Jam Tomorrow? Thematic Blogging for the Future

by JoHarrington

Thematic bloggers act like speculators on the futures stock market. They are hoping to get in at the ground floor.

It's gone viral! It's the biggest story/item/movie/thing in the world today! You smell a great blog entry - which can be monetized into infinity - so you rush to do your keyword search.

Only other bloggers have been writing about it for months. Their matured titles are hogging the first five pages of the search engine results. Your Johnny-Come-Lately effort only has a hope of attracting local traffic.

So how did those other bloggers know? They didn't. But thematic bloggers get good at making lucky guesses.

What is a Thematic Blogger?

Someone who makes educated guesses about the concerns, fads and fashions coming right up; then writes about them.

There are really two definitions for thematic blogging. 

The first is more commonly described as 'niche blogging'.  Basically you write about one subject, rather than taking the scatter-gun approach of writing about everything.

We are looking more at the second meaning. This is akin to thematic investors. John Authers, a writer for the Financial Times, defined this type of investing as: 'identifying broad ideas about the direction of the world and building a portfolio around them'. (July 16th 2012, real world edition of said newspaper.)

Thematic bloggers do precisely the same thing.  Instead of buying stock and shares in related companies, we produce web content ready for when everyone starts searching for it.

Learn about Fads, Fashions and Future Hype

Buy these books to discover how subjects become big news. It might help you decide what to write about for future hits.

Let Them NOT Eat Cake

The world is gearing up for a huge social panic about obesity. But it's going to take a while to monetize that fad.

According to the same Financial Times article - Investors Size Up Long-Term Benefits of the Obesity Battle - thematic investors are currently putting their cash into anti-obesity products.

Anything to do with exercise, dieting, sportswear, nutrition and healthy eating is the way forward. If a pharmaceutical company looks set to create a safe and effective diet pill, then they can expect their shares to soar on the stock market.

Should bloggers be doing the same?  Probably not in this instance. The prediction is that it's going to take between 25 and 50 years for this particular social scare to take hold. 

You would be writing on a subject which isn't guaranteed huge hits until about 2037.

By then, eating anything sugary in public will elicit loud tuts and censure. Your flab will make you a social pariah. Giving lollipops to small children will be viewed as abuse. Anyone erroneously learning that Marie Antoinette said, 'Let them eat cake', will equally erroneously interpret it as, 'Let them eat cyanide.'

On the bright side, we'll probably all be dead or too old to worry about it by then.  It's a problem for the next two generations.  In fact, it's probably our duty to eat a few more eclairs right now, so we can provide all of the cautionary tales for them to recite.

Writing about anti-obesity measures now would certainly be a case of aiming for jam tomorrow. Except that 'jam' will be a swearword.

However this is looking a little too far into the future!  Especially when we can't even predict what writing platforms and media will be around then.  It would be the equivalent of writing an anti-smoking article in a paper-based magazine in 1987, then expecting it to be making you rich now.

Buy Nutritious Food, Sportswear and Anti-Obesity Stuff!

It's worth a try. If you're reading this in 2037, hello from 25 years ago! I hope the weather is better there.

Looking Ahead to the Fads of the Future

Two decades might be a bit presumptuous, but two years or even two months is right in our ball park.

How do the thematic investors know what's coming up so far ahead?  They are paying attention to the news, taking notes from the little things.

Sugar taxes are currently being proposed in New York City.  The same legislation, if passed, will place limits on the sale of sugary drinks. Reports are flooding in about the long-term health problems of an obese population. It all adds up.

They then look to precedents in the past.  In 1967, laws were passed in Europe restricting the advertizement of tobacco. It's taken four decades for prejudice against smokers to really take hold. 

In 1994, newspapers first started the drip-drip of Islamophobia (lots of oil in Islamic countries...). It took barely a decade for that to become a widely embraced social scare, but 9/11 helped matters along.

Things like that New York sugar tax are like initial volleys being fired over the parapets.  Social scares take time to be manufactured and mature.  Then they pay dividends to the canny investors who knew where to build their portfolios.

Future fads, fashions and concerns do not have to be negative.  Themes might be discerned in the fact that populations are living longer - invest in products about aging and/or anti-aging - or the economic growth of China - invest in Chinese firms, products and cultural imports.

We could write about the same, but really it's still all too far ahead.  We should be focusing instead on subjects that will come to the fore within the next couple of years.  But the methodology behind identifying them remains the same.

Great Fiction Book About Future Fads

Not sure what I mean by fads and social scares?  I could direct you to any number of high end academic tomes about them, but they're a bit heavy going.

I can't help thinking back to a wonderful story by Connie Willis.  Bellwether is light-hearted fiction about an academic studying fads.

Sandra Foster is employed by a research company, who want to know about tomorrow's fashions. If such things can be predicted, then they'll become rich by investing in them in advance. Thematic investors then!

The book is fun, easy to read and incidentally talks a lot about all the different types of fads. If all you want is a brief insight or overview, then you could do much worse than reading it.

