In this episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast (which you can find a full transcript of below), I cover 5 different topics, including what it means to have a minimum viable blog and some examples of people succeeding in very narrow niches.

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  • 1:01 – 1. Podcast episodes based on other people’s articles
  • 3:28 – 2. Finding out what WordPress theme is being used
  • 5:13 – 3. The evolution of ideas
  • 8:22 – 4. Success with a very narrow niche
  • 12:33 – 5. The minimum viable blog
  • 15:05 – Pick of the week

DPP031: The Minimum Viable Blog, Success in Very Narrow Niches, and 3 More Great Ideas

Hey, I’m Tristan Higbee, and this podcast is all about the things I see and would like to see in the world of digital publishing, from blogging to ebooks to video creation and more, plus things related to internet business and online marketing. At the end of the podcast I’ll mention my pick of the week, so be sure to stick around for that. You can find a full transcript of each episode of the Digital Publishing Podcast online at DigitalPublishingPodcast.com.

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OK, I’ve got 5 topics to talk about today, so let’s get started.

1. Podcast episodes based on other people’s articles

I listen to a lot of podcasts. The exact number changes a lot, but right now I’m subscribed to about 40 of them. One thing I’ve noticed people doing more and more in the last six months or so is to take an article they’ve read somewhere, usually a list-type article, and then talk about each of the points in that article. Listing those points and talking about each one in turn becomes the bulk of the episode.

So for example, I just watched the latest episode of This Week in YouTube, which is one of the few video podcasts that I watch. The episode was based on an article by a blog called New Media Rockstars. The article was called 10 Things Creators Should Know About the Latest Study on YouTube’s Top Channels. The majority of the This Week in YouTube episode was taken up by the two hosts and the guest going through that list of 10 things and talking about each one in turn.

I’ve also heard this kind of format being used on the Startups for the Rest of Us podcast and the Lifestyle Business Podcast. They find an article that they like, take the main points from the article, mention each main point, and then add their own ideas and opinions to each point. (And by the way, this works well with lists or ideas you find in books, too. It’s not just for articles.)

I think this is a great format for podcast episodes. A lot of the heavy lifting of trying to come up with something to talk about in your podcast is taken care of, but your listeners still get your own unique take on the things you’re talking about.

I think that this could even be the format for a whole show and not just occasional episodes. If you love Japan and want to start a Japan-related podcast, find and talk about one awesome article about Japan each week. Of course, you’d want to liberally link to and mention the source you’re getting the article from, and you don’t want to just read the article word-for-word. And if you find a list that’s something like The Top 5 Differences Between the Japanese and Chinese, maybe you can add a sixth and seventh point to the list. Not only does that make it more your own, but it gives more information to the people that have already seen the article or read the book you’re borrowing from.

2. Finding out what WordPress theme is being used

Page sourceI was looking at a friend’s website not too long ago and really liked the design of it. I knew it was a WordPress site, so I looked around on the site and tried to find a link or mention that said what the theme was, but I couldn’t find one. I sent my friend an email but didn’t hear back from him over the next couple days. And then an idea hit me. I wondered if I could figure out what theme was being used by looking at the source for the page. So I right-clicked and hit View Page Source. I searched in the code for the word “theme” and found what I was looking for. There were several files listed that were at thedomain.com/wp-content/themes/thenameofthetheme. So if you go to DigitalPublishingPodcast.com, right click, select View Page Source, and search for “theme”, you’ll see that I’m using the Thesis theme.

This is also a great way to figure out what WordPress plugins are being used on a site. Instead of searching on that source page for the word “theme”, search for the word “plugin”. Several things should come up highlighted. This won’t show you all of the plugins being used on that page, but will show some of them.

