Are free forums profitable?

29 replies
So I have a demographic that I want to get a forum running for. I know I can get at least 5-10k users to start it off without any problems, so that isn't an issue at all.

My question is, are forums profitable and worth the time investment? I've heard mixed messages about whether they are.

Can anyone with experience tell me how much I could expect to make with it? It's not in the health, wealth, or love niche, but it is a targeted demographic.

Any input would be greatly appreciated.
#forums #free #profitable
  • Profile picture of the author Bryan
    Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post

    So I have a demographic that I want to get a forum running for. I know I can get at least 5-10k users to start it off without any problems, so that isn't an issue at all.

    My question is, are forums profitable and worth the time investment? I've heard mixed messages about whether they are.

    Can anyone with experience tell me how much I could expect to make with it? It's not in the health, wealth, or love niche, but it is a targeted demographic.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.
    I would think the biggest battle would be get the forum up to speed with consistent visitors. You can monetize with contextual links/banner ads, or even set up an Ad server and promote CPA offers. OpenX is decent open source Ad server.

    Another thing is if you can get that many users, it shouldn't be hard to turn around and sell the forum for a decent price.

    You could even add a premium recurring membership depending on niche as well. I've heard a lot of successful affiliates that started with forums, so their shouldn't be an issue with monetizing it, and you'll have the freedom to test since it will be your forum!
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  • They use to be and it depends if you have value added info that your users will pay $$$ for eventually. Adsense is going to give you a pump but the forum has to be hoping all the time. The forum also has to be in Google's TOS as you know in order to keep Adsense, but still a busy forum can make money around 100k uniques a month for most topics. Remember they are a bit of work, mods and the server expense factor in worth for me. I recently started a forum again, I have 2 and I am letting them grow naturally. I can setup a forum in about 2 hours and know a ton of mods that are ready and willing to mod for me. The question is what is "making money" mean to you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Diice
    Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post

    So I have a demographic that I want to get a forum running for. I know I can get at least 5-10k users to start it off without any problems, so that isn't an issue at all.

    My question is, are forums profitable and worth the time investment? I've heard mixed messages about whether they are.

    Can anyone with experience tell me how much I could expect to make with it? It's not in the health, wealth, or love niche, but it is a targeted demographic.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.
    If you can get 5-10k users without any problems then ofcourse it can be profitable. hugely profitable infact.

    -Michael
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  • Profile picture of the author FrankMiller
    Like I'm looking to get $3k+ a month. I
    Know I can get 5k+ active members.

    Is it possible to make this much with Adsense?
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    • Profile picture of the author Chris Silvey
      Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post

      Like I'm looking to get $3k+ a month. I
      Know I can get 5k+ active members.

      Is it possible to make this much with Adsense?
      In a forum format, I wouldn't say it is impossible, but a bit doubtful.

      Keywords in the content is what pull adsense ads. As forums have a variety of content, you never know what kind of ads that will be displayed.

      Those that had/ have done well with adsense tend to target high payed ads via keywords/content.

      Taking total searches/seo into account and searching ad words to help target..

      I remember one fellow here on WF back in 2012 that had over 700 adsense sites and was averaging 18k a month, but he got hit heavy on the Panda/Penguin updates that came out that May/June I believe.
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  • Profile picture of the author John Durham
    I have the answer to this , and also know the "how", but unfortunately my forum would kill me if I told you.
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  • Profile picture of the author Bujuk
    I would say its all depend on your niche. Some are easy to monetize, some are very difficult. The challenge with forum is the maintenance. Lot of spam and junk links. You need to be on top of everything.

    Bottom line, we need to be clear on the business model. Clear how to make money. Dont depend on adsense. There are many way to make money through forum.

    Hope this help.
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    • Profile picture of the author WillR
      Originally Posted by Michael_Lee View Post

      If you can get 5-10k users without any problems then ofcourse it can be profitable. hugely profitable infact.
      It can also be HUGELY time consuming. Running a forum is hardly a set and forget business model. There is a huge amount of work involved in eradicating all the spammers and keeping conversation on topic. Then there is the hosting requirements and upkeep if your forum starts running well.

      Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post

      Like I'm looking to get $3k+ a month. I
      Know I can get 5k+ active members.

      Is it possible to make this much with Adsense?
      It's hard to say. You need to remember that after a while very few of your regular members will be clicking on those ads because they learn to ignore them. So it depends how much new traffic you are driving to your forum to see those ads.
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      • Profile picture of the author Diice
        Originally Posted by WillR View Post

        It can also be HUGELY time consuming. Running a forum is hardly a set and forget business model. There is a huge amount of work involved in eradicating all the spammers and keeping conversation on topic. Then there is the hosting requirements and upkeep if your forum starts running well.
        Yeah Will is right, also with that many members you would need to have someone on hand pretty much 24/7.

        -Michael
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  • Profile picture of the author CashAdsLLC
    Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post

    So I have a demographic that I want to get a forum running for. I know I can get at least 5-10k users to start it off without any problems, so that isn't an issue at all.

    My question is, are forums profitable and worth the time investment? I've heard mixed messages about whether they are.

    Can anyone with experience tell me how much I could expect to make with it? It's not in the health, wealth, or love niche, but it is a targeted demographic.

