Say Hello To A Niche Network Era

    July 6, 2007
    WebProNews Staff

Earlier, we reported on Boomj, a niche social network aimed at a subset of younger Baby Boomers. Niche social networks are popping up more often and growing at a nice pace.

Say Hello To A Niche Network Era
Say Hello To A Niche Network Era

MySpace broke the barrier to social networking (if there was one) and brought the concept to a mass audience. Though it quickly became known as a hangout for teenagers, the site has grown to include an older audience as well. Since Facebook opened up beyond the college crowd, it too has grown exponentially. 

While these sites have been wildly successful, they’ve been extraordinarily hard to predict, especially as the world (and marketing world) got a grasp on the concept. Many marketers sang their praises while others doubted.

The ones touting them all along were saying this is about targeting the appropriate audience for your message. But those deriding the concept noted the lack of control – no control over where or how your message appears and who sees it.

Enter the niche network. On cable or satellite, you have 200 channels and watch 15, right? You’re in a specific niche, which makes you valuable to a select set of advertisers. Cable and satellite providers capitalize on several niches at once to boost their audience numbers and charge more advertising or carriage.

If the FCC never gets off its duff to allow a-la-carte programming, it probably won’t matter eventually – the Internet is fragmented enough to overcome that as the Web and TV converge. There won’t be much point in forcing a-la-carte programming on an already a-la-carte system.

(Unless, of course, the AT&T’s and Comcasts of the world have their way – they’ll have you choosing from the content they want you to choose from, accessing it in the way they say, kind of like cable TV and mobile phones are now, unless there’s some Net Neutrality protection…but I’ve digressed.)

Eventually, the one-network-fits-all approach will peak (and I think that’s happening now – Murdoch senses it, which may be why he’s reported to be willing to give up MySpace for a chunk of Yahoo), and they will be replaced by more specific, group-centered social networks.

Humans do, after all, have a tendency to congregate with like minds and predicaments. Membership has its privileges, right? Membership adds a sense of consistency to the world that general admission, with the chaos of its conflicting viewpoints, cannot.

Again, enter the niche network. Hitwise Research Director LeeAnn Prescott reports on three up-and-coming social networks that have grown significantly in the past six months., a network for – you got it – mothers, has grown by over 500 percent., for the 45 and older crowd that refuses to re-label themselves away from Baby Boomer, has grown by over 100 percent. (What happened in March, I wonder, that caused the spike in market share?)

And, a website for people suffering from various health issues, has grown by 195 percent.

Prescott notes that they have quite a ways to go before they break the top 20 social networking sites list, but it shouldn’t be that hard considering that all it takes to do that at this point is grab 0.1 percent of the market.