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Archive for March, 2009

Product and Niche Research with Magazines

I want to share some valuable lessons I’ve learned through a method of research I use to determine the best niches to sell in and the types of products to develop for those niches. I will also share some unique insights with this method that you may have not considered before now, but that can have a profound impact on your product creation process.

There are a number of effective methods for researching niche markets to identify which are the best for achieving success, but the one method I want to focus on in this article is this: Using current print magazines as research tools. There are some huge benefits to utilizing print magazines for niche market research, and while some are obvious, others may be less apparent. Let’s look at these benefits as they apply to effective niche research:

1. Magazines Help Identify Niche Trends. If there is a niche you are interested in pursuing but you’re having a hard time finding print magazines related to that niche, it’s likely that the niche is a waste of your time. Of course, as in all things, there are exceptions to this rule, but I’ve found that this is a rule worth paying attention to for a number of reasons.

First off, magazine publishers spend a LOT of money doing market research as well when producing or preparing to produce a magazine. If there is little interest in a topic, the readership (also known as circulation) will not be there and neither will the advertisers; and it’s in those two areas where the money is in traditional magazine publishing. So, in a sense, we could say that you need to “follow the money.” If there is a strong readership/circulation AND an abundance of advertisers for the magazine, then it’s likely that the niche will have sales potential. A good resource to read that I highly recommend is the 2008-2009 Magazine Handbook found here: http://www.magazine.org/consumer_marketing/circ_trends/index.aspx. You can also find a wealth of magazine trend information here: http://www.mediainfocenter.org/magazine/magazinecategories.asp. Also, if you have access to it (check your local library), the SRDS manual can shed valuable insights into the true circulation numbers for most magazines. It’s worth checking out!

Another feature to watch for when searching for magazines in a specific niche is how many magazines there are for that niche! If you can only find one or two magazines for a niche, it’s likely that there is not the same public interest there that you would find for a niche that has 10 magazines in it. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should still consider the niche with only a few magazines in it, it just means that the market share is likely to be smaller.

2. Magazines Help Identify the Best Content Demands. What topics are the magazines you found writing about consistently? As you study the various magazines you find, you’re going to see trends…again, pay attention! There is a reason why those topics are coming up over and over again—it’s what the consumer is looking for! When doing this type of magazine research, I would HIGHLY recommend that you purchase copies of EVERY magazine related to your niche so that you can study the articles and content. As you review the magazines, make a list of the content topics that are the SAME in every magazine…this is valuable data that can help to focus your own product efforts. If you find that all the magazines related to your niche offer certain types of data or content, you NEED to offer those same types of data as well! This seems like an obvious point here, but not surprising, most marketers never pay much attention to this.

3. Pay Attention to the Advertisers. Just like you will see trends in the articles and features, you will also see trends in the advertising. Pay attention to this. Advertisers are paying a lot of money to be in the magazine, and many are there on a regular basis. Learn to leverage advertiser’s research and money expenditures for your own benefit. If advertisers are consistent with offering certain types of products or services within the niche your magazines serve, you need to note that and pay attention to it as well!

4. Learn From the Design and Layout of the Magazine. This point is one that most people overlook and one that can be extremely valuable for you! I’m sure I’ve been more sensitive to this because of my work as a graphic designer, but it will serve you well to deliberately consider the design and layout of the articles, features and regular columns. Here’s why…THIS is what your target audience is USED to…it’s what they see (and expect) from content in this niche. You WANT to give your customer what they want, right? Then you need to know not only what “what they want” is from a content perspective, but also how it’s being presented to them. I ALWAYS look for these design trends. Consider these questions when flipping through the magazines:

a. What fonts are being used?
b. How are photographs and artwork being used? And what types of artwork?
c. Is there secondary or support information included with the articles? What is it and how is it presented?
d. What colors are being used for headers or for backgrounds?
e. How effective are the article titles?
f. How is the Table of Contents designed?
g. Are statistics, charts and graphs used? How?
h. Are there Q&A’s, step-by-step articles, editorials, interviews, testimonials, etc.?
i. Is the content presented in bite-sized chunks or in long form? What is the balance between the two?

These questions and others help identify the design and content trends for your niche. Again, a lot of money is spent identifying these trends and then designing for them…leverage that research for your own benefit! Use the magazine design to spark ideas for your own product design, layout and creation! It will only serve to improve your product and presentation.

I love this method of research using current magazines because it gives you the ability to benefit from millions of dollars of research for a niche market, and all for the cost of a few dollars! Think about that…the publishers have spent millions in research and the advertisers have spent millions in research, and you get ALL that for $5.95 or whatever the cost of the magazine is! Now that’s leverage! Niche research just doesn’t get better than this…so use it to maximize your own efforts and enjoy the success it brings. I know I do!

Public Domain Content from Twitter?

Ever since Creative Commons released the new CC0 license, there has been a growing trend on Twitter of people releasing all their Twitter posts into the Public Domain. As you would expect, I’ve been investigating this and have made some rather interesting discoveries. First, the Public Domain release statement being used by Twitterers to release their posts is almost universal. It is as follows:

@tweetcc: I license my tweets under Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication license

Of course, the question on your (and everyone else’s) mind is, “Can we even find any usable content on Twitter for product creation with the 140 character limit of Twitter posts?” It’s a great question…and one that needs an answer. Along with that, I also wondered whether the released posts will be little more that simple or stupid conversations between friends. Part of me wants to dismiss it all and say, YES, the content is worthless, but there is another part of me that is prompting me to investigate further.

