How small can a niche be? Amazon.com has announced a new Print-on-Demand (POD) service which will run off a single copy of a book. A customer clicks to purchase the book on Amazon, then Amazon’s POD subsidiary, BookSurge, prints the book, and it’s shipped directly to the buyer. Printing one book at a time is a pretty small niche.
Service to small niches came to books with Borders and Barnes & Noble. Forget the independents; the large-store chains displaced B. Dalton and Waldenbooks, chains of small bookstores. People may buy millions of copies of the latest Harry Potter, but they still want to be able to buy an obscure, specialized title.
What are the business strategies for the nano-niche world? I see two ways to take advantage of it.
1) Exploit a small but highly profitable niche. I met a fellow who presents seminars on project management for hipaa compliance during hospital information systems conversions. Wow, that seems like a pretty specialized area. He said yes, but very, very critical within that small niche. He charges very high fees for his seminars, more than making up for the small size of his niche.
2) Serve many nano-niches. This is what Amazon is doing. It’s a giant, true to its name, but it plans on making big bucks by selling many, many small-volume books.
The middle is dying. People want either the blockbusters with buzz, or highly specialized items that perfectly fit their individual tastes. The non-buzzy, just-OK middle will lose customers to both extremes.