The Need for Niche

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I’ve started seeing the most recent set of Tbex (huge travel blogging and industry conference) attendees post about their takeaways from the conference.  This year’s Tbex North America in Fort Lauderdale was my second Tbex ( I also attended last year’s in Cancun).  I love the conference and I still find it full of good information and even better networking opportunities.  I would still recommend Tbex to anyone, but this year’s conference gave me some new food for thought.

I met the Travelocity Roaming Gnome!

(One of my favorite networking opportunites… the time I got to meet the Travelocity Roaming Gnome!)

The need for a “niche” is something that’s often talked about in the blogging world.  Certainly starting out I read how important it was to have a recognizable “brand” within a pretty narrow niche.  This idea was furthered by my time at Tbex this year.  While I agree with this philosophy to a certain extent, especially about brand recognition, I find the niche pill a little harder to swallow.  I am not going to review your new diet pills (though frankly, I’ve gotten an insulting number of offers lately) because that’s not who I am or what I write about.  It wouldn’t make sense in the context of this blog or my “brand”.  I get it.

Tbex North America 2015 in Fort Lauderdale

The niche part is where things get a little murkier for me.  Isn’t “travel” itself enough of a niche?  There is a certain pressure to fall into a very clearly definable category; solo female travel, budget, luxury, eco, backpacking, culinary travel, outdoors, adventure, etc.  I think this works very well for some people, but not everyone.  Honestly, I find it limiting.  Is that holding me back from the millions I’d be earning as a left-handed blogger traveling cross country on a pogo stick to visit the hometowns of the original Mickey Mouse Club? Perhaps, and if anyone offers me millions that’s exactly where you’ll find me this time next year, we all have a price, but for now I’m following a diverse set of interests, and here’s why.

Sometimes the champagne is on your private verandah on a ship at sunset, and sometimes it's out of the bottle on the monorail

(Sometimes the champagne is on your private verandah on a ship at sunset, and sometimes it’s out of the bottle on the monorail)

Why do people read blogs?  Why does anyone care what I have to say?  I’ll admit this is a question I struggled with when I first started (and still do sometimes if we are being honest).  Traditional media is full of the cheapest, warmest, prettiest towns in the world.  If you’re looking for factual information on anywhere at all, it’s at your fingertips 24/7.  The only reason I can think of that I (or anyone else) would turn to a blog is for the personal connection.  The writers personality; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the things guide books leave out.

Sometimes you have cocktails in fancy dresses, and sometimes you have to open drug store wine with tweezers in a cheap motel room

(Sometimes you have cocktails in fancy dresses, and sometimes you have to open drug store wine with tweezers in a cheap motel room)

Having said that, people are not “niches”, and those that could be described as such are boring and one dimensional.  I’m not a niche, and you, my readers, are not a niche.  I have many interests and have narrowed it down to travel for the purposes of this blog, mostly to differentiate between a travel blog and a free verse online journal, but past that I struggle.  My blog tends to be budget conscious because I am kinda poor, it tends to be solo because I have a hard time finding people in my life that want to travel when and where I want to, it tends to feature a lot of food because I love to eat (I may have just figured out those diet pill offers).  Does that mean I am undermining my brand when I save up for an expensive meal at a high end restaurant, or travel with my friends or significant other?  I don’t think so.

Sometimes you eat a 15 course molecular gastronomy feast, and sometimes you eat greasy pizza on the street

(Sometimes you eat a 15 course molecular gastronomy feast, and sometimes you eat greasy pizza on the street… that doesn’t make you a contradiction, it makes you a human)

While attending Tbex Fort Lauderdale, I shared a room with a couple of other travel bloggers ( Danielle of Adventure Editorial and Bobbi of 1fungrltravels, check them both out, they are both amazing writers and people) in a cheap, but absolutely adorable, motel that looked like it hadn’t changed a bit since the 1960’s.  I also did a food tour of Fort Lauderdale that utilized the water taxi system, and sailed us right by The Fort Lauderdale International Yacht Show, and I thought, “yeah, I could do that.”  It’s likely I’ll never own one of the Admiral Yachts (though I wouldn’t turn it down), but I would certainly do a yacht week, work on a yacht, or rent one in lieu of a hotel for a bit.  None of those are “cheap” options, but are worthwhile options, in my opinion.  Given this blog’s, “budget” tendencies would doing a piece on my time aboard a yacht be somehow disloyal to the readers?

Yachts in Fort Lauderdale, F

(Gorgeous yachts preparing for the Fort Lauderdale International Yacht Show.)

