The PD Matrix: Finding Your YouTube Niche
If we want to succeed as a YouTuber, people often say that you should niche down to blow up. In other words, they say that having a narrow content niche is the single most worthwhile thing when it comes to building our YouTube audience.
To an extent, these people are right. For example, let’s say you were starting a business, it’s a lot harder to say “I want to sell everything” than it is to say “I want to sell this specific thing that solves this specific customer problem”.
And it’s the same with YouTube. Making videos for people within a well-defined niche helps you to get discovered by the right people and probably gives you the best chance of growing your channel.
But, having said that, if we’re just getting started it’s totally okay for our niche to emerge over time and to enjoy the creative freedom of having a ‘nicheless’ channel. You shouldn’t let not having a niche be the thing that stops you from starting YouTube. It’s better to just get started than sit around for weeks waiting to discover your perfect niche.
Broadly, then, there are two main ways we can think about finding our niche: the architect and the archaeologist.
Architect vs Archeologist
An architect is someone that will carefully plan everything in advance of laying the first brick. They know exactly what they’re going to create before they create it. In our case, an architect is someone who wants to plan their channel and discover their perfect niche before they even think about filming their first video. There’s a lot of upfront work that keeps them from starting their YouTube journey.
An archeologist is someone who doesn’t necessarily know what they’re going to find, but they begin digging and will eventually stumble across something really interesting. This then inspires them to dig some more, excited by what they’ve found. In our case, the architect is someone who begins filming without knowing in the exact direction they want to take their channel. But, as they film and publish more content, they gradually discover what they enjoy and their niche emerges over time.
Given that most readers are likely to be beginners on YouTube, my advice is to take the approach of the archaeologist. It’s not something that’s going to make or break your channel in the early days.
But, even as an archaeologist, it’s still worth thinking about where we want to metaphorically start digging. And we do this by using the ‘PD Matrix’.
Why Find a Niche?
By creating video content within a well-defined niche, people are more likely to come across our content and think “woah this is exactly what I’m looking for”. As such, they’re going to engage with our videos, rally behind our message, and become loyal subscribers with shared interests.
It’s easy to tell ourselves that nobody will bother watching our content if we’re too niche. But the truth is that all niches have the opportunity to ‘blow up’. Just check out the Hydraulic Press Channel if you don’t believe me – who’d have thought that crushing stuff would be so entertaining?
In the last couple of years, I’ve noticed that people are increasingly turning to YouTube for these niche entertainment and learning opportunities, so our audience is definitely out there. All we’ve got to do then is find our niche and stick with it.
Finding Our Niche: The PD Matrix
The Passion-Demand Matrix (or PD Matrix for short) is a method of quickly and accurately discovering our YouTube niche. The idea is that if we can find a topic that interests us (i.e. a passion) and has a clearly identifiable target audience (i.e. a demand), we’ll come across a topic where we can offer an insane amount of value. This unique combination of interest, audience, and value is our niche.
The PD Matrix works as follows:
- Box 1 (Passion x Demand) topics are those that we personally love and are also popular with other people too. So our ideal niche is found in box 1. And it’s where we can offer the most value.
- Box 2 (No Passion x Demand) topics also have a wide audience, but we don’t personally find them interesting. As a result, they make us bored and are best avoided.
- Box 3 (Passion x No Demand) topics, on the other hand, are ones we love but nobody else cares about. This means nobody is going to watch our content or subscribe to our channel. So this wouldn’t be a great place to find our niche either.
- Box 4 (No Passion x No Demand) topics are the ones we don’t enjoy and neither does anyone else. So focusing our attention on these topics would be a complete waste of time and the worst possible place to find our niche.
Clearly then, finding the perfect niche for our YouTube channel means finding a topic that sits squarely in box 1 of the PD Matrix – a topic that we’re passionate about and that other people are demanding to watch too.
Let’s take a look at each of these two requirements now.
