What makes a good niche?

The big questions we ask

Hi, everyone! Today’s newsletter is all about what qualifies as a great niche for knowledge creators. I want to get ahead of the scandal: At Smooth Media, we say niche as “neesh” and not “nitch.” We know it’s controversial, but we love sounding French and dangerous. Hope you can get on board with that.

—Kinsey, cofounder & head of editorial at Smooth Media

What Makes a Good Niche?

A meaningful part of our work here at Smooth involves scoping out the potential for a knowledge creator in a new niche. Success, for us, is having honest conversations with ourselves and our partners about what makes a good focus area for a knowledge creator.

So how do we decide what’s a good niche and what isn’t? To quote Lana Del Rey ft. Bleachers, “when you know you know.” But how do you know?

Today, let’s run through three of the big questions we often ask to suss out a niche—questions we think are helpful for both established and aspiring knowledge creators looking to jump into a new space.

Question 1: Is it specific? “Specificity is our friend” is one of the most-utilized catch phrases here at Smooth (second only to “media is an execution game”). When scoping a new niche, we always prize specificity above all else.

Why? Because specificity is a moat that protects an engaged audience. 

  • By being specific, knowledge creators can go deep in one particular subject area. And plenty of very smart people have written about the value in going an inch wide and a mile deep (see here).

  • Plus, choosing a hyper specific focus area keeps a knowledge creator from falling into the trap of being too many things for too many people. Trying to do it all rarely, if ever, works in media. Doing one thing better than anyone else builds loyalty…and that’s good business.

As far as we see it, plenty of the Emma Chamberlain-esque lifestyle creators who made an early impact on YouTube have robust and admirable businesses, but we’re playing a different game. We’re instead betting on knowledge creator-led media businesses that are built around information, access, and insight. And those things get richer and richer the more specific you get.

Question 2: Is there white space? This one is pretty simple: Are you confident that you can say “I could cover this better than anyone else” and mean it? If so, you’ve got a great niche on your hands. Because the best focus areas for knowledge creators are those where they can create a significant impact.

They can be an early mover. They can establish a new perspective that’s wholly original. They can offer a voice that’s been absent. They can capture an audience hungry for knowledge that, so far, hasn’t existed or been accessible to them.

With every new project we launch, we think about how we can become the best player in that industry—that’s always the goal. Becoming the best tends to be simpler when you’re doing something really original.

Question 3: How’s the momentum? Sure, we could start a newsletter about steam engines transporting goods along the Mississippi River. But we won’t, because 1) I don’t know how steam engines work and 2) no one thinks about steam engines transporting goods along the Mississippi River anymore.

A good niche is contemporary; a great one is forward-thinking. It’s growing, not shrinking. It’s—dare we say—disruptive. There will be more people interested in this concept or industry in 10 years than there are today. That momentum is a prerequisite for a successful knowledge creator business.

Bottom line: Lots of people say business success is about timing and luck. And they’re not entirely wrong. But we’re of the belief that there are things you can do to improve your odds for good timing and fantastic luck…and if you’re a knowledge creator hoping to build the next great media business, one of those things is knowing, confidently, when a niche has potential.

  • Smooth creator Car Dealership Guy (aka Yossi Levi) divulged his strategies for building a media business with 80 million impressions per month on the Fort Podcast. Go CDG!

  • Creator-owned streaming platform Nebula is expanding its original programming with a news division.

  • Skincare creator/real dermatologist DermDoctor just launched a skincare brand.

  • Niche watch: Creators teaching people how to use AI.

Thanks for reading! Have a great week—see you back here soon.