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Workshop Wednesday: How to Choose the Right Niche for your Magazine

This 17 minute workshop was recorded live and made available for free.

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Full Transcript
Hey everybody, Kevin Smith here.

I'm one of the principals of MagCast.

Welcome to Workshop Wednesdays.

On the docket today we're gonna be talking about choosing your niche.

So without further ado, let's get to it.

How do you choose a niche and doesn't really matter all that much.

The thing is, you're starting a magazine.

So first, we got to say congratulations.

And, you know, you could be just like one of these successful publications that you see on the screen now, whether it's Heart & soil or Foundr or Wildlife Photographic.

This is what you're talking about when you're talking about starting an indie magazine.

And, these are really good representative examples of some magazines that have good success on our platform.

So why does the niche matter?

This isn't just about starting your magazine.

Yes, it is.

But this really can be more than just your magazine.

Truthfully, this can be about the next phase of your life.

So if you want to start a magazine that you'll love to work on, and where you'll be setting yourself up for success.

Without looking like a cheesy amateur.

You need to get your niche right.

And when you do, everything clicks.

Every interaction from prospective readers to paying readers and contributors, advertisers... everyone who comes into contact with you or your publication knows that it's a magazine... that it fits... that there's something there for them to participate in.

You know, it's a real magazine; they know it's a real magazine.
Example Magazine Page Layouts

And the thing is, whether we're talking about blogs, podcasts, all kinds of different media like radio and TV, newsletters, YouTube Tik Tok, it's the same everywhere.

You can have something go viral, you can capture people's attention.

But if you're looking at growing an audience, sustaining it, you need focus.

You need to be able to attract the right readers.

And in doing so, develop a loyal subscriber base, increase the reader engagement, create spin off products, that all comes from choosing the right niche.

So how do you do it?

Here's the recipe.

And most importantly, in the recipe is how do you choose the right niche for you?

What we've found over the years of running MagCast, and my partners Damian, Allen, and I've been running MagCast for over a decade now, is: there are pretty much four different—broad brushstroke—four different mindsets, if you will, going into, or personas, going into the magazine publishing.

You're talking about:
  1. Evangelists
  2. Enthusiasts
  3. The enterprising, and
  4. The emerging entrepreneur.
The Evangelist

An evangelist is somebody who sees something wrong in the world that they want to correct.

They advocate for a cause they want to bring awareness to it.

And typically, their main objective financially, is to make money to further their advocacy.

They also tend to spend a lot of their free time on evangelizing for the cause.

The Enthusiast

This is somebody who's got real passion for something, they can geek out about it all day, the enthusiast tends to congregate with others in Reddit or Facebook or in person go to live events, things like that.

And they tend to spend often irrationally pursuing their passion.

The next is the enterprising I'm going to go a little further and describe this person as the enterprising opportunist.

The Enterprising Opportunist

They follow the money.

Their only real passion is the revenue driver and not of anything of the topic per se.

They'd just as easily pursue something else if it were more lucrative.

And the last is the emerging entrepreneur.

The Enterprising Entrepreneur

This is somebody that wants to be self employed, they may not necessarily know where to start, and they want to do something interesting.

But where do I start?

So where does success look like when you're choosing a niche?

It tends to be an overlapping, where this Venn diagram comes together of an evangelist or an entrepreneur.

It can look like this, and more often than not it's really where the enthusiast and the entrepreneur in somebody overlap, where somebody has a passion for something.

And they're also entrepreneurial.

And that's where the coming together these two things, tends to make a really great magazine.

What it doesn't look like is the opportunist.

This is somebody who comes into magazine publishing purely because they see something that's potentially very lucrative and they want to, you know, dip their toe in put throw their hat into the ring.

And you know what, they don't really care about the niche and it tends to show very quickly to their contributors or collaborators, people that work with them everywhere.

Or, it just shows that somebody's not really in it, they're just in it to make money.

That's where success doesn't tend to come in MagCast.

Where it does boils down to these five overlapping with the enthusiast, and entrepreneurship in the same person.

So the big five important things in the recipe are what deeply interests you as a person.