I guess that’s a question I’ll leave to you, dear readers.  As a reader are you willing to follow someone (preferably me 🙂 ) through a variety of adventures, or would you prefer a more central theme or narrower niche?  And fellow bloggers, do you find niches limiting or helpful to your writing?  I’ll be the first to admit that I have some commitment issues and hate making a decision.  I even struggle at restaurants and have one of the worst cases of order envy in documented history.  So be honest, is it self indulgent to refuse to be defined by a niche?

 

30 thoughts on “The Need for Niche

  1. I enjoyed my first time at TBEX and sorry I didn’t get the opportunity to meet you. Hopefully another time. I have to say I agree with you, I don’t understand why everyone has to be in a niche. That fits some and then others not so much. As long as it is related to travel I don’t see the problem. Everyone has their own experiences, tips, and more than someone else may not have thought of to enhance an experience for another.

    • Mags

      Absolutely! Are you planning on attending any of the Tbex conferences this year? I’m considering North America, Europe, or both! Maybe we’ll cross paths there!

  2. Mag,
    You were one of my first commentators on my post When We Live What We Love, and I really appreciate it! Since then I have written quite a few posts about My Travel Blogging Journey, What Inspires Me to Travel the World and Why I support Travel Blogs.
    Be you! That’s all I have to say! I really like your personality, perspective and travel blogging journey, and I wish travel blogging, worthy opportunities and millions of dollars were that easy for all of us lol
    Wishing you much Success!

    • Mags

      That’s so nice Nadia! I’m glad we are on the same page. Millions of dollars would be great, but living a life you love and doing the things your passionate about is so much more important. Keep it up!

  3. I’ve pretty much accepted but ignored the conventional wisdom that narrowing down my niche and / or reader demographic will increase readership and make it more marketable. From a business strategy point of view I can’t fault it but it’s more important to me to do and write about what I like and enjoy. I’m sure I’m not the only person on the planet that reads blogs and likes more than one type of food, destination and travel style. Most of my traffic comes from search so as long as they can easily find more in the same category it shouldn’t matter that much.

  4. I agree with Toni, I know that I should pick a niche but I have pushed that aside. I mean I have a smallish niche of Hawaii travel at this point but I hate to close it off to just that even though that’s the majority of my travel these days.

    I haven’t been to any TBex yet so maybe after a conference like that I could see more of the benefits. I guess I see some but I also see some downsides so i’ll stick with general family travel for now. Good food for thought though, thanks.

  5. We’ve been blogging since 2008 and resisted the niche wisdom for years. Did it hurt us to do that? Can’t be certain, except to say it really didn’t help either. Since we rebranded a year and a half ago, we’re seeing more opportunities and visibility. But you’re right, people aren’t one-dimensional. If you’re cultivating a personality that develops into a brand, you may just stand a chance remaining niche-less. I think it was a lot easier in the past when the field wasn’t as oversaturated, though.

  6. Good point about stereotyping people into niches, but we’ve found it certainly helps up your following because unfortunately brands/business think that way and want to box you up. Nice one for breaking the mould 🙂 We attended TBEX Asia in Bangkok in awesome Thailand earlier this year and were told the thing about finding your niche.

  7. Mar

    It is hard to follow a person you don’t know unless you have a lot of time. it is important to stand for something so people who share your interests or ar interested to know about the niche will know you will always stay relevant

  8. “People are not niches” love this! I feel the same way about making a niche for my blog, I would rather let my personality come through my blog than stick to just one niche.

  9. I struggle to determine my niche, although lately I know my niche but have not been able to figure out the right terminology. I tend to follow people from various travel niches. It is nice to know what others are doing. I was also at TBEX. Great event.
    Charles McCool recently posted…8 Great Captivating Travel Instagrammers to FollowMy Profile

  10. I went to TBEX in Bangkok last month and agree that it’s a great conference! I too feel like I’m still trying to define my niche, and I like a lot of the points you made. As humans we are multi-dimensional, and although my partner and I tend to be budget travelers we also like to splash out on nicer rooms or meals occasionally. I also agree that people, myself included, read blogs for the info but also for the connection to the blogger. I am starting to realize though that for business purposes it is important to have a niche. Just depends where you want your blog to go I suppose!

  11. I am a travel blogger with two blogs. Writing Horseback is a niche blog focusing on Horseback Riding Vacations. Horse lovers and equestrians love to travel!

  12. I actually agree that travel itself is sometimes enough of a niche. When we’re searching the internet for information on a specific place to visit, we often just google that keyword and read whatever comes up. If it’s good content, then it doesn’t matter at all what the
    “niche” is of that site, it just matters that I got something from it. I do, however, think it makes selling a product from your site or connecting with brands a bit easier if you have a defined niche. You just have to find a balance that works for you, I guess.

