold per copy or via monthly subscription access.
  7. Directories. As mentioned above, for the home renovation niche, you might want offer businesses the option of a paid listing. This listing could be merely contact info, or a website link, or even a mini-profile. Of course, you could do this for most niches listed here.
  8. Software. In some niches (e.g., personal finance), a suitable piece of software can bring your site many eyeballs. Even free software (whether for the desktop or web browser) can be monetized.

There are many ways to monetize your content, even if some or all of it is free.

  1. CPC ads. CPC, or Cost Per Click, ad networks give you a piece of code to include with your web pages and blog posts. Every time there is a legitimate click on an ad, you earn revenue. How much you earn depends both on the perceived authority of your site as well as as the niche.

  2. CPM ads. CPM, or Cost Per Mille (thousand), ads are based on # of impressions. You earn a prorated amount for the number of times a specific advertiser’s ad is displayed on your site in a given time period. CPM value varies with niche and, possibly, how much traffic your site gets. High-traffic authority sites can often sell such ads directly, thus eliminating ad networks as the middleman. Such ads are often in banner form.
  3. CPA ads. CPA, or Cost Per Action, ads typically earn more than CPC or CPM ads. However, they only earn when a visitor completes a specific action, such as signing up for something or even making a purchase. The latter, which pay either a flat fee or percentage of sale value, are typically for affiliate programs.
  4. Sales. Per-item sales of information or tangible products – such as ebooks, DVDs, etc., can be a significant source of revenue – provided you’ve established some sort of perceived authority in your chosen niche.
  5. Subscriptions. For the right type of premium content, on “authority” sites, you can charge for subscription access to premium content. Billing is made simpler by using PayPal and their developer API.
  6. Merchandise. In certain niches, you might sell t-shirts, mugs, etc., online. You can offer PayPal, Google Checkout, or other forms of online payment. It doesn’t work for all niches, of course.
  7. Consulting/ services. Some people have made a career of giving away all their online content simply to establish enough authority that they can later charge their high hourly rate for services, speaking tours, workshops or for leveraging book sales.

Finally, if you ever get to the point where you want out of your online business, another monetization option is selling your site(s). Even sites with free subscriptions can make “bank” with the right supporting conditions.

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  1. Thanks so much for getting my wheels spinning. This is a very informative post and I am ready to implement some new concepts into my site. Most appreciated…

    Comment by etavitom — November 12, 2007 @ 5:27 pm

  2. Thanks, Brad. I’ll try to expand on it in the future, with tips for each niche.

    Comment by Raj Dash — November 12, 2007 @ 5:41 pm

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