    Any input would be greatly appreciated.
    Forums are highly rewarding. We have a site based around a certain demographic that contains a forum. The forum itself is not our entire site but it does allow room for us to build a sustainable community with repeat visitors. One of the biggest things you can look at is this very forum that you are on right now.

    They do work but you need an appealing topic or topics. I couldn't tell you what you would actually make as it all varies depending on how much effort you put in, but as long as you got enough interesting topics, a solid userbase, then you could easily generate income.
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
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    Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post

    My question is, are forums profitable and worth the time investment?
    In themselves, or as part of the methods by which you promote something related?

    In themselves, they're probably only going to be profitable by selling advertising space, from things like AdSense and their equivalents, from contextual advertising which annoys many people, by renting the list one way or another (without spamming anyone, obviously), or by charging for membership.

    Originally Posted by FrankMiller View Post

    Can anyone with experience tell me how much I could expect to make with it?
    Not really - because it's the people with experience of running a forum who know that it isn't possible to answer that question without a lot more starting information than you've offered. I'm not criticising you for asking, at all - just explaining that the people who have real experience of this know that it's far too widely variable to be answerable in this form.
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  • Profile picture of the author Kadztheman
    Yeah man! forums usually have a high page view per visitor! so if you get a good cpm you can make a good amount.
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  • Profile picture of the author whland
    Forums can be profitable if you can get the traffic and membership base up. And depending on which niche your forum is in.

    Some niches make less and some can make more.

    You need to devote a lot of time to the forum to make it work. You can't just set it and forget it.

    I'd say they're worth it. At least to me. I love the topics my forums are about so it's not really work for me.

    I love posting on them and running them.

    Chad
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  • Profile picture of the author igrowyourbiz
    There are only about 12 different ways to make money with any website. Forums are no different.

    With 3k-10k members you can make 100k per month if more than 60% are ACTIVE members (not just bots and flys)

    it is not difficult to moderate, it is about leadership skills. There will be people IN THE COMMUNITY who for the little power it gives them in their life will wield the title moderator like it is international security. THey will do it for free. Use them in the early stages, later hire more intellectually stable mods.


    Adsense falls under one of the categories of the 12. Google is not the only one that will allow you to put their ads on and give you a percentage of cpc. This is not very profitable and is the least recommended way to make money for many reasons.

    Whatever you make in adsense, you can make 5-10x as much with the same group of people on the same site.

    I am not sure how you are so confident you will get that many 1000s of people right off the bat, but I say go for it and you can easily start making 4-6 figures per month within that first year.
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  • Profile picture of the author KloudStrife
    Use https://www.proboards.com, they`ll give you the best support and its basically the easist in customization

    shouldn`t take you long to set up and start building your members
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  • Profile picture of the author dvduval
    I run a couple of profitable free forums, one with a million posts. I would say if the traffic is there, you can make a lot on advertising, assuming the quality of the traffic is high. We make more from direct sales to advertisers rather than adsense. Things like hosting (if it is busy), spam control and moderators are things you'll need to consider. It won't be an overnight success, but if you are willing to put the time in, I'm sure you can do reasonably well.
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  • Profile picture of the author ryanbiddulph
    Yep Frank, depending on the profits you help other forum members make To make money, give value. To profit, help others profit. Sow and reap, like crazy lol...all the best!
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    • Profile picture of the author thriftgirl62
      Nothing is profitable unless you are there to HELP OTHERS. Period. Why would anyone come back to your forum, free or not, if there isn't anything in it for them?

      Why do you want to start a free forum? What do you have to offer? Nobody cares if YOU make any money...figure it out. It's not that hard.
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  • Profile picture of the author Taniwha
    Of course it can be profitable, but the question is: What other things could you do with that time to double/triple your return?

    Whether that be contacting authority sites with your articles, or optimizing a advertisement.
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  • Profile picture of the author writeaway
    If you target the right niches and develop a real community, yes. It takes work.
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  • Profile picture of the author Ravikanth
    I do not know the kind of people your forum is targeted towards, but consider having a jobs board if it fits. For instance, Stackexchange has a jobs board where employers can post job offers to the people visiting the forums.
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  • Accordind to me to have a forum is too time consuming. Moderation is not so simple and the key is to find a niche that you know well and not satured.
    If you offer value, then you'll easily visitors and members.
    I read some discussion on forum about renewable energy and seem they works.
    Choose to build a forum about new and trending topic
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  • Profile picture of the author dgui123451
    With that many people, yeah I think you can. Especially if you know how to place advertisements without looking like spam. Good luck!
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  • Profile picture of the author BWHadam
    you can make money.

    For adsense , it depends upon the geo traffic, usa traffic will give you more money than asia
    for ads, What is you niche and what kind of traffic do you have, find ideas how to cash the categorized traffic.
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  • Profile picture of the author dgui123451
    Monetizing is never a problem. Look at this forum itself. The biggest problem is consistent signups.
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  • Profile picture of the author talfighel
    If you have your own forum which gets a lot of visitors per day, you can let your members to pay for banner or text ads on your forum.

    You can even add adsense ads at the top of every single page.
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  • Profile picture of the author KloudStrife
    Find a niche that is popular (narrow down the niche to something like Dog Owners of New York) then promote it via social media. Most general niches have harder compatition when it comes forums in popular catigories
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