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Social media as a niche

Countless blogs and websites dedicated to the subject of social media have been around long enough to become established sources of information. But a print product devoted entirely to the topic was pretty much nonexistent until Social Media Monthly came on to the scene last month. Social media hasn’t only created new avenues of communication for PR pros and news organizations, but seems to have also evolved into a new niche.

Working at a pace similar to the speed at which social media postings hit the Web, it took Social Media Monthly publisher and editor Bob Fine 53 days to go from concept to print. Fine, who doesn’t believe the print publication has seen its day yet, chose the medium because he didn’t want the voice of the magazine to get lost on the Web. “I don’t think doing a website would be most effective. We’re shooting for a higher level of writing than the average blog post,” he said.

Targeted at the everyday person who is trying to understand social media better, the magazine currently has a Flash version available, and will have an iPad edition in July. Meanwhile, most of the writers are well-versed in the topic of social media and have been working in the field for at least two to three years, he said. And while Fine believes it’s a niche topic, he believes there’s room for more to come.

The potential for social media to grow as a niche is extensive, noted Carrie Brown-Smith, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Memphis. “Social media is a strong niche with increasing levels of interest, but there is already a great deal of competition in this space,” she said in an email interview. “Websites like Mashable have already emerged that do a great job covering all the latest developments in social media, individuals cover it on blogs, tech publications like TechCrunch and GigaOM are all over it, the mainstream media has created beats covering it. I think we are already getting to a point in which there may be sub-niches within social media, with people focusing on how to use it for marketing, nonprofits, sports, personal use, etc.”

The audience for social media publications is also large and diverse, she noted. From businesses wanting to learn to use it to the individual person, social media as a niche is sweeping. “Revolutions in the Middle East sparked an increasing realization that social media can play a powerful role in social change, and taken as a whole, I personally think there is no question that it has deeply changed how we communicate in a way we haven’t seen since Gutenberg invented the printing press,” she said. Although we will continue to see growth of news organizations covering social media, she believes the coverage will primarily come from the digital end rather than print.

As for Social Media Monthly, Fine said its worth doing. Although he believes he would have been laughed at had he suggested a print magazine dedicated to social media in the past, that’s no longer the case. “Now that it’s there it seems like a no brainer for most people,” he said. “In the last 12 months, it [social media] has just infiltrated different aspects of society today and everyone is trying to figure out how to integrate it.”

— Katrina M. Mendolera

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