❤️ Step 1: Passion
The first step to finding our niche is to think about our passions. After all, we’re going to have to come up with new content on a regular basis, so if we don’t enjoy what we’re doing we’ll quickly get bored of making our videos. Plus, it’s difficult to talk enthusiastically and engage the viewer when we’re chatting about something we’ve got no interest in.
Basically, this step involves looking inwards and asking ourselves some questions about our strengths, the things we want to do on YouTube, and the unique qualities we offer to people. The objective is to literally brain dump whatever the hell we think about in response to these questions, and we can always refine our answers later as we build a clearer picture of our passions.
What do I enjoy?
To begin with, we need to write a list of all the topics we genuinely enjoy. When answering this question it’s pretty easy to end up writing a bunch of stuff we’re only slightly interested in. Don’t fall into that trap. Try to write a list of topics that we’re actually passionate about.
My threshold for putting something on the list is to ask myself whether or not I can hold a lengthy conversation about it. If that’s not possible, I won’t write it down. I also like to think about the topics I’m already familiar with (such as my jobs and my hobbies), as that’s often a good place to start when looking for the things we enjoy.
There’s no need for us to be a specialist in our chosen topic for it to be an acceptable YouTube niche. As Austin Kleon says in ‘Show Your Work‘, we don’t have to be an expert to begin sharing our stuff. The important thing is that we find something we enjoy.
What do I want from YouTube?
This question encourages us to visualise our future channel. We need to think about what our YouTube channel is going to look like in 2-3 years and all the things that excite us about the process of getting there. If we’re not passionate about the topics we’re going to talk about in the future then our niche obviously needs to be different.
For example, I want my channel to consist of evergreen content that compounds over time and helps people to live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. I’m particularly excited by the prospect of building a reputation for sharing useful content and achieving my dream of financial freedom.
If we’re happy about our channel’s future, we can be somewhat confident that our niche is a good one. And we’ll keep heading in the right direction for many years to come.
What’s my unfair advantage?
This final question gets us to think about how our passions give us an unfair advantage. Put another way, we need to find what feels like play to us but looks like work to other people.
What feels like play to me but looks like work to other people?
For example, when I started with YouTube, I used the fact I studied medicine at Cambridge as my unfair advantage. This was something I enjoyed, something that couldn’t easily be copied, and something I could create content about. In other words, I built a ‘personal monopoly’ that helped me to get some early subscriber growth.
My golden advice is to use our unfair advantage to serve the smallest possible niche we can find. As an example, I started on YouTube by using my unfair advantage to create videos on med school admission tests. That way, people had a clear reason to subscribe and it made it 10x easier to expand my niche later to incorporate all my other interests (such as productivity, studying, and entrepreneurship).
😎 Step 2: Demand
The second step to finding our perfect niche is to think about our potential audience and the sort of content they’re searching for. If we’re thinking about making videos about how to cook productively, but nobody is searching for this sort of content, then this niche probably isn’t going to work.
Having said that, the flip side can be just as unhelpful when it comes to succeeding on YouTube. If there’s a lot of people searching for a certain topic the chances are YouTube will be saturated with similar videos already. If that’s the case, it’s going to be very hard to get our content noticed.
This isn’t to say we can’t make videos within a saturated niche, but we would have to find a unique way to approach things. In other words, we’d have to do something different or better than everyone else if we want to succeed.
But hey, the important thing is we find a topic that we’re passionate about and that other people are watching. And, if that’s the case, we need to have a clear picture of who those people are by creating a ‘target persona’.
Specific Target Avatar
Finding the right niche isn’t just about what content we create but also about who we’re trying to appeal to. This helps us to tailor our message, keep our videos focused, and create a community of like-minded subscribers.
To create a specific target avatar we need to choose one of the topics we’re passionate about (from step 1) and build a detailed picture of our ideal viewer. The goal is to go into as much detail as possible, including information about their background, worries, fears, struggles, beliefs, and frustrations.