Buy Bellwether by Connie Willis

How Thematic Bloggers Find Things to Write About

These articles are unlikely to be monetized much in the early days. But when the topic matures socially, they will be on the front page of the SERPs.

The most obvious bit of forward planning comes with entertainment.  Movies, games, books and albums don't just appear out of thin air.  They have release dates.

Television shows appear in the future schedules.  They might also be gossiped about in the tabloids and celebrity magazines, before they're even filmed. 

By paying attention to what's coming up, you can evaluate how well they might be received. You could then be the first person writing a meaningful article about it.  Once you have the URL and the content sorted, then the monetization can come later. 

Advertizements can be slotted into existing articles, once there is actually something to sell! 

The second way of doing this is to read the news and chat with your peers.  If something appears to be gathering momentum, then take a punt on it. 

You are writing to be pro-active, not reactive.  It may be way too late, once an item or topic has already become big news.

Naturally, focusing on what you know has never been more important. If you are already interested in a subject, then you are best placed to spot the little changes.  You can evaluate an up and coming story with much more education behind the guesses.

Moreover, you can write with the kind of authority that will take your article to the front page of the SERPs.

Thematic Blogging and Me

I've written about all of these because I'm interested in the subject matter. But they would count as thematic articles too.
Hammer Films have commissioned Susan Hill to write the next installment of their block-buster The Woman in Black movie.
Warner Bros have bought the film rights to Bleach from Viz Media. After four feature length anime movies, this one will be live!
Want to know where Starz's Outlander was filmed in Scotland? Looking to walk in the footsteps of Jamie and Claire? Well you've come to the right place!
The Sandman graphic novels are arguably the best in the genre. After 25 years, new fans are still finding and gaping over them. Find out why I'm a huge fan.

Paying Attention to your Internet Traffic

Tomorrow's big news might first show up in your own private data. Is one of your existing articles suddenly on the way up?

Anyone who's been reading my articles for any length of time will know I'm passionate about human rights.  This often translates into several anti-death penalty features. 

Monetizing them isn't my primary concern.  It's more about raising awareness.  Success there lies more in world-wide abolition than in the bank balance.  I live for the day when I can just delete the lot!

Hence the surprise when I noticed something peculiar happening around a certain theme. 

I've written about George Junius Stinney Jr on both Wizzley and Suite101.  Neither were about money - that would be sick - but about wanting to get his story out there.  George was a fourteen year old boy, who was executed in 1944. He was possibly innocent.

There's been some steady interest over the months.  The Suite101 article has been there longer, but the hits were higher on Wizzley.  Nothing much happening behind the scenes to comment about.

Until both sites suddenly showed a spike on those articles.  It happened on the same day.  Both have been attracting many more readers than usual. 

I naturally investigated.  It turned out that a movie about George Stinney Jr's life is in development. The announcement must have prompted a lot of people to begin researching him.  They found my articles, because the SERPs aren't yet flooded with them.

It was a complete accident, but I was in on the ground floor.  This is an example of how writing within your own field can place you ahead of the crowd. It prompted another article from me and I'm following further announcements very carefully.

Not that it is going to help that poor boy, but I'm glad that I was there to help raise awareness.

Watching your own internet traffic for spikes could help you do the same.

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Updated: 02/03/2014, JoHarrington
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JoHarrington on 08/07/2012

Thank you very much for your insight.

Would you recommend trying various niches to see what works? Or focusing on just one for which you have a passion?

spirituality on 08/07/2012

Develop a feel is precisely how it is. There's also the simple fact that passion works: writing about something that matters that few people have written about is a sure way of getting targeted traffic. And, of course, if it suddenly turns big - that's great. Often it doesn't of course: there's a reason niche is niche and not mainstream. But once a niche starts growing, those who started in it before it got big do have a head start.

JoHarrington on 08/06/2012

The Connie Willis book is fun, and quite short by her standards. I read it practically in an afternoon. I'd recommend anything by her, though, if I had to choose, 'Doomsday', 'Passages' or 'Black Out' are the most amazing.

'Bellwether' is good too though! It's just one of her early stories, so she hadn't yet got into her stride.

Thanks for reading my Wizzle too. Sorry, side-tracked by Connie there! Glad that you liked it.

Mira on 08/06/2012

This was a fun and alert article. I'll read that book by Connie Willis -- thank you! :-)

JoHarrington on 07/22/2012

Glad to have been of assistance. Good luck with your articles, and on finding thematic subjects to write about.

cabmgmnt on 07/22/2012

Nice forethought here. I can see the benefits of writing like this and will most likely use your suggestions the next time I write. Thanks.

JoHarrington on 07/22/2012

Mostly I look at evergreen articles, unless there's a human rights/civil rights story that really gets me going. For really future ones, I'm mostly looking at movies, books or music. I did write about the Diamond Jubilee and the Olympics months ahead of them happening though. :)

Ember on 07/22/2012

That's interesting, but it definitely makes sense. I don't know how I'd know what to write about for the future, but I guess it takes a lot of research then? So what are you planning and predicting for future hits?

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