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I own a large automotive forum. Its very mature and has been around with one of 3 domains names since 2001.)

We get solid traffic and peaked about 5 years ago with approx 4m page views monthly. The rise and rise of Facebook has seen traffic drop significantly since then.

Traffic is now quite stable but we've recently seen the introduction of more and more ad blockers. IOS9 and now Firefox offering ad-blocking out of the box means I can't rely on the age-old revenue from ads. People just don't see them and I don't get paid for them any longer.

As the site is almost entirely community driven (with the odd article added by me occasionally) the option of sponsored content is only partially viable. What I could write in content would never cover the hosting costs of a site with over 7 million posts. I'd need to pump out tonnes of sponsored posts and I just dont have the time for that.

I have one site who is going to pay 15c per click on their content that I can import automatically to our site via RSS. I just can't see my tech-savvy users clicking on enough articles to make it worthwhile.

Maybe I add a sponsored 'twist' to content posted by others but I do feel that would be going over any kind of ethical line I have drawn in the sand over the last 14 years.

So, with that info, what options do us community-led site owners have at our disposal for revenue and cost-covering?

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    Good question! I wish I knew. What jumps out at me at least, it the opportunity to use your own ad software that embeds the ads into the web page dynamically rather than pulling the ad using JS. This could possibly defeat the ad blockers. I do not know any of the options unfortunately. Look for software you can run for yourself. Often this is a good solution for higher traffic sites. Who knows?? – closetnoc Nov 4 '15 at 17:08
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If ad revenue used to work, but isn't anymore, and you don't want to charge visitors an access fee, then the next most typical model is to sell the user data to someone interested in your user's demographics. But that would assume that you have some (probably somewhat private) information about your users.

Other ways that are less tested, but possible depending on whether they will work in your particular case:

  • Charge a monthly rate for publishers to run their content on your site, rather than per-click, and make the argument that the audience is what's valuable for any brand that's trying to build awareness with your audience. Or charge per page view, rather than click.
  • Run a contest of some sort with an entrance fee, or partner with a company that wants to do this and is willing to pay for promotion of the contest
  • Create a premium section where the best of your users come together to give some kind of valuable information, and charge a fee for access to this premium section
  • Start an annual car conference of some kind, and charge for tickets. Or partner with someone that wants to do it and promote said conference on your site, providing a slice of each ticket sale.
  • Start a "best of" newsletter, or some other topic your users would appreciate, that either has a subscription fee or contains ads that you get paid for, bypassing ad filters and going straight to inboxes.
  • Sell a product on your site and promote it through sticky posts on your forum.
  • Allow someone else to pay you to put a sticky topic on your site for a length of time for a fee.

Bummer to hear about your decline in regular revenue. None of the ideas above are terribly original. Just possible things you can do.

Or just keep eating the costs, I guess. How much $$$ are we talking about here, if you don't mind me asking?

  • This is a great list, thanks! I guess charging publishers directly for appearing in our newsletters or on the site would be good. We do run a few offline events that we could try to monetise but I'm referring more to a constant, recurring revenue. I would prefer to not disclose numbers if thats ok. Thanks again, this is great! – Christian Nov 5 '15 at 23:37
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    Understood. Just curious. Good luck. – jefflunt Nov 6 '15 at 16:50

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