FAQ: Niche blogs vs mainstream media outlets

Here’s another collection of questions answered here to avoid duplication. This time from a final year student at UCLAN:

Blogs are often based on niche subject areas and created by individuals from a community. Do you think mainstream media outlets are limited by resources to compete? Or are there signs they are adapting?

I think they are more limited by passion, and by commercial imperatives. Niche blogs tend to be driven by passion initially, and sometimes by the commercial imperative to target those niches, whereas mainstream outlets are built on scale and mass audiences – or affluent audiences who still don’t really qualify as a niche.

They are adapting as the commercial drive changes and advertisers look for measurements of engagement, but it’s hard, as your next question fleshes out…

Communities by nature need conversation, and this often visible online in forums, blog comments etc. Can it be argued niche blogs are better at engaging communities and providing a platform for conversation?

…yes, but more because they often build those communities from the ground up, whereas established media platforms are having to start with a mass audience and carve niches out of those. It’s like trying to hold a community meeting in the middle of a busy high street, compared to doing it in a community centre.

… If so, do you think the success of blogs are as a result of people wanting conversation instead of a ‘lecture from journalists?

Not necessarily – I think blogs succeed (and fail) for all sorts of reasons. One of those is that blogs have made it easier to connect with likeminded people across the platform (in comments, for example, without having to fight through hundreds of comments from idiots), another is the ability for users to input into the journalistic process rather than merely consuming a story, and another is the ability to focus on elements of an issue which may not be accessible enough to justify coverage by a mass audience publication – and I’m sure there are as many other reasons as there are blogs.

Finally, with the emergence of Twitter, along with other methods of contact, are journalists now becoming more involved in conversation with communities of interest or is there still a reluctance from journalists to be involved?

Some recent research in the US suggested that Twitter is still being used overwhelmingly as a broadcast platform by journalists and news brands. But there are also an increasing number of journalists who are using it particularly effectively as a way to talk with users. My own research into blogging suggested a similar effect. So yes, there is reluctance (talking to sources is hard work, after all, whether it’s on Twitter, the phone, or face to face – and for many journalists it’s easier to avoid it) but the culture is changing slowly.

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One thought on “FAQ: Niche blogs vs mainstream media outlets

  1. Pingback: Adam Tinworth on The Rise of New and Social Media « ASBPE Blog

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