Finding your online writing niche

by Andrea Hoff

What kind of writing is best suited to online publishing? According to Bethany Blanchard—a freelance writer, editor, and critic based in Melbourne, Australia— how you frame your online writing is as important as what you publish. Should you start your own blog or publish in an existing journal? What media and platforms should you use to support your writing? Is your work best suited to Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest…?

Speaking at a digital writing forum in Tasmania last fall, Blanchard stated, “It’s important to know what’s out there in online publishing and to react to what’s missing.”

What’s missing on the web?

Blanchard described her own approach to creating original work on the web. She began by asking herself, “How do you blog creatively about books?” In an oversaturated market of online book reviews from “Good Reads” to “Amazon” the prospects did not look good for yet another blog of short, no spoiler, good vs. bad literary recommendations. Luckily, that wasn’t something that interested Blanchard—but books and the cultural impact of literature did.

In an age where the idea of “longform” seems to be losing ground, she found a niche writing book reviews that appealed to her work in literary journalism—long form book reviews filled with literary criticism, personal commentary and spoilers. As evidenced by the comments and the number of shares, tweets, and re-tweets her posts receive, her writing is attracting an audience and igniting conversations not found elsewhere online.

Find a niche

Sierra Skye Gemma and Emily Wight, Vancouver based writers and co-creators of the blog, agree with Blanchard’s approach. Gemma and Wight started their blog as a backlash to the multitude of attachment parenting blogs online.

“There wasn’t a voice for working class mothers who don’t have the luxury to co-sleep and breastfeed their kids until they’re five” says Gemma. She describes their blog as “detachment parenting in an attachment age.”

Needless to say, their blog is full of humour and takes an original look at the realities of parenting for many parents today. They write funny spins on advice columns, such as “What to buy for the working mom” (the first item is bourbon) and use writing techniques more often found in fiction such as character, voice, and plot set to tales from their lives.

Choose the right support platforms

In choosing the right platform to support your online writing, it’s about knowing what’s out there and what media is best going to gather readers to your work:

• Most writers tend to use Twitter to support their online writing because of its short, often witty text-based format.

• Fashion bloggers use Instagram and Tumblr because of the visual nature of their subject.

• Architecture and design writers reinforce their blogs with Pinterest and Tumblr because both platforms offer the ability to share multiple formats (photos, posts, tweets, videos) and group posts together based on topics.

• Travel writers use both Instagram and Pinterest to share information and images about destinations.

• Food writers use predominantly Pinterest because they can include high quality macro photos to accompany their posts.

When considering support platforms it’s important to know what expectations the audience has and what will best suit your subject. When it comes to content, aim to subvert readers’ expectations, give them the unexpected, and break new ground in what’s missing on the web.

Because, as Bethany Blanchard says, “it’s the way we read that has changed, not the writing.”


Andrea Hoff is a writer and graphic novelist living in Vancouver, BC. 



Posted on January 22, 2014 at 9:05 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

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