1. What do you geek out about?

What are you passionate about?

What do you have professional expertise in?

2. Is your market transactional?

We'll go into this in a second?

3. Is the topic broad and deep?

4. Does your niche congregate?

5. Are people spending over 500 bucks a year on it?

When you look at what deeply interests you, what we're talking about, there are the things that aren't, "I can make a lot of money with" things or the things that are, "My partner, my friend, my parents, my spouse says...."

We're not talking about that.

We're talking about the things that you choose to spend your own free time on, the things where you get hyper enthusiastic.

And as soon as you hear somebody else you meet at a party or what have you is also interested in such and such, you are talking with them, and you lose track of time.

Those are the kinds of things the types of passions and types of interests that tend to play well in building a publication.

Next is transactional market.

Transactional markets are the places where there is zero passion for the product.

I'm talking about things like, you know, antivirus software, and so forth things that once you've purchased the thing, you're not out there in the world looking for more and more and more, you're not singing the praises of whatever it may be, in, you know, in such and such company out in the world, you just want to get the problem solved.

Things like antivirus software, things like insurance, things like consumables, like for instance, paper towels, toilet, paper, napkins, those are the kinds of things nobody has any interest in, nobody is out there talking about, "Oh my gosh, this is the greatest laundry detergent!"

And talking about building a magazine around laundry detergent.

Nobody's talking about building a magazine around auto insurance, you buy the auto insurance, you get the coverage, it's the lowest price, best rates, blah, blah, and you're happy you move on.

These are things that solve a specific problem.

Once the problem is solved, the person moves on.

We're looking for the opposite of transactional.

You're looking for something where your niche has passion from the readers, where the readers are spending $500 a year, where they're going to conventions, they're buying books, they're watching YouTube channels, they're doing things to further their education on the topic because they just can't get enough.

We're talking about things that other people—not just you broadly—but things that other people want to spend their time on.

And, in looking at that, then we've got to look at the concept of is the topic, a broad topic and a deep topic.

Let me give you some examples.

Broad topics are the things where there is just a ton of stuff within the overall topic.

Photography, business, travel, cars, food: those are the types of things and that those are just a handful.

There are so many of the topics out there in the world, obviously medicine and so on, where people have tremendous interest in something where there's all sorts of different width and depth to the topic.

Let me give me some examples in photography: travel photography, wildlife portraiture, architecture, large format cameras, photojournalism, black and white photography, and travel.

You've got international travel, national regional, budget travel, the high end travel.

You've got backpacking and adventure travel, group travel, solo.

In cars, you've got new or vintage or brand specific.

This is an Audi magazine.

This is a vintage Alfa Romeo magazine and so on, a magazine on auto repair, auto engines, bodywork paint, car washing, detailing.

These are all separate topics within the broader area of cars.

And, the thing that's the common thread when we're talking about in photography, we're talking about cars... there are lots of different subtopics within the topic.

And, the thing in common there is depth.

So you go back and you look at let's say engine repair or so on, car repair, all of those different things, you could go on for ages about and enthusiast for any of these things, could talk for days about the topic, so let's go and flesh out some of these, give a little bit more example to this.

We're not talking about a travel magazine broadly.

We're talking about, let's say, a French travel magazine.

It's all about different regions of France.

California Travel.

We're not just talking about a car magazine, per se.

Car and Driver, Road and Track, they've got those covered.

But what about a magazine specifically for Porsche owners?

The Porsche owner, in and of itself, that could be an excellent magazine.

That really winnows everything else down to that particular sub niche in cars.

Vintage Alpha Romeo: Same thing there.

Wildlife, black and white photography, these are all things that have such great specificity that you could build a magazine around it.

And, they've also got so much with that you could talk about the Porsche line of cars forever.

You could never talk enough to the Porsche enthusiats, about the history of the 911 model.

Now, these markets, they're wide.

You've got all kinds of different things in cars, all kinds of different things in photography and travel.

And they're also deep, as we just showed.

We've got all kinds of things that you could do just inside the Alpha Romeo vintage discussion.

So now let's get down to the actual exercise of you choosing your magazines niche.

