Don’t Find a Niche. Create One.

I deplore the phrase: “Find Your Niche.” 

It’s always felt too passive. It assumes that a niche is like an Easter Egg that you’ll find if you look hard enough. But the most interesting ideas don’t yet have names. Creatives who explore them traverse the waters of uncertainty and expand the horizon of human knowledge, either by capitalizing on how the world is changing or occupying an unexplored intersection of ideas. 

The difference between finding a niche and creating one mirrors the difference between existing demand and created demand. We usually think about existing demand when we think of economics. It describes known products that people know they want and already have a budget for. No matter how much of the product is created, people won’t change their consumption patterns much. In contrast, created demand shows how an increase in supply can generate an increase in demand. Highways are the classic example of how unintuitive it is. Throughout the 20th century, urban planners were consistently surprised by how adding lanes to highways increased the number of cars on the road. Demand for transportation isn’t as static as they thought. The wider the highways, the more people use them. 

When you build a Personal Monopoly, you are creating demand for an idea people didn’t know they were interested in. The most successful creators tend to define their own subculture instead of molding themselves into existing ones. In online writing, Ben Thompson started studying the business of technology while the rest of the tech media focused on gadgets and hot releases. In academia, Rene Girard was the first person to see how the same pattern of conflict showed up in literature, anthropology, mythology, and religion; and in music, nobody played RockJazz until Eric Lewis. Rather than playing the piano conventionally, he reached inside the piano and pulled the strings directly instead of touching the keys. Through the force of that niche, he combined the energy of rock with the improvisational aspect of jazz.

On the Internet, differentiation is free marketing so the more you can avoid competition, the better. Once you settle on newfound intellectual real estate, it’s time to build: create new terms, write about earned secrets, follow the Small Fish, Growing Pond Strategy, and relentlessly improve your craft. Only then will you build your Personal Monopoly.


Cover Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

 

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