We originally built Seekler with a few key niches in mind, including comic books, programming resources, and movies. We have kept Seekler fairly general hoping that it could serve a large range of areas. As we have approached launch we have discussed many niches we thought we could target with Seekler, but we didn’t write down or fully develop our thoughts. We knew that we couldn’t try to attack all of our niches at once and that some would be a better fit initially. We also knew that some niches were already well-served by existing sites like Amazon.
After a few of our Seekler pitches didn’t go as well as we would have hoped, we realized the example niches we used heavily affected how people thought about that site. Sometimes coming up with the examples on the spot didn’t lead our conversation in the right direction. We realized we needed to spend some time and reflect on which niches Seekler could be perfect for and which were not as good. After working on our niche list, we started seeing patterns and discovering new niches we think Seekler could serve. Figuring this out has been incredibly valuable, helping us focus our development.
To help us focus in on the best niches we created a graph like so:
We then started placing our ideas along the graph until patterns began to emerge. It forced us to realize some of the topics we thought we could serve were actually bad matches, while other topics we never considered were well-suited for Seekler. The resulting graph can be seen below.
One pattern we noticed is that Seekler is not good at niches that require professional reviewers. We previously used digital cameras as an example for a good product people could use Seekler to narrow their choices down and then find in-depth reviews. It turns out the using the community review process for digital cameras really makes no sense. We allow a large community to build up opinions by offering lists in order of best to worst. The average consumer only buys one camera every few years, how could they rate their 10 best digital cameras every year? Only professional review groups can get full collections of cars, cameras, and other more expensive or rare items. These are a bad fit for our community review process, and well served by professional reviews which often fully review the entire market of items.
Seekler is excellent at products that people buy or use regularly and cost little to no money. The average person goes through a lot of music, books, comics, and games, for example. So it is easy for a comic fan to list his favorite Marvel comics. These niches are a better fit for the Seekler community and actually harder for expert reviewers to cover, as they can’t expect to have in-depth reviews across the entire space. Another reason community reviews can be useful is that in some cases, the opinion of experts isn’t as important as much as say the opinion of your friends, people your age, or of a diverse community in general. There are many areas where the long tail of reviews is often poorly served, while there are clearly many fans that exist with valuable opinions on often overlooked niches. For instance I think Seekler will reach a collection of the top 100 punk songs far before Rolling Stone will ever create that list.
In some ways we see the community review process as complimentary to in-depth reviews. While topics like punk music the opinion of the community may be enough to warrant a purchase. There are other cases where the user still may want in-depth reviews, after narrowing down your choices. We think the community review process can help you quickly narrow down the list of comics or anything you’re interested in faster than trying to read a huge collection of expert reviews. In this case while the user still may really be interested in in-depth reviews that get into the details of a comic, Seekler can still help them find interesting new comics which they can then follow up on.
Just learning these concepts about Seekler was important, as it helped us to improve our pitch. It also helped us realize some of the features we had planned were more important than others. Taking a step back from our code, after months of programming, and thinking more about the problem we are trying to solve gave us a better focus on our problem and a better understanding of our users. We don’t think we have found all of the best niches to initially focus on, but we have a better understanding where we should begin. If you have any suggestions, we are all ears as we are hoping our initial users will also help lead the direction of the site, by suggesting niches for Seekler to target.