Do blogs need to have a niche?
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. A few years ago, I probably wouldn’t have hesitated to answer ‘yes’ to that question: both of my other blogs have very specific niches (shoes and fashion, since you asked) and so did every one of the big commercial blogs I used to freelance for. In fact, it was because of those blogs that when I decided to go into blogging professionally, I made the decision to start a number of niche blogs of my own, rather than have just one big site, covering a little bit of everything.
Back then, that was what people did if they wanted to make a living from blogging, and it made a lot of sense: when you stick to a certain niche, your content is very focused, your readers know what to expect, and you have the opportunity to be a leader in your particular field, as opposed to just one of many in the larger landscape of “personal” blogs.
There are definitely a lot of advantages to niche blogging, but there are some disadvantages too: the main one for me being that if I’m forced to stick to one specific subject, I very quickly run out of steam. I get bored. I start wanting to write about other things, and the fact that I’m not “allowed” to (because you can’t really start talking about what you had for dinner on a blog about shoes, can you? Not that I particularly want to talk about what I had for dinner*, obviously, but you get the picture…) starts to really frustrate me, and resent the fact that I’m sitting there writing about a subject I’m not particularly interested in any more, when there are 100 other things I want to say.
(*It was pizza, by the way.)
That’s why I ended up with 3 blogs: which I’ve gradually whittled down from a whole lot more than that. Every time there was a new subject I really wanted to talk about, I felt like I had to start a whole new blog, so I ended up with tons of them, and, of course, that doesn’t work either. Or not for me, anyway. What I quickly realised was that the reason those big blog networks I used to write for were able to run multiple blogs was because they had multiple people to do it. I just have me, and for me it just isn’t realistic to have lots of different webistes to update every day, to manage all the social media and email enquiries for, to monetise effectively, and so on and so forth.
Which brings me to this blog.
This blog has always essentially been a diary, and because of that, it doesn’t have a particular niche. I write about whatever I want to, whenever I want to, and although I do plan my content, and have some posts which always go out on certain days, it’s still just a little bit of everything. That works really well for me in some respects: it means that I never run out of things to talk about, for one thing, and I never feel like I have to “force” myself to write about something. On my shoe blog, for instance, although the posts are much shorter than the ones I publish here, they actually take much longer to put together: I frequently have to a lot of time searching for a shoe I want to feature, and then even more time trying to come up with something to say about it that I haven’t said a million times already – such is the problem of the ‘niche’ blog.
With Forever Amber I don’t have any of those issues – in fact, sometimes I have to restrain myself from posting multiple times a day, just to be able to fit in everything I want to say. Which is great, of course, but lately I’ve been worrying that the lack of focus the site has is holding it back. I just don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I look at other blogs, and you instantly know what they’re about: with mine you get this weird jumble of an outfit here, a beauty review there, and oh hey, let me just tell you about this hilarious thing my dog did last week.
(Er, there is no hilarious story about my dog, by the way. Sorry.)
Those sites are the ones that build readerships and communities: those are the sites that people follow, because they know what to expect from them, and they also know that every single post will be relevant to them. And then there’s me. I have some readers who are interested in fashion, and nothing else. I have some readers who are just here for foundation recommendations for pale skin. I have some readers who like the personal stories, and skip everything else. I have very few readers who are interested in everything, and while I know it’s unrealistic to expect every post to appeal to every single reader (even on a niche blog, that just isn’t going to happen), the knowledge that every post I publish will only appeal to a small handful of readers can be a bit of a downer. I kind of feel like I’m trying to be all things to all people, and always coming up short.
So, where does that leave me?
I’m not a fashion blogger: I manage maybe two outfit posts a week if I’m lucky, and thanks to the crappy weather and lack of daylight (not to mention the fact that I wear the same things all the time), I would really struggle to manage more than that. Even if I did decide to just focus on fashion, I STILL wouldn’t fit in, because although I’m most often referred to as a “retro blogger”, I’m not really, and nor do I really want to be. ‘Real’ retro/vintage bloggers would probably turn their noses up at my ASOS dresses, modern shoes and non-vintage hair… but the fact is, contemporary bloggers would turn their noses up at me too, because I’m not a ‘trendy’ dresser, either. I occupy this weird no-man’s land somewhere between retro and modern, and I don’t see much of a demand for that kind of thing, so … yeah, I’m not a fashion blogger – or even a daily outfit blogger that anyone would want to follow.
I’m not a beauty blogger, either. I do love makeup, and I enjoy writing about it, but my interest begins and ends with the products that work for my skin/hair/style, and I have no interest or knowledge about anything outwith that. When I had my beauty blog (just one of those niche blogs I mentioned), I did briefly try making it even MORE niche, by making it exclusively about products for pale skin and/or red hair. The problem is, though, that as much I love makeup, I don’t buy enough of it to sustain a blog about it, and once I’ve found something I love, I just keep on using it forever (or until it’s discontinued, rather), which makes for pretty dull reading. ‘Real’ beauty bloggers write in-depth reviews and tutorials: they really know their stuff, and have something to offer their readers other than just, “Oh yeah, I bought this, and it was quite good.” So I’m not a beauty blogger, either.
Which leaves me with lifestyle. A couple of years ago, when lifestyle blogs started to become a “thing”, I thought I’d finally found my niche, and it was lifestyle. I was writing about my life, after all, so that makes it a lifestyle blog, right? Well, no, not really. When I look at the lifestyle section on Bloglovin, I see mostly recipes and advice posts – THAT’S what ‘lifestyle’ means to most people, and I… I write stories about that one time I phoned myself by mistake. I love eating, but I hate cooking, so recipes are out. I do write “advice” style stuff (if you can call it that), but it’s not something I’d want to do all the time, so… I’m not really a lifestyle blogger, either.
And the problem is… I don’t really WANT to be any of those things. Even if I did make the decision that, OK, as of tomorrow I’m going to pick a niche and stick to it, I don’t think that would work for me. As I said, I’d get bored trying to restrict myself to writing about the same thing all the time. I LIKE being able to cover a wide range of subjecst – to just sit down, as I am now, and write down whatever’s on my mind. It’s good for ME… but I’m just not sure it’s good for my blog, or that I can reasonably expect people to want to follow such a random jumble of topics.