In this article from The Creative COW Magazine, Ron Lindeboom and Tim Wilson discuss how Eric and Cat Susch, with high production values, zero in on micro-cast broadcasting. In the iTunes podcasts they are climing the charts as their popularity grows and their commitment to podcast video quality is recognized.
Staking out your part in a new market is very often viewed as a black art. Others simply chalk it up to dumb luck. The truth is often a bit more mainstream and only seems a black art or dumb luck to those who didn't spot the signs and opportunities before them.
Eric Susch and his wife, CAT (her initials), watched the rapid growth of mini-media and knew they were seeing something that Eric believes, "Is going to be something we've never seen before - a revolution that will directly connect the audience to those making the content."
WHY ADVERTISERS NOTICE
Why does he feel so strongly about this? "It's content anywhere and anytime you want it. It doesn't have to be backed by a network because if you connect with a strong enough market, there are sponsors in that niche who want to reach those in the audience you serve."
Doubters have only to look as far as the "Mommycast" or "Ask A Ninja," two shows which have taken the internet by storm and have picked up major sponsors in the process.
PICKING YOUR TARGET
While many would argue with Eric's assessment regarding the growth potential of the "media anywhere" market, one thing is sure: Eric and CAT are carving out a niche that has already earned them many thousands of viewers.
Who make up that niche? Knitters. Yes, you read that right and this kind of zeroed-in focus is the power of micro-casting.
"Of North American women surveyed," says Eric, "fully a third say they knit. That's a lot of women around the world. CAT loves to knit, so we talked about it and created a show based on knitting."
When they began the video podcast in Q3 of 2006, they tried to do one a week. "That was a lot of work, and really wasn't necessary," says Eric. "The market is happy to settle for one every other week and our market continues to grow."
On Sunday, March 4th when Eric and I went over to the iTunes Store to check the show's ranking in the Games & Hobbies section, it was sitting at #54 in the iTunes Store's USA Hot 100 ranks.
That's quite an achievement when you consider that they are up against competition from every gamer and game title that wants to enter the category - and that is tens of thousands of podcasts.
The power of narrow- or microcasting is that if you love it, chances are that there are many others out there who love the same thing. It may not merit a major broadcaster's interest but it's often quite big enough to find a market and make it profitable over time.
QUALITY IS IMPORTANT
While user-created content at YouTube tends to be low-resolution, if you plan on making your podcast more than a hobby, don't cut corners. Light, shoot, edit and compress it with quality standards. Create for your audience, but remember, you are selling to your sponsors.
Like many video podcasts, the LetsKnit2gether podcast is shot and edited in high definition and fed to viewers in 16x9. Viewers give the show high marks for its quality and professional standards.
Coming Soon to a Cable Channel Near You...
Boston Massachusetts, USA
©2007 Tim Wilson and CreativeCOW.net. All rights reserved.
"Micro-casting" assumes that the target is a microcosmos, a small universe. Maybe programmers have missed the part that said that a third of North American women knit. It's not limited to any single age bracket either. One article says that the number of high school and college-age knitters is up 400% in the last couple of years, and up 10-20% in every age group.
That's a macrocosmos
. You reach this group with macro-casting. Do the math. The US population is 300 million, half of that is 150 million women, leaving 50 MILLION knitters. Look up the number of actual knitters online, and you'll see that I'm not that far off: over 40 million knitters.
This sidebar isn't about knitting (although if you find these numbers as interesting as I do, swing by www.chicknit.com). This sidebar is about finding a huge audience. So let's put 40 million women in perspective.
Assume that half the audience for this year's Academy Awards was women: that's 20 million women. Half of American Idol, the top-rated show as I write this: 15 million. Oprah's audience this week (and we're counting all of her audience, not half) was 7 million.
The final score: Knitters 40, Oprah 7. That's
Say CAT and Eric only get 10% of those knitters to watch their podcast. That's 4 million. The biggest show on cable is WWE Raw. I don't know how many women watch that, but the audience this week is only 3.3 million. Spongebob is 3.2. Monk is 3 million. Law & Order SVU in syndication is 2.8 million. Knitters 4, Spongebob 3 is still a winning score.
Getting the idea? Knitters are not a niche. They're a staggeringly large audience that may be under your radar, but CAT and Eric are zeroed in. And that's their best shot for cashing in.
I'm not saying there's no such thing as niche programming. Of course there is, and you can think of as many head-slappingly ridiculous examples as I can. But as the audience for broadcast advertising (as in, widely scattered to the wind) declines, these well-illuminated target audiences are sky-rocketing in value.
By the way, mainstream advertisers are well aware of this kind of statistic, but you may not be: surveys say that women are responsible for 44% of the buying decisions for HD TV sets. If that's the number being reported, you and I know it's much higher. So if I was trying to sell HD sets, I'd be giving CAT and Eric a call. I hear they take certified checks, credit cards and Paypal. If it's a big enough amount, you can probably talk them into cash.
So start rethinking the whole idea of niche programming. In fact, rethink the whole idea of niche. The image in your head shouldn't be of a little slot a great big, old-fashioned rolltop desk - that's a pigeonhole, which is probably what you tried to do with knitters. Cut it out.
Swing by Wikipedia, and you'll see that the word "niche" was coined by ecologists 90 years ago. They advised never looking at a single animal in isolation. Instead, formulate a definitive idea of that animal's specific place in the world. To put it in business terms, you can achieve unfettered profit by meeting demand in areas with precious little supply.
How do you do this? Keep your eyes peeled. Like CAT and Eric did, start with yourself. If you're interested in something, your slant on it may resonate with others in a big way. Then get your story to resonate with potential sponsors.
You know how to do that already. You just have to persuade a sponsor that they'll make more than they spend with you. Then of course you have to actually do it. But I know you. You're clever enough to pull it off.
Even if your niche is never, ever, ever going to be as big as the knitting market.
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