Here it is. This is what it boils down to.

What are you passionate about?

What do you have expertise or professional experience in or for that matter?

Even if you don't necessarily have professional expertise, what can you say?

Yes, this is the right way to approach a topic.

This is something extraordinary, within the broader marketplace, if you have the ability to spot really good content within a particular topic.

That's the right, you're on the right track there.

Number three, what are your modest, your stretch, and your big scary goals?


Where does your evangelism or your enthusiasm come together with your entrepreneurial objective?

Now, now that we've looked at these four things, as the you angle of things, let's look at your market.

Here's what we want to look at when we're choosing the right market that overlaps with what your personal interests are:

Is the market transactional?

If it is, you're probably in the wrong place?

If it's not transactional, where you've got some enthusiasm, and the ability to have repeat ongoing business, you're in the right track.

Next, as we showed with travel, as we showed with photography, is your topic broad and deep?

If it is, once again, you're in the right place.

Next is the ability to congregate. Guys in your niche congregate, and I'm talking about conventions.

I'm talking about YouTube. I'm talking about TikTok.

I'm talking about Facebook and Reddit.

Anywhere that people can get together in person or offline.

Let's make a list of these things.

If your market isn't transactional, great, what's your topic isn't broad and deep.

Let's make a list of these, these prospective topics and so forth.

Now, where does the niche congregate?

Let's make a list.

And the last thing here is, are people spending over 500 bucks a year?

If they are?

Okay, you're probably in the right place.

Particularly if you've got a non transactional market with a broad, deep rich topic, where you've got a place that people congregate, and where people are spending over 500 bucks a year.

These things can be distilled down to: what are you passionate about?

And, what markets pass the smell test?

That's it.

The notion of choosing the right niche and feeling stuck?

Oh my gosh, what if I don't choose this?


What if I get started the wrong way?

If you just go through this exercise, look at your different interests and passions and go through the checklist there.

And, then what are the things that pass the smell test?

In the list of things we just discussed in the market.

When you've got these two things converging, you're on the right track.

These are the things that tend to make a really strong niche that can sustain long term growth that can sustain your interest over the years, and for which there can be real positive revenue and an entire business built around your magazine, and not just something that you're doing as a hobby.

That's the coming together of these two things.

So you've done those two things.

And the next question is, where do you go from here?

Okay, where do you go from here is either book a private tour of MagCast with me, I'll show you behind the scenes in the MagCast dashboard.

You can ask me one on one any questions that you've got about your own topic, discuss what your objectives are, what you're trying to do with your publication and so on.

You can get all the behind the scenes stuff, you know, register for our private tour, at

Go book now. Pick a time that works well for you.

My schedule is over there for anybody that wants to come and book a tour.

Number two, if you want to register for an upcoming webinar, we do webinars about once a month, you can go register at

If you're seeing this in the replays and not somebody here in the room live, we do do the webinars quite routinely, pretty much once a month.

So, even if you're watching this years in the future, we're still gonna be doing the monthly webinars.

A couple of last things I just want to say about MagCast that makes the platform really different from everybody else out there:

We do these kinds of workshops and these kinds of things routinely.

This was really just scratching the surface of some of the material that we cover inside the MagCast Academy.

And inside what we call the Bobsled Run.

Bobsled Run is a five day thing, where it's meant for new publishers, it's meant to go from here to there.

And, it's not meant for somebody that's had five years in the magazine publishing business.

We understand folks who are brand new to magazine publishing: you're our people.

And, when you get in behind the scenes and you work with Damian and me and our team, you're going to see that MagCast is an entirely different kettle of fish.

And, it's really different in the way that we treat magazine publishing.

And, the way that all of our publishers have direct access to us like right now, if anybody is in the room wants to ask particular one on one questions you're welcome to.

Other than that, I'm going to put this one in the history books.

If you got questions, put them into the chat now.

If not, I'll say see you next Wednesday, or book a tour with me at Or we'll see you around in the next webinar.

Once, twice, three times.

Any questions?

All right.

'Til next time.

Thanks, everybody.

Register now for the next Workshop Wednesday course on starting a digital magazine.