3. The evolution of ideas

I talked about my Travel Knowledge Database site back in episode 18 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. The goal of the site was to sort the blog posts coming out of the top travel blogs. I’d sort them by location and topic, so that if you were going to go Croatia on vacation, for example, you’d go to travelknowledgedatabase.com and click the Croatia link in the sidebar and be taken to a page that linked to a bunch of different travel blogger articles about Croatia. I thought it was a great idea, and I still do. I spent about three months worth of spare time sorting about 4,000 travel articles. There were articles on the site for almost every country in the world, and it was turning into a really useful resource. But there were problems. For example, it was easy to find all of the articles about Italy, but not so easy to find the ones about Milan. There needed to be a hierarchy to the countries, so that if someone clicked the Italy link, they’d see links to articles about Milan, Rome, Venice, Florence, a bunch of other cities, and about the country as a whole. The problem is that I didn’t build the site that way. I spent a couple days playing around with everything and trying to come up with an easy solution, but any solution would have taken dozens of hours of work on my part to implement.

Instead, I deleted everything and started from scratch. I deleted the several thousand articles and all of the different tags and pages I’d set up. I’m now slowly building the site back from the ground up. I’m doing it in a way that will be easier for me and better for whoever else is looking at the site. Overall, it will just be a better site.

I could have let the site continue on the path it was on, but it would have resulted in an unusable mess before too long. It was already getting that way with 4,000 articles indexed. It would have been a beast to deal with at 40,000. I’m sharing this because I think it’s OK to be open to tweaking your ideas and even starting over. Sure, I’d spent a few months working on something that I eventually scrapped, but what I learned from doing that will make the site better than it could have been otherwise. The best case scenario in my mind for this site is that it becomes one of the go-to places for people who are researching and planning their trips. Due to usability issues, the site wouldn’t have gotten there in its old form, but it will be able to in the form I’m working on now. That’s why it was time for the site to evolve, and that’s why I think it was worth starting from scratch. I think it’s important to not let bad execution handicap or ruin a great idea.

4. Success with a very narrow niche

I’m a big fan of Apple products. I love my MacBook Air and really like my iPhone, but would LOVE it if the iPhone had a bigger screen. So recently I’ve been looking online at some of the larger Android phones, like the massive Galaxy Note II by Samsung, with its 5.5-inch screen. I read on my phone for at least an hour every day and just would like one with a larger screen, and I don’t want something as big as a tablet, even a 7- or 8-inch one.

So I went onto YouTube and started watching Note II videos. It didn’t take me long to find a channel called The Daily Note II. As the name suggests, for a few months, at least, the guy posted a video a day about the Note II. Now it’s down to about once a week, but I still think it’s cool that he’s got such a narrow niche. He just makes videos about the Galaxy Note II. Not smartphones in general, not Android phones in general, not Samsung phones in general, but about the Galaxy Note II. I don’t know how much money the guy is making from his videos, but his channel has 44,000 subscribers and his videos have 4 million total views. Definitely not bad.

Here’s another narrow niche. There’s a website called The Pen Addict, which is at penaddict.com. The guy blogs about pens and has since 2007. On the blog he’s got an ad for a pen company, so he’s sponsored by a pen company and presumably is making money from that. And there’s also a Pen Addict podcast. The podcast has been going for 59 episodes and has 69 reviews in the US iTunes store. The podcast has a couple big-name sponsors. First of all, it’s amazing to me that apparently a lot of people like pens this much. More power to them. And second, it’s amazing that there are enough pens and pen-related things in the world to sustain a blog for six years and a podcast for 59 episodes. Again, more power to them. That’s awesome. And like with the Note II guy, I don’t know how much money the Pen Addict makes from his blog and the podcast, but it seems like it’s not an insignificant amount.

I’ve also recently been enjoying the blog 52 Tiger (at 52tiger.net). It’s a blog that has been around for a while but is focusing more and more on traveling with an iPhone. That’s another super narrow niche. It’s not about the iPhone in general, or about iPhone apps, or about travel in general, but about travel-related iPhone apps and travel photography taken with an iPhone.

You hear experts say all the time to start with a super small niche and dominate it, but the examples they give are usually hypothetical examples that don’t exist, and sometimes I think the examples really are too specific and too niched down, or they’re just stupid examples. But I’ve just talked about three real and super specific niches that people are doing well in online, and hopefully they’ve gotten the wheels in your head turning. Maybe instead of addicted to pens, you’re addicted to Japanese candy. Awesome. Make a blog or podcast about it. Or maybe instead of creating videos about the Note II, you want to create videos about your Toyota Tacoma and become the go-to source for Toyota Tacoma information or customizations.

