Monetizing Forums

Monetizing Your Forum
Forums and message boards have become a big part of the Internet over the last decade and today you can find thousands of different groups gathered to share the latest info on just about any niche topic, passion or pursuit you can think of. The power and global reach of the Internet has made it easier than ever before for like-minded people to get together and thoroughly explore the products, people, places and things that interest them the most.

Although many forums have been born out of a passion for a particular subject or topic, it takes more than passion alone to keep a site up and running actively on the web these days. If you’re a forum owner, you know that it costs money and takes time to run a successful forum. If you’re independently wealthy, or just feel like operating your forum at a loss due to your enthusiasm for a certain niche, that’s fine. However, in the real world most forum owners need a way to recoup their expenses and cover the time spent managing their forums.

Fortunately, there are now a number of different ways forum owners can cover their operating costs and even make a profit in many cases:

  • Paid memberships – Paid memberships can generate income from a two-tiered content system when a forum has good enough free content to attract new members and a level of even better content available only to the paid members. The object is to convert the free visitors into premium or paid members as quickly as possible.
  • Advertising Networks – Advertising networks like Google’s Adsense and the Yahoo! publisher networks are some of the most direct and proven ways to monetize a forum. VigLink is another way of monetizing content with links from targeted content to advertisers. Most forums deal with specific niches and there are many smaller ad networks server these targeted niches. The trick is finding the one best suited to your users needs. Income is earned whenever forum visitors click on the rotating ads that are supplied and maintained by the advertiser network. Depending on a forum’s specific focus, third-party ads alone can often generate enough income to maintain a forum.
  • Advertising – You can sell direct ad space on a forum to potential advertisers that are related in any way to the specific content on your site. There are also programs like OpenX available that will allow you to sell advertisements for specific geographic regions too. Remember that selling ad space also comes along with account management duties like maintaining ad inventory; chasing down late payments; and uploading new ads.
  • Sponsors – Sometimes specific companies with products related to your forum will step up and sponsor your site. Enticements could include “sponsored by” banners, product prizes or even new forum threads dedicated to discussing a company’s product.
  • Affiliates – As an alternative to direct advertising, forums can carry advertisements for affiliate programs that relevant to the forum and can be worked into the discussion threads. Companies or other sites selling products related to a forum niche like books and DVDs are always good potential affiliates.
  • Donations – Sites without a lot of advertising on them can ask for donations after they explain what good purpose or cause the money will be used for. Although most donations are simply usually utilized to run a forum, visitors that do donate can be given special privileges or access to specific content similar to a paid membership in order to sweeten the deal. A Paypal donation button on the site can be a very useful tool when asking for donations.
  • Product Sales – Although direct product sales comes along with the duties of maintaining inventory, collecting payments and shipping, selling products with a shopping cart plug-in on your site can be an effective alternative to affiliate programs or t direct ad sales.
  • Classified Ads – Some of the larger, product-oriented niche forums have had good success with classified advertising sections onsite. If enough members will pay a small fee to advertise their stuff for sale or trade on your site, it can generate significant income.
  • Sell Links – Forum owners can always offer links to other sites for a fee. Third party link brokers like Text Link Ads will handle the details if you wish, or you can sell the links by yourself, and collect the payments and insert the links on your own.

Some methods of monetizing a forum obviously require more work than others. Collecting donations, working with affiliates and hosting Adsense ads are all fairly passive methods of generating cash. Direct advertising or direct product sales are more active methods that will require a bit more work. However, in the end, the methods of monetization you eventually choose will probably depend on the traffic your site gets and the niche it is in.

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  1. […] are always other ways to monetize a forum. Have you ever heard of Flippa? It’s an online marketplace that allows people to buy and sell […]

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