• Scratching a niche: smaller audiences, larger markets
I was in the doctor’s office today. Nothing serious — I just suffer from a fatal disease called Life.
But that’s not the point. The point is, while sitting in the waiting room I came across BP Magazine, a magazine for those suffering from bipolar disorder. It’s a glossy, professional, and remarkably interesting publication with such articles as Bipolar in the Media, which explores the growing recognition of bipolar disorder in movies and television shows.
But what caught my attention wasn’t the content of the magazine so much as its specialised nature: if you don’t have a bipolar disorder, or know someone who does, it’s not likely you’re going to have a copy of BP sitting on your living room coffee table.
We often forget the number of specialty publications in existence, and in a way, that’s the whole idea. These publications are for a particular audience, and anyone outside that audience has no reason to be interested.
Over at Paper Crafts magazine, for instance, they’re already counting down the days to World Card Making Day. This annual event, which occurs on the first Saturday in October, “is a day to connect with fellow card makers both near and far, to applaud the creativity that powers the craft, and to provide an opportunity for card makers to connect and find resources that will empower, inspire, and encourage them in their card making.”
But if you’re not into making cards, or working with pieces of paper, chances are you’ve never heard of either the magazine nor the holiday (well, not a holiday really, but…you know.)
Of course, trade magazines occupy their own niches, and while most of us may not be well acquainted with such publications as Plastics in Canada, or Practical Accountant, we aren’t particularly suprised when we learn about their existence. For some reason, however, we seem to forget that there are also specialised publications for less savory industries.
Take the porta-pottie industry, for instance, whose Portable Restroom Operator magazine is published nine times a year. And in case you’re looking to submit anything to them, their editors are always looking for articles on OSHA regulations and sanitation, as well as “historical or nostalgic articles, inspirational pieces, and writing about personal experience.”
The “inspirational pieces” sound intriguing.
Of course, niche magazines aren’t just for industries, they also cover pets and animals (Dog Fancy, Audubon), hobbies (Quilt, Machinist’s Workshop), and sexual perversions (Nylon Leg World, Whiplash).
And then there’s Girls and Corpses.
Robert Steven Rhine, the self-styled “founder, publisher, deaditor-in-chief, and future corpse,” classifies his publication as “Necorgraphy,” a combination of death and pornography, or as he puts it, “Maxim Magazine meets Dawn Of The Dead” with an official motto of “So many corpses… so little time.”
In addition to “interviews, comic book art, music and movie reviews and other mayhem,” each issue also offers pictures of “beautiful, scantily clad young beauties posing with hideous, decaying, festering corpses.” Their aim? To “offer an alternative to fans of horror stalwarts Fangoria and Rue Morgue, by serving some guffaws with our gore.”
It’s easy to dismiss such niche magazines, but the fact is that while the such stalwarts asTime, Family Circle, and Partisan Review have bid farewell, many of the small, focused publications are doing quite nicely. Reports from both the Audit Bureau of Circulations and and the Publishers Information Bureau this year make it clear that niche magazines fared better during the economic downturn than their larger counterparts, many even seeing their advertising dollars increasing. “In the case of trade or technical magazines, you’ll usually find ready advertisers, especially if they are directly linked to the focus of the magazine,” said Jim Gross, an analyst for Chicago-based Barrington Research.
The Publishers Information Bureau reported that total magazine ad pages had fallen by 11.7 percent last year, but that many specialised publications are still gaining. Organic Gardening, for instance, saw a 27.1 percent increase in ad revenues from 2007, Scholastic Parent and Child a 46.2 percent increase, and Technology Review a 25.2 percent increase. In some cases, even though the magazines reported a decrease in the number of pages, their advertising revenue still showed gains. Lifestyle magazine Domino shrank by 4.1 percent but saw a 24.3 percent increase in ad revenues.
The reason, of course, is far from mysterious. Advertisers don’t mind spending money when they know their pitch is going to be seen by a target audience — something that niche magazines are all too ready to supply.
Although we may not want to spend too much time wondering about the advertisers for Girls and Corpses.
Note: This article also appeared in Editor’s Sidebar.