Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Niche blog clicks the light fantastic

Can you make a blog into a brand? The one place where everyone goes to for answers? If there's one blog that’s managed this it has to be Strobist: strobist.blogspot.com.

David Hobby was a press photographer and started the blog as a place to just share his knowledge. The recurring theme was that you should light pictures with small flashguns (also called strobes) and not have to fork out huge amounts for studio lighting.

As well as the technical side of things David told stories of shoots that he'd done for the paper he was working for, how he approached the shoot and how he lit it. Priceless information from the trenches.

Over five years Strobist has gone from a small blog to a global brand for photographers. Photographic companies approached David to advertise and with modest rates the site was making a decent turnover.

Photographic stores started to carry Strobist kits with the tools that David had been blogging about.

The Strobist brand got so big that David took a sabbatical from his newspaper job — he timed it just right — as the global economic crisis took hold print media was shedding jobs faster than ever.

From there things continued to grow and the Strobist himself started doing workshops, it inspired others to do the same. You know you're on to something when the value of old flash guns rises on eBay.

Rosco, the company that make coloured gels for lights, had to stop sending out sample packs as they couldn't keep up with demand. It got to a point that Rosco and David Hobby worked out a pack that could be sold cheaply.

Other big-name photographers came to champion the Strobist site. It turned National Geographic photographer, Joe McNally, into an internet personality. The two books McNally wrote — The Moment It Clicks and Hot Shoe Diaries — are steeped in that strobist culture.

So what did David Hobby have? The answer is a niche market. No-one else at the time was writing about something as boring as a flashgun.

David told stories and inspired people, the rest just rolled on from there. He is now regarded as a master in his field when it comes to working with light. He is asked to talk and teach globally.

There was no huge PR machine, no investment (except time) and no big song and dance. He was just writing down stories and snippets of advice about what he loved best.

There are hundreds of thousands of blogs out there covering all areas of interest. Only the few who can tell stories and convey information can turn a blog into a profit. All you have to do is find your niche and get typing.

Jase Bell is founder of retail loyalty company Datasentiment (www.datasentiment.com) he can be reached on Twitter http://www.twitter.com/jasebell

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