The internet is Tokyo

Embrace your niche


Niching down can feel scary - it’s easy to believe we need a big potential market.

But the internet is like Tokyo.

It’s such a big place that no matter how small our niche is, there are more than enough people to accommodate our business.

So says Derek Thompson, a senior editor at the Atlantic, in an interview in Masters in Business (linked to below).

Here’s an excerpt:

Interviewer: “What advice do you give to a recent college grad who comes up to you and says I’m interested in journalism and writing books?”

Derek Thompson: “…there is a paradox to scale, I think. People who want to be big sometimes think, “I have to immediately reach the largest possible audience.” But in a weird way, the best way to produce things that take off is to produce small things. To become a small expert. To become the best person on the internet at understanding the application of Medicaid to minority children, or something like that.

And the reason why I think this is true I call my Tokyo example. If you go to Tokyo, you’ll see there are all sorts of really, really strange shops. There’ll be a shop that’s only 1970’s vinyl and like, 1980’s whisky or something. And that doesn’t make any sense if it’s a shop in a Des Moines suburb, right? In a Des Moines suburb, to exist, you have to be Subway. You have to hit the mass-market immediately.

But in Tokyo, where there’s 30-40 million people within a train ride of a city, then your market is 40 million. And within that 40 million, sure, there are a couple thousand people who love 1970’s music and 1980’s whisky. The internet is Tokyo. The internet allows you to be niche at scale.

Niche at scale is something that I think young people should aspire to.”


  • Don’t be afraid to niche down. The more you niche down, the easier it’ll be to be the leading expert in that niche.

  • The internet is a big place. There are bound to be more than enough people out there to build a viable business from your niche.

Here’s the podcast interview where Derek talks about this.


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