How to Stay Indispensable

Sitting here next to me are my four favorite magazines: The Industry Standard weighing in at 272 pages, Red Herring at 628 pages, Fast Company at 418 pages and Business 2.0 tipping the scales at 408 pages.

This is my print information diet. It doesn’t factor in my weekly dose of ICONOCAST, my daily intake of Online Advertising Discussion List and I-Advertising Discussion List, along with my ongoing monitoring of Upside, The Motley Fool, Internet Stock Report and Salon.com. Oh yeah. Somehow I also manage to read ClickZ daily, for which I subscribe to ClickZ Today, the discussion on ClickZ Forum, as well as all the various individual content tracks.

I’m overwhelmed!

And so are some of our readers.

Earlier this week, I was talking to one of our subscribers on the phone who intimated that he’s begun to feel somewhat overwhelmed when he gets his ClickZ Today – especially since we increased our editorial load to eight new articles every business day. That’s 40 articles per week, 160 articles per month and 1,920 articles per year if we maintain a steady pace – which we won’t because we plan to add more.

So here we are doing the same thing that overwhelms me when my print brethren do it.

What are we going to do? Are we going to continue to overwhelm our readers with way too much information, making life even more difficult than it is already?

Our plan, as it has been for the past year, is to simply blow it all up. That’s right. Blow it to smithereens.

No need to worry that I’m going to pull a Unabomber here at ClickZ World Headquarters. It’s that we are simply going to adjust to the market as it has evolved in the way that it needs to be addressed.

Or should I say markets?

When we first launched ClickZ, all we had to focus on was how to get more clicks on a banner, maybe a little on promoting your site or getting better ranking out of search engines. The issues we were addressing were simpler. The market was fairly cohesive. One size fit all.

But things are different now, and we need to adapt.

We’re taking each of the markets we address (each of the groups with similar problems) and spinning out newsletters just for them.

Media buyers can get weekly newsletters by Tom Hespos or Jim Meskauskas.

Those on the selling or publishing side of the equation can glean insights from Janet Ryan, Richard Hoy or me.

An entire industry has sprung up around email marketing, so we’re offering two newsletters on that issue, one with advice and one with case studies.

We’re trying to address the needs of agencies with creative reviews and brand marketing articles.

That only begins to cover it, and this doesn’t include all the additional niches we are planning to address as we move through summer into fall.

There is no way a single publication can cover all the various elements of an industry like ours with any degree of depth if you don’t go increasingly granular. You can try to stay middle-of-the-road and risk becoming irrelevant to your readers and off-target to your advertisers and sponsors. You can stay too narrow and risk being crowded out by other competitors who invade your space from one side or the other.

And like my hero Bill Gates, I live in ongoing paranoia of either or both happening.

So like us, in order to stay relevant and meaningful, you have to listen very closely to the needs of your readers. You have to risk abandoning pet projects and fond relics of your early days or risk becoming a dinosaur. You may find wisdom in risking looking like a fool.

We don’t want to have our readers feel overwhelmed and risk having our subscription added to their periodic emailbox-cleaning project. We want to stay indispensable. So, rather than going big, we need to go small.

How about you? Is your audience fragmenting before your eyes? Are you scrambling to stay relevant while hungry competitors move into your space?

You might want to consider blowing yourself up and addressing each of your constituencies with small, highly focused pubs.

And you may find yourself doing it again when the “niche” becomes a more dominant strain.

With the many thousands of subscribers who have signed up for each of our individual newsletters, I can speak from experience in saying that it’s worth the risk to do so.

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