Produce content that sings solo. Don’t just join the chorus

Let’s be honest.

Producing regular original content is hard.

You’re forced to wear many hats – creative director, writer, editor, and even project manager. And you’ve likely thought to yourself, is all the time to product content and pump it out on social media actually worth it? There’s tons of good information out there. Am I just joining the chorus with more of the same?

Unfortunately that may well be true for a lot of the content out there. But the great stuff is outstanding because it has found a niche and has a loyal subscriber based audience. And that content producer has put in place a system to drive traffic with a purpose. That’s the space you want to play in. Singing solo to stand out.

At the heart of that approach is content shared out to drive traffic back to your owned media (website, blog, and enewsletter) where you can convert friends, fans and followers into subscribers.

When I was down at Social Media Marketing World in San Diego in March, I met numerous entrepreneurs who had monetized an online audience to build their business. Many of those companies were born out of necessity – people had been downsized, or were thinking, “ I lost my job. I might as well pursue my passion. I’ve got nothing to loose.” A crazy thing happened when that mindset kicked in. They became micro-focused, found a niche, and attracted others who shared their passion. They started simply by producing content in a niche space that they were passionate about, but they also captured a subscriber audience along the way. Quilters, novelty item bakers, photographers, extreme sport travelers, the list goes on – trust me, I met them all. While the conference attracted several thousand people, many from large companies, it was these accidental entrepreneurs and their stories that fascinated me.

And the curious thing is, most of these businesses started after 2008. We might all recall how the world economy tanked into the “Great recession” after October 2008, with the financial markets reeling and many jobs lost, but that is also when many of the successful content-based entrepreneurs launched their businesses. Coincidence you say? I think not.

Mitch Wilson and Sports Chat Place is a great example. Mitch is an “Expert sports handicapper” but he started simply as a blogger with a passion for football.

I had several inspiring conversations with Mitch at Social Media Marketing World over the course of the weekend. He was a low-key genuine guy, just hanging out. While others were chasing down (and in some cases almost stalking) high profile speakers, it became evident that although Mitch was there as an attendee, he was the real deal. A successful guy, humbling sharing his story with anyone who cared to engage and ask. I’ll admit to Googling him at a bathroom break to confirm his story, since it was so awesome, yet he was so unassuming and full of gratitude. He has built a media empire and now just manages contributors, and broadcasts daily from the beach in Hawaii talking to his followers. It sounds crazy, but Mitch is a genuine hard working guy, who built a following and now does what he loves. When he first started out it was just him writing about college football. But his picks for the office sports pool were good, and he quickly found a following within the office football pool bet playing male audience. Later he found a way to scale the business with a team of contributors, expanded his sports area coverage, and then monetized content membership models. However, it wasn’t until he achieved what Joe Pulizzi, in his brilliant book Content Inc, calls a “minimum viable audience” that he was able to turn his passion into a business.

To build that audience first, and then monetize it, Mitch did 3 key things:

  1. Produced great content for a narrow niche on a regular basis
  2. Focused on one channel at first
  3. Built an “opt-in” audience that he owned

Link here to an article with a little more detail about Mitch Wilson’s path to a $million dollar success that all started with blogging.

The concept of building an audience to a minimal viable amount first is a backward way of thinking about launching a company, compared to the traditional route of building the product or service for a specific target audience where you see opportunity. This new model is about pursuing a passion niche, building an audience, and then selling into it. It’s a cool concept.

I could tell you at least 10 more stories like Mitch’s from the folks I met in San Diego. All the businesses emerged after 2008, and they all followed the same pattern. I think they’re onto something.

Does this resonate with you? Are you following a similar model? I’d love to hear about what you’re doing. Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Mary Charleson


  1. Great post, Mary! I would add that even when you’re “singing solo”, almost any piece of writing benefits from a second set of eyes. Beyond simple proofreading (yes, it matters!), you will almost certainly get helpful input that makes your content better. Ask for help and offer to reciprocate.

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