  13. Awww I had such a fun time with you! Thanks for mentioning me. I have the same problem as you! I don’t want to be defined by a single narrow niche, because I have so much to say, and I don’t think you should either. Be you! 🙂 Much love! Xoxo

    • Mags

      It’s hard right?! I get so tired of the hearing the niche argument! It was awesome hanging out with you. Hopefully we’ll cross paths again. Are you planning on going to any of next year’s Tbexs.

  14. This was such a refreshing read! As a traveling family, I call my blog a “family travel blog” but I don’t feel limited to post about family outings. I wouldn’t hesitate to write a few pieces on food or a local wine tour etc. So maybe I’m one of those “not quite in a niche” writers!

  15. It is quite difficult to narrow down to a specific niche when travel itself involves so many different facets – food, accommodation, transportation, culture- and different opportunities arise as you go. We like to keep things open and experience travel as it comes! 🙂

  16. I liked reading this because I have been meaning to go to a travel conference. I think this insight is true, I mean, you can limit yourself by sticking to a niche. However, I am still just starting out, so it’s possible that I am still learning!

  17. I felt guilty just reading the title of this post, because I don’t have a niche myself! HUGE sigh of relief when I realized this isn’t a lecturing post, ha! I do agree, while it might be more profitable to write for a clearly-defined niche, the point of all this is to have fun and share some info! I also tend to travel cheap, but I’m not about to turn down a blogging assignment on a luxury cruise! I want to experience a little of everything…isn’t that the point?
    Adventuring The Great Wide Somewhere recently posted…Disney Day, Take Two!My Profile

  18. Our niche is luxury travel/adventure

  19. When I started my travel blog I wanted to have a niche, but one that has potential to grow. I focus on small towns in Washington State. Maybe someday it will spread to small towns in other states. For me, I wanted something that allowed me to travel, but still kept me fairly close to home as a I’m a MFA student as well. And, I love small towns. So it seems like a good combo. That being said I think its different for everyone, and sometimes you don’t know what your niche is until you come across it. I’ve been thinking about that conference and wondering what the benefits are. Sounds like you had a good time and that it is worth it.

  20. I think the niche can be a little “overrated”. I like to search and read blogs based on the readers. I agree that Travel is probably a good enough niche for us!

  21. Lot’s of great points in this post! I think at the end of the day, you need to write about what you enjoy. If you back yourself into a corner and realize that you’re not truly enjoying what you’re writing about anymore, what’s the point? If you’re passionate, people will ultimately follow you. There are some proven tact’s that are important, such are finding some sort of narrow angle — especially when you’re starting out. Like geo-targeting a certain area (if you don’t have a tight niche), and then overtime expanding your content along with your audience in unison.

    Greig

  22. I think that Niches are overrated too. I think that if you limit your blog to one specific thing it will be hard to later try to do something completely different.

  23. I like to use the word “theme” versus niche. As you mentioned, we all do different things in our day to day lives and I think this is why people turn to blogs. I usually stay in luxury hotels, especially when I am traveling for day job business. However, I recently stayed at a hostel for research purposes for a book I am writing. Just because the core of my blog is food and travel doesn’t mean I have other interests such as fashion, beauty, and culture that I want to share with my readers from time to time. The theme is there but I am not boxed into a niche.

  24. Joe

    I agree 110%! I like what I write about and until I get that job as a left handed blogger, pogo sticking it through out the world, my niche will be everything haha! Great article!

  25. Could not agree more, Maggie! I may enjoy craft beer and slow travel, but that’s probably not all I’m going to write about. I actually enjoy reading blogs that don’t necessarily fit into one mould, as long as the general idea is still about travel, I follow the personality more than specific niches. Personally, I like being versatile while sticking to my own voice. As bloggers who want to make this our career – do we really want to only be writing about one or two topics for the next 20 years? And how hard is it to break out of that pigeon hole you’ve created for yourself if you decide you want to change it in the future? As a side note, it was great meeting you, Danielle, & Bobbi at TBEX. I’m sure we’ll see each other again in the near future .:)

    • Mags

      Exactly! I think if you’re playing the long game, you’ll end up really regretting a very narrow niche and possibly running out of stuff to write about too. It was so great meeting you. You planning on going to Stockholm this summer?

      • Stockholm would’ve been awesome, but I think I might still be in the States at that time – I’m hoping to head to a TBEX Asia at some point in the next year or two though!

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