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!