It’s totally worth giving this task a go but it can be a bit tricky. So to help you out, try answering the following questions:
- Who are they?
- What do they want?
- Why can’t they get what they want?
- What are the stakes if they don’t get what they want?
- What transformation would they experience if they finally got what they want?
- What keeps them up at night?
- What are they afraid of?
- What are they angry about? Who are they angry at?
- What are their top 3 daily frustrations?
- What do they believe about the world?
Over the past few years I’ve also been developing the target avatar for my channel and I’ve found that picturing a younger version of myself, with a few more inconsistencies, is a good place to start if we’re still not sure about how our ideal viewer looks and behaves. In fact, that’s kinda the approach I’ve been taking and I affectionately named this target persona ‘Medic Mo’. Here’s a short snippet of what I wrote:
Mo (short for Mohammed) is a 20 year-old medical student at Imperial College London. He lives in London during term time, but his family live in Manchester – he goes back there for the holidays. He’s sort-of enjoying his degree – the work is a bit tedious but it’s interesting at times. He’s really enjoying the university experience – he loves chilling with his friends and chatting or playing board games until 3am several times a week. He sometimes misses the morning lectures, but always manages to catch up. He feels that going to lectures is probably a bit pointless because they’re all online anyway, and he can be more efficient if he just reads stuff in a textbook or watches a YouTube video rather than listening to the boring lecturer drone on and on.
🎉 Step 3: Value
Now we’ve defined our passion and found a specific audience for that content (a ‘box 1’ topic from the PD Matrix), we’re very close to having our YouTube niche. The last thing we need to do is clarify what value we’re offering to our viewers through this content. As mentioned before, it’s the combination of our passion, our audience, and our value that gives us our niche.
Our value proposition is about what we do and why we do it. Put simply, our audience wants to see whether or not there’s a value or benefit in watching our content. Ultimately, there’s no point finding our ‘box 1’ topic if it isn’t also solving a problem or connecting with people enough to get them to like, subscribe, or share our videos.
“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” – Warren Buffett
There are loads of great ways to find our value proposition, but it largely comes down to answering these three questions:
- What’s the value that I want my viewers to get from my channel?
- Why should they care about my videos?
- What about my channel is going to keep them coming back?
For example, my value proposition is in helping people to learn the tools and strategies to live more productively. In particular, I think people care about my content because I break down helpful tips in an intellectual, clear, and actionable manner. Plus I create pretty useful summaries of different books, podcasts, and relevant academic studies that can be immediately used to improve our lives.
“On this channel we explore some of the strategies and tools that help us live healthier, happier, more productive lives.”
Finding our value proposition is really just about establishing creator-audience fit. This is where the content we enjoy making very closely aligns with what our audience enjoy and benefit from consuming too. So while the PD Matrix helps us to find the topic we enjoy and our potential audience for that topic, the value proposition is the message that binds those two aspects together.
It’s this mix of individual passion, audience demand, and inherent value that gives us our perfect niche.
Passion + Demand (+ Value) = Our Niche
Other than having a consistent posting schedule, one of the key factors to YouTube success is spending some time thinking about our perfect niche. In essence, this boils down to finding a topic that we enjoy, our audience demand, and offering something that delivers an insane amount of value to the viewer.
If we’ve found the right niche we’ll know about it for sure: the whole YouTube journey becomes a lot more enjoyable, subscriber growth becomes effortless, and we’ll find numerous ways to effectively monetise our channel.
But as a beginner, don’t worry too much about this sort of stuff. It’s good to keep your niche in mind, but it’s not going to be the thing that helps you learn and build your audience in the first few months. Just get filming and let your niche define itself over time – it’s a much better use of your time.
If you’re interested in finding more about how I grew my channel and how to find the right niche, make sure you check out my live course, the Part-Time YouTuber Academy, where I talk about all of this in a lot more depth. You might also like to read my Ultimate Guide to YouTube where I deep-dive into everything you need to know about YouTube.