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Money!
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 KarateForums.com). 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 KarateForums.com. 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:
Condor.com

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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This is a guest post from my friend Scott Fox, who runs ClickMillioniares.com, a lifestyle business community. He is the author of “Click Millionaires: Work Less, Live More with an Internet Business You Love.” Scott has developed successful premium membership programs for others, and for himself.

Online forums are great. They can provide friendly gathering places for people worldwide to meet and share information, build relationships, and have fun together.

Unfortunately, many forum owners find themselves challenged by the amount of time it takes to moderate a community to keep it friendly and welcoming for new members. Since most online forums are supported primarily by advertising, a question I often get is “How can I make money by charging for memberships, too?”

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As we put together “Monetizing Online Forums,” we focused on identifying all of the potentially appropriate ways that you can monetize an online forum.

I think that a lot of people who run an online forum and want to monetize it aren’t fully aware of the options that exist. There is a lot more out there than just banners and display ads. I mean, those things can be great, but you don’t have to use them. If you do the research, you’ll find so much more.

In this post, I am going to walk through them. If you want to go into detail on any of these methods, learn who they are right for and how to integrate them in the right way, the book has all of those details.

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In response to my request for reader suggestions, Kal was kind enough to outline the following scenario:

“I run a very small online games community that has around 500 [daily active users]. … The community and games are free but there is also the possibility to subscribe which gives access to additional features such as new games to play and being able to change colours and styles of the website – things like that.”

Some subscribers still break the more extreme site policies such as consistently verbally abusing each other or spamming the chat,” he continues. “What courses of action would you recommend for such community members, considering that they are also subscribers – should they still be banned without refund, for example? Thank you very much!”

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9 months of work culminates today with the release of my new ebook, “Monetizing Online Forums,” published by Skimlinks. You can download it for free right now.

The goal of this project was to create a detailed guide to monetizing online forums the right way – in a manner that respects the community and balances out the need for a positive member experience with the need to generate revenue.

We cover all meaningful methods and discuss how to implement them and get the most out of them. This includes display advertising, in-text monetization, classified and thread based advertising, sponsored brand placement, affiliate programs and CPA networks, product sales, premium memberships, mobile and monetizing your outposts.

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