The communities that I manage are monetized via display advertising. I only work with reputable companies and have restrictions in place to ensure that the ads served meet my standards.

All networks worth your time will be actively protecting their publishers from ads that serve up malware. That’s obvious. But they’ll also provide you with filters that you can set to restrict the types of creatives they serve and the content of those creatives.

For me, this means no popup ads. No ads that expand automatically. No ads that play sound automatically. No ads related to sexuality. No ads related to gambling and betting. And there are other standards, as well. AdSense is very good about this, as are most networks you’d want to work with.

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PatreonI see Patreon as a really interesting community platform. The service allows creators to receive financial support directly from those who appreciate their work. It’s become really popular and is used by all types of creators: YouTubers, musicians, cartoonists, writers, podcasters, artists, photographers, filmmakers and more.

The longer I thought about it, the more I decided it would be fun to experiment with it for my work here.

If you look around at this site, you’ll see it really isn’t built for consulting. Even when I receive those emails, once in a while, I usually decline or recommend a person for them to talk to. Consulting isn’t the point of my work. I view myself, first and foremost, as a resource for fellow practitioners. I love to offer whatever support I can to professionals in this space, and those aspiring to be one.

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My friend Jay Baer received a new leather backpack for Christmas. He discovered the bag because of a recommendation made by a mutual friend of ours, Rohit Bhargava. This recommendation was posted in a private Facebook group for frequent travelers. Both Jay and Rohit are members of this group.

He had never even heard of the brand (Piquadro) before Rohit mentioned it. But Jay knew he wanted it and sent the link to his wife, who bought it as a gift. Piquadro has no idea that the sale was primarily generated by a post in a private community of frequent travelers. That community receives no credit, nor does Facebook. To Piquadro, it will simply look like a direct referral.

Listen to Jay tell the story himself in the video below (or read his article, “Why Social Media Will Never Get the Credit it Deserves”).

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Amazon PrimeIf you are launching paid (or premium) memberships on your community – or if you have them already – I’d encourage you to take a good, hard look at how Amazon has treated Amazon Prime. Especially when it comes to pricing and how they add new features to the program.

As a point of disclosure, I am both a Prime member and an Amazon shareholder.

The History of Amazon Prime in the U.S.

On February 2, 2005, Amazon Prime launched. It was priced at $79 a year, and the benefits were completely tied to shipping. Free two-day shipping on items sold directly by Amazon, as well as discounted one-day shipping, for up to 4 members of your household. Give or take, the shipping benefits have pretty much stayed the same over the years. But not much else has.

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Tracy O

I was browsing Admin Talk when I saw a thread titled “$600 for a forum without revenue?” A member named Soliloquy mentioned that a forum they liked was up for sale for $600. It has over 70,000 posts, 4,000 threads and 1,500 members. But it does not make any money as there has been no attempt to monetize it.

Online communities can offer a lot of value to people. Providing them with answers, helping them with a challenge they are facing and building strong friendships. But if you should ever want to buy or sell a community, the discussion will come down to monetary value.

When you talk about buying or selling a website, which is what an online community usually is, there are often revenue based formulas that are thrown around, such as 12-24 times monthly revenue. While it is OK to consider these formulas and even use them as a vague guideline, you should not use them as a rigid standard. Often, they do not equate to a proper valuation of what a community is worth.

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BuySellAdsI recently completed a full review of my own monetization efforts and I made the decision to turn over the vast majority of my ad inventory to BuySellAds, which I originally wrote about here in September of 2010.

What this means is that I have listed most of my inventory for sale in their Marketplace and that if anyone wants to buy an ad directly through me, I simply send them to the BuySellAds profile for my website (for example, here is the one for From that page, they can select the inventory they want, make the payment and upload their creative. All I have to do is approve it.

Previously, if someone came directly to me, I tried to handle the transaction myself with the aim of keeping a little extra money. But, when I thought about it, I decided that letting BuySellAds take care of it made a lot of sense.

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eBayRecently, I was reviewing the vendors that I work with to monetize I was looking for something that would better target martial artists and I decided to increase my usage of eBay Partner Network.

This is eBay’s affiliate program, which pays on a cost-per-click basis. How much you earn per click is based on their Quality Click Pricing, which attempts to evaluate the quality of the traffic that you send them. They say that, on average, publishers earn between $0.06 and $0.21 per click, but those sending “high quality, targeted traffic” can earn more than $0.40 per click. So it isn’t like typical affiliate programs where you just earn a percentage of revenue generated. This can be confusing and, perhaps, frustrating. Nonetheless, for niche communities, the eBay Partner Network can be a good program.

You can certainly use it if you have a more generic, general chat type community, but where it really shines is when you are focused on a particular subject matter. That is when one of eBay’s greatest strengths comes to bear: the depth of items that they have available, covering seemingly any possible interest.

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Google AdSenseIf you’ve spent much time on the monetization of your community, you’ve run across Google AdSense, Google’s advertising program for web publishers. More to my point, you’ve probably run across people asking for what else they can do besides AdSense or as an alternative to AdSense.

In fact, a Google search for “AdSense alternatives” (with quotes) spits out 162,000 results. “Other than AdSense” provides 123,000. This is natural, due to the popularity of the program.

In June, AdSense will turn 10 years old. As a web publisher, I have used AdSense almost from day 1 of the service (July 1, 2003 is the earliest day in my stats), which means I’ve been using it for 10 years. In recognition of this mark, I wanted to take a moment to remind people why AdSense is so great for people who own online communities.

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More than a year ago, when I asked what topics that readers of this site would like me to cover, Nibor Narklife suggested that I write about brand interaction on forums and how they can be facilitated. Recently, I received an email from a different person asking for ideas on that subject, as well.

There can be great opportunities for brands to interact with your forums beyond standard ads, in a way that can be beneficial to the community as well. Obviously, some communities will be more receptive to these overtures than others. You, as the manager of the forums, will probably have an idea as to how your community might feel.

When it comes to monetization and to working with brands, experimentation is vital. If you don’t experiment and try new things, you don’t find out what works and what doesn’t. You don’t figure out how to maximize the revenue that you generate.

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Condor Comfort Class Bordservice
Creative Commons License photo credit:

Premium memberships can be a great way to monetize an online community. They allow loyal members to pay for extras on a community they already enjoy and appreciate.

These programs are not charity or donations. The best ones offer value that members want to pay for that goes beyond the good feeling of supporting a community that you have benefited from. A well executed premium membership program provides incentives, ensuring that participating members receive a good bang for their buck.

Scott Fox wrote a nice primer on how to get started with a premium membership program, but one of the best things that you can do, to determine what you can offer and how much you should charge, is to learn from what other communities offer. In this article, I am going to highlight some solid examples.

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