There are two factors that stands out to me the most with this trend. First, more and more people are releasing their Tweets into the Public Domain, which means new content is being added to the Public Domain on a moment-by-moment basis! Every day more people are jumping on this bandwagon and as I’ve tracked the development of this new trend, it’s been interesting to see how the inspiration of it seems to run within certain countries and regions. Someone in Germany releases their Twitter posts into the Public Domain and then their German friends see it and do the same. And the trend continues to spread across the globe. In a sense, you could say that it’s organic, viral marketing at its best.

The second factor I’ve noticed (and just alluded to) is that this movement isn’t just limited to the United States. As a matter of fact, based on what I’ve seen so far, I would say a third to half of those Twitterers who are releasing their Tweets into the Public Domain are from other countries…especially from Central and South American countries and certain European countries, like Germany. I find this prospect very curious.

I spent a little time reading through Twitter posts by some of those who have released their copyrights. I wanted to see if I could even find any usable content in the posts that could be repurposed in some form. Below is one interesting example that I came across from the Twitter ID @fasteasyrecipe:

# ingredient swap: try these substitutions for less fattening baked goods: – instead of white flour use whole whea.. http://tinyurl.com/czezdh

# What’s for dinner? http://twtpoll.com/xdl4r7

# chocolate play dough: What’s better than play dough? Play dough you can eat. Here’s our recipe for chocolate pla.. http://tinyurl.com/b5jv6g

# feed your mind, and the rest will follow: Ever wonder which foods are brain foods. Below are the vitamins that m.. http://tinyurl.com/74hstj

# caesar salad with garlic: 2 ounce chopped anchovies1 tablespoon minced garlic1/4 cup lemon juice4 .. http://tinyurl.com/3o2hdm

# better be balsamic: The right balsamic vinegar can make all of the difference. The older the balsa.. http://tinyurl.com/5cvehf

# happy salad day: labor day. salad day. it’s all good. this month we’re focusing on salads. there’s.. http://tinyurl.com/6glnl7

# treat yourself to a leftover makeover: it’s amazing what you can do with some staple items. here a.. http://tinyurl.com/5hkovd

# more $$$ saving tips: buy the less convienient option — boneless chicken breasts cost a lot more .. http://tinyurl.com/59n9ck

Finding these posts encouraged me that perhaps there are some content possibilities available on Twitter through this new Public Domain trend. I decided to keep searching for more examples, and after reading a lot of useless posts, I came across some posts from @quantumbrands in Amsterdam:

# Turkish Airlines plane was not so much a crash at Schiphol – more like a controlled landing

# local new crews now broadcasting on NOS with images from Turkish Airlines plane crash at Schiphol

# no fire or smoke seen at Schiphol plane crash – treating passengers for injuries

# plane crash at Schiphol – Turkish Airlines known for bad reputation with maintenance and not permitted to fly in NL until recently again

# 50 unwounded passengers they – from Schiphol plane crash

# crash plane at Schiphol came from Istanbul

# Schiphol plane crash foto from @catorghans http://tinyurl.com/afmfyt

# plane crash Schiphol – Turkish Airlines – closed off the A9 – not clear what happened – nose broken off – plane seems to be in 3 pieces

# news about plane crash Schiphol Amsterdam – 135 passengers, missed the A9, Polderbaan

As I read through the above posts, it suddenly occurred to me that what I was looking at…the reporting of a news event as it happened. This could have huge potential with certain types of product creation…especially if the accounts were first-hand accounts! After all, we DO live in an age of instant information! Of course, not all Twitter posts that share about a current event are in the Public Domain, but an increasing number of them are, so I see this as an encouraging possibility!

Here is one more example of quality information I found from the Twitter stream now in the Public Domain. These insights are courtesy @paulhyland:

#hubspot First rule in “word of mouse” marketing – use the language of the people you’re trying to reach.

#hubspot – Second rule: no coercion required. Don’t trick people into clicking on your links. Back button third most used feature on web.

#hubspot Rule number 3 – don’t be afraid of your fans sharing your stuff. Example: Grateful Dead. FYI David Scott and HubSpot CEO Deadheads!

#hubspot – was that rule #4? If you want to reach an audience you need to go where they are.

#hubspot Rule number 5 – Create triggers to encourage people to share. Easy w/ AddThis/ShareThis. Or encouraging discussion/Q&A w/ hashtag.

#hubspot last rule: Play Nice. Not like 3M – used cool idea, didn’t want to credit originator, pay a little money, turned into PR disaster.

The conclusion I’ve come to so far with this new Twitter trend is to not discount it as no big deal. Yes, there will be a lot of useless posts that are released into the Public Domain, but that’s true in any case. My challenge to you (and to myself as well) is to look beyond the obvious and the useless to “see” the potential…to explore what may be waiting in the Twitter stream for you. And perhaps the most exciting aspect of this trend is that it means new content is being added to the Public Domain EVERY day!

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