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Content verticals and franchises: A primer

Production of quality niche content that consistently reaches the right audience is a powerful, valuable opportunity for a news organization. Done right, verticals and franchises can grow a new audience, increase engagement among existing audiences and cultivate paying supporters.

As audiences gain more choices for news, they are increasingly turning to specialized sources. That represents a challenge to general-interest publishers but also creates an opportunity to reach new audiences by being the best source on a particular topic.

These content verticals (brands or sub-brands) are increasingly common on the national level: Politico produces insider content for Capitol Hill lobbyists; The Information has subscriber-only content for tech experts; and the Boston Globe offers premium health care content through Stat. Digital tools, strategies and platforms have made it easier than ever for news enterprises of any size to launch a niche news product. But doing so requires expertise in understanding and engaging audiences and, for existing outlets, care and tact at integrating it into your larger newsroom.

Readers can now find global, dispersed communities for their passions, which creates new markets for news and media organizations to cover these narrow interests and passions in depth. By creating deep communities around topics that extend beyond geography, publishers can find new business opportunities.

There are many reasons a publisher would want to create a single-subject news site. Among them, single-subject sites can:

  • Attract a new audience and deepen the loyalty of an existing audience
  • Expand upon your existing strengths in a cost-effective way
  • Diversify revenue
  • Build a new, innovative product under your company’s brand, but with the flexibility of an independent sub-brand

The single-subject strategy can work well even for relatively small or local publishers. Developing a single-subject news product isn’t just for established brands with endless editorial, technical and sales resources. In this study we specifically sought examples of a wide range of news organizations — from big to small, newspapers and magazines, and examples from around the world.

Publications that have launched successful single-subject news sites shared three characteristics.

  1. They identified a topic by assessing what they were good at covering, what their community was passionate about, or what topics were underserved.
  2. They created content to serve their audience as fully as possible on that topic, rather than just “covering news” in a conventional sense.
  3. And they all nurtured the new brand, including a marketing plan that enabled it to grow and expand.