Wick Communications

The end of verticals?

In Online media on 6 Jul 2017 at 3:37 pm

I have always been impressed when I see general interest publications like our newspapers spin off niche products. These are sometimes known as “verticals” in business parlance, because they cater to a specific customer base with a well-targeted product.

Until recently, the Wall Street Journal had a bunch of verticals. The Law Blog, China Real Time, Off Duty Daily — these were blogs, essentially, that catered to specific components of the WSJ readership.

Well, no more. The Journal recently joined the New York Times in scaling back on blogs like these. The stated reason is that webmasters want to put what they’ve learned from those verticals into the main app and core publications. It’s also a cost-saving move and probably a nod to the fact that some of these niches never bore much monetary fruit, even if they had a loyal readership.

Perhaps the learned folks who run the Journal have simply learned lessons I don’t know. But I’m still a proponent of these kinds of things. (Ahem, the Kicker is a vertical itself… one that hasn’t earned a penny for the company so far.) I think they serve customers who benefit from the experts newspapers provide. And I think it’s a potentially lucrative thing. You can’t tell me that advertisers wouldn’t want to reach the well-paid attorneys who regularly read The Law Blog. What do you suppose the household income is for the average reader of The Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog? You couldn’t find a sponsor for that?

Two years ago, I spoke with Wick editors and publishers about verticals that could, potentially, be profitable and interesting in our specific communities. For example, the folks at the Eastern Arizona Courier envisioned a wine publication or tab on their website that would service those interested in the burgeoning wine industry in that part of Arizona. It could, perhaps include blogs for each winery, maps, videos, etc. I know it’s a difficult undertaking, but I can envision it working. …

One thing I understand: The media landscape is constantly in flux. Ending the verticals is an experiment, just as starting them was an experiment. The change will be invigorating and something good will come from it.



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