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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.

Audiences are increasingly turning to specialized sources for news. That represents a challenge to general-interest publishers, but also creates an opportunity to reach new audiences by deepening coverage of particular niche topics.

Such content verticals (brands or sub-brands) are increasingly common at 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 the new product into your larger newsroom.

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
  • Amplify your existing strengths in a cost-effective way
  • Diversify revenue
  • Build a new, innovative product under your company’s brand, with the flexibility of an independent sub-brand

Developing a single-subject news product isn’t just for established brands with endless editorial, technical and sales resources. The single-subject strategy can work well even for relatively small or local publishers. Across the spectrum, however, publications that have launched successful single-subject news sites share three characteristics:

  1. They identified a topic by assessing what they covered well, what they didn’t cover enough and what their community was passionate about.
  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. They nurtured the new brand with a marketing plan that enabled it to grow and expand.