Ludicrosity & nicheness: do they blend?

Forget what you know about identifying gaps in the market.

It’s a paradox.

Within it, features of the niche-ludicrous debate resemble the classic Pandora’s Box scenario; a subject untouched, and dangerously enticing.

I know you’re curious, though, so let’s unpackage it.

The coexistence of mainstream and niche markets causes a self-perpetuating loop, constantly realigning to cater for specific interests. Maybe it started as a rebellious trend, but one impermeable, conformist understanding is the entrepreneur’s curious paradigm: if there’s a market for it, it should exist. 

This thought wouldn’t be complete without its logical – or perhaps illogical, considering its retrofit mindset – counterpart: if it exists, there should be a market for it. 

Together, they form a ridiculous ‘catch 22’: with each gap filled in the market, the only gaps left to fill get progressively more niche. Yet, as they delve deeper into the niche, the resulting gaps leave room only for ludicrous subject matter. 

As the market gets obscured by a constant influx of nicheness, limitations for uncovering market gaps arise; unidentifiable consumer interests, audience sparsity, restricted “acceptable” further niches. The solution?

Truthfully, there isn’t one.

An unknown line gets crossed. Once the uprising of the niche reaches ludicrosity, the market will undoubtedly experience a resurgence of the mainstream. The circle closes, back to ground zero.

Ultimately, the answers rely on the context of time. In a constantly evolving socio-cultural climate, opinion and preference drastically change, and often unpredictably.

The cycle of niche to mainstream remains destined to repeat, manifesting itself at each and every turning point as alterations to our collective ideas on what the fine line between niche and ludicrous truly is.

The question then becomes, when its existence relies on there being a market, who gets to decide whether something is niche or ludicrous?

Niche is specific, particular, and creates a place of familiarity to those who relate, simultaneously alienating anyone who feels disconnected to the concept. The deeper you get, the more abstract niches you will uncover.

Trying to define where niche and ludicrous blend is easier demonstrated than written, by saying a word over and over, especially at speed.

At some point during the repetition, it doesn’t feel right in your mouth. You may find it difficult to say another time. You detach from its definition. You don’t recognise it anymore.

That incremental defamiliarisation from the original term resembles the same kind of regression from nicheness (specific, specialist) to ludicrosity (peculiar, absurd).

Another fitting analogy for defining the relation between these terms is through the average perception of the human eye. Inclusive of those who wear glasses, the things we see on a day-to-day basis can be considered the ‘mainstream’.

If we take a trip to the beach and use a magnifying glass, we can begin to see that grains of sand are actually a collection of tiny shells, rocks and minerals – this is the ‘niche’.

Curious about sea life, we take a piece of seaweed back to a lab to be studied. Using progressively stronger lenses to look at objects on a microscopic level, what once was familiar, suddenly appears strange – this is ‘ludicrous’ – an object so zoomed in that it no longer looks like itself. A mainstream object so extremely detailed, that it becomes abstract.

The cover image of this article is that very seaweed we metaphorically picked up. Now imagine these two descriptions as two separate magazine titles:

  1. Seaweed
  2. Microscopic views of the male conceptacle from a type of macroalgae in the phaeophycean family of brown, exclusively-marine fucus

Sure, there’s probably a market for the latter. Accuracy aside, its level of specificity happens to be borderline ludicrous.

image of seaweed on sand

Ludicrosity is so niche that it’s bizarre, regardless of its factuality. In a way, that makes ludicrous a product of niche, implying a certain contingency.

In order for there to be a niche, there must be a mainstream; and in order for there to be a mainstream, there must be a niche. But before falling into the chicken-and-egg trap, we see that ludicrosity does not only blend into the niche that it stems from, but also into the mainstream it resurrects.

Perhaps instead of separating the terms, we could settle on a term that encompasses a golden definition mean: ‘ludicrously niche’.

And there are more than a few examples of magazines that fit into this category, some that have been around for almost 40 years.

1980 marked the year that the UK responded to demand for a poultry art magazine, ‘Fancy Fowl’. That very same year, Italy decided there needed to be a magazine specifically about Commodore computer models. No, not just the computer classification, but also the accompanying women in their photoshoots. ‘Commodore Computer Club’ can be read from the records.

Then 1984 came about: known for its affiliation to the popular George Orwell novel, it was also the launch year of the Apple Macintosh, Tetris, and DNA Fingerprinting. Little do most know, it was also an important year for twins worldwide. Until the release of ‘Twins: a Magazine for Multiples’, they must have been feeling quite alone. Oh, the irony.

Only 2 years later, it was more than just twins whose loneliness got the better of them. ‘OMNI’ set out as an experimental publication to bring together philosophical thinkers on absurd topics – an example of which involved suggesting legitimate interspecies communication via the phone to its readership.

On a personal note, I do recommend looking up old issues of ‘OMNI’ (which you can find on the Internet Archive) if you enjoy sci-fi / dystopian genres, conceptual art, satire, and farcical conspiracy theories. Oh, and hilarious old advertisements.

Moving into the 1990s, there seem to be markets opening up for consistently unusual niches: the ‘Recumbent Cyclists News‘ (1990), and ‘Lighthouse Digest‘ (1995).

At the turn of the 21st century, there are specialist magazines for an even larger variety of niche interests:

  1. Spudman‘ (2006), and ‘Onion World‘ (2018) which are – you guessed it – about potatoes and onions;
  2. Emu Today & Tomorrow‘ (2002), and ‘Practical Sheep, Goats & Alpacas‘ (2013), for our robust-animal lovers;
  3. There is even a magazine for those who wish understand how to accommodate for the dead, ‘Funeral Service Times‘ (2012) – no, it isn’t a directory;
  4. On the topic of literal death, arguably most curious of all that blends quite nicely into ludicrosity, is ‘Girls and Corpses

I shouldn’t have to explain what that last one is about.

See, it may seem ludicrous to someone from the outside. But to a loyal subscriber of the magazine, girls and corpses are … “the norm”. And if you click on it, you immediately become a part of the market for which they continue existing.

There is, however, an outlier to this attempted definition: independent publications. While their content could be anything, their anomaly comes from being untraceable. Especially when it comes to DIY publications (e.g. homemade zines) that cater to a wide range of niche’s, some of which could be considered ludicrous if they were only known to a wider audience for comparison.

Another outlier is ‘Nomenus Quarterly’. Printed since 2007, it challenges whether nicheness and ludicrosity concern only content due to the astonishing price tag adjoined to its mainstream (albeit, limited edition) concept. For only 10 issues, you can expect to pay a minimum of £5000. Five grand – what the Erik Madigan Heck?!

The point here is, no matter how you try to analyse the market, so long as demand is satisfactorily sustained, the loop unavoidably continues and the definitions remain vague.

Thanks for reading!

by Iona Gibson

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