As an information hungry society, we're all pretty obsessed with online content. Yet, so few people find a sustainable, lucrative way to run with it as part of a flourishing business model. For every two or three failed content sites, there seems to be another entrepreneur creating yet another online destination featuring information we likely can find elsewhere.
Fortunately for these content providers there isn’t a shortage of people sponging for information. The challenge is to make money doing it and the key is to find a way to stand out from the other businesses with online content.
I spoke with Tom Marchant the cofounder of Black Tomato, a travel booking company, and Beach Tomato, a website dedicated to beach culture. For the Tomato brand, Marchant and his partners entered the mix with a strategy to back their passion and expertise. Here are a few things to think about if you’re considering creating any online content as part of your business.
Want to read more about making your website stand out? Check these out:
1. Sift through the garbage.
There is a lot of content online. Some of it is engaging and some of it is not. Marchant hunted around for gaps in the markets he was interested in. He looked for what topics were most engaging and for areas where content producers were failing to provide useful, tangible information.
2. Indentify a niche.
What Marchant found missing were specifics. He’d look at a popular topic and find there wasn’t much developed in the way of a niche within the topic. He took those niches and researched their potential for development and user loyalty. The bigger and broader scale content is what is already excessively covered, whereas niche topics proved to be more of safe place to grow.
“We found our untapped niche with the beach, so the beach is our backbone,” says Marchant. “People love the beach, but people don’t have an authority on the beach and know where to go,”
3. Build around the niche.
Once you’ve found the gap and uncovered that niche, the relevancy is there for you to make the content fresh. Beach Tomato covered their bases and is creating something like a lifestyle brand within the Tomato franchise. Besides there being space for a beach authority, Beach Tomato recognized the need to pad it with other well-established industries like fashion, travel and beauty. The trifecta when wrapped around the beach created something solid for Marchant and his partners to work with and develop broadly.
“The combination of all of these things is something very appealing to people,” says Marchant. “People travel to the beach and care about a specific fashion and beauty when at the beach. Lucky for us, there wasn’t anything that linked those three areas to the beach out there.”
4. Create Dialogue
Relevant and challenging content brings readers back for more. The whole reason you’re doing this is because you’ve got something to say. Bring something new to the conversation. Look at the comments on your competitor’s sites and see what the readers are asking for and then talk about it on your site.
“To stand out you shouldn’t be afraid to provoke and challenge people on topics,” says Marchant. “So we looked at different beach areas that people weren’t thinking of and are starting conversations about why you might go to certain beaches—that’s what people remember.
5. Don’t charge for content. Use alternative revenue streams. (And pay your writers!)
Visitors don’t have to pay to access content on Black, Beach or their third site, Epic Tomato. Instead the company runs three revenue streams.
“We are not a membership based business,” says Marchant. “You can book trips from us. People submit requests and we put together a trip. Then there is ad revenue and third, is our upcoming e-commerce platform in late summer. It will carry fashion wear and accessories for the beach.”
6. Own your authority and expertise of the niche.
Don’t be a generalist. Be an authority. Big brands often don’t seem to realize that there will always will be a need for great content. When you are an authority there is consolidation amongst the generalists and what emerges is a place for more informed ways to search that use more specific terms.
“You need insight, relevancy, and opinion,” says Marchant. “There is always a strong need for content. But it’s not about search algorithms when you have that inside insight. There are more opportunities for specialized content that gets far better exposure as search optimization is improved.”
7. Recognize your passion can lead to your expertise.
More and more people’s passions are becoming businesses. When broad industries are drilled down, a wide range in expertise is revealed.
“Travel has such a huge scope,” says Marchant. “There are so many types of travel. With technology, fashion, and beauty there are so many opportunities that have such interesting spaces.”
8. Execute the actual idea and stay true to the core idea.
It’s easy to stray, to think too big and end up off topic from your original idea. Keep it simple and focused.
“We don’t necessarily need a large demographic vs. a specific one based on our revenue streams,” says Marchant. “We understand our clients and our readers. For us, it’s about the travel and engaging people with brilliant product.”