If you have any other examples of super specific niche projects that are doing well, I’d love to hear about them. Use the contact form at digitalpublishingpodcast.com or leave a comment there at the site under the post for episode 31.

5. The minimum viable blog

If you’ve studied or read much about entrepreneurship, you’ve probably heard of something called the minimum viable product, or MVP. The idea comes from the book The Lean Startup by Eric Ries, and the idea is that you build the bare minimum of what you’d like to create and then get that product or whatever it is out there so you can receive feedback on it and change it as necessary.

The same idea can be applied to blogs. Last week I had an idea for a site that would complement one of my other sites nicely. The site I already had was fkb.me, my daily free Kindle book site, and the idea for a new site was to list other free offers every day. About an hour and a half after I’d had the idea, I’d come up with a name, bought the domain name, installed WordPress and a theme, made a simple logo, and gotten the first list of free things published to the site. It was really simple and basic, and I’ll include a screenshot of it on the shownotes for this episode, and you can see the site at FreeStuffCafe.com.

Free Stuff Cafe beta page

Free Stuff Cafe beta page. Pretty simple, right?

As of recording this, there are no subscription options on the site. There is no contact form. I haven’t made a Twitter account for it. My goals with the site were 1) to see if I liked updating it, and 2) see if anyone in my fkb.me audience would like the site. Since launching the site last week, I have created a Facebook page for it, but that’s the only other thing I’ve changed. If I decide to continue with the site, that’s when I’ll create the RSS and email subscription options and the Twitter account. That’s when I’ll add a contact form and ads and maybe a Pinterest account and all of that good stuff. But none of that was necessary to launch the site. You don’t need any of that stuff. By launching a blog with just the basics, you can get an idea of what it’s like to run it and can gauge people’s interest in it. In the worst case scenario, you’re out $8 for the domain name and a handful of work hours.

Pick of the week: Star Wars Minute

Star Wars MinuteAnd that brings us to my pick of the week. This is where I pick one useful thing to share, and it can be an app, a website, a podcast, or just about anything else.

My pick this week is a podcast called The Star Wars Minute [link]. This goes along with what we were talking about earlier as far as super specific niches go. This is obviously a podcast about Star Wars, and there are tons of Star Wars-specific podcasts. This one is different, though. The hosts watch Star Wars for a minute at a time and then talk about that minute in the podcast. The episodes are generally in the 10-15 minute range, and there’s a new one every day.

As a Star Wars fan, I think this is an amazing idea. I’m learning things about Star Wars that I never knew before, and things that I wouldn’t otherwise know or notice without examining the movie a minute at a time. But I’m also intrigued by this idea as someone who examines different forms of digital publishing. I’ve never before heard of a podcast that examines something in such minute detail. There are probably other examples, but I haven’t seen them. This same model could easily be applied to other movies or even TV shows. It could be applied to books, where you’d example and talk about a book a page or two at a time. The model could even be applied to things beyond media. Two things I talk about a lot in the podcast here are traveling and rock climbing, because those are two things I’m passionate about. I would love a podcast that is about individual famous or otherwise noteworthy rock climbs, with each episode talking about a different climb. Or a travel podcast that, instead of covering a city or country per episode, is all about one museum or just one sight per episode. You’d get a lot more granular detail than you otherwise would.

So even if you’re not a huge Star Wars fan, go listen to a recent episode of Star Wars Minute and think about how you could do something like that for the niches that you’re interested in. Search for the podcast in the podcatching app of choice on your smartphone, or go to starwarsminute.com.

Final words

And that’s all for episode 31 of the Digital Publishing Podcast. Be sure to check out digitalpublishingpodcast.com for complete transcriptions and other blog posts there at the blog.

Please don’t hesitate to email me any question you might have regarding digital publishing. I love talking about this stuff, and I’d love to help you out. You can follow me on Twitter by going to twitter.digitalpublishingpodcast.com. That will redirect you to my Twitter account, since my name is a bit tricky to spell. If you do follow me there, be sure to say hi. And again and as always, I’d really appreciate it if you went into iTunes and rated and reviewed this podcast, and thanks for listening.