CASE STUDY: Why a journal category could be the next big growth opportunity for your forum

Hey guys,

We have been using Discourse for years, and not only has it created tons of value for our website, but it has actually become bigger than the main website and is now its own thing.

First of all, a huge shout-out to @RGJ and the rest of the CommuniteQ Team, as well as @angus and @merefield, who have been supporting us immensely over the years! :heart: :heart: :heart:

A few stats about our Discourse forum -

  • Recently crossed 1 million page views
  • 2,500 active users in the last 30 days
  • Almost 30,000 posts in the last 30 days

Further details you can find in our media-kit and our about us page here.

Since we recently crossed the 1 million pageviews milestone, we wanted to give back and share a use case about our most active category, which is responsible for the growth of our forum.

Introducing our biggest workhorse: Our contests category (powered by Journal Plugin)

Our stack:

  • Journal plugin by thepavilion
  • Topic List Thumbnails theme component
    • Custom plugin to generate the topic thumbnail from the most recently posted image by the topic author (instead of from the first post)
  • (soon) Reply Template theme component - to generate a structured template for each journal entry
  • (soon) custom dropdown filters at the top of the category based on tag-groups

In our forum, the category “growreports” (in EN mostly called “growdiaries”) is the most active category in the whole forum - by a huge margin!

Below is a data explorer report for the last 5 years. The growreports category has the same amount of posts as the 3 next most popular categories combined!

Our users absolutely love sharing their projects. And with the legalization of cannabis cultivation in Germany on April 1st, 2024, the numbers absolutely exploded, so we had to create a “beginner-reports” category as it became tough to navigate through them.

For the contest reports category, we are using the journal plugin, which enables a custom view and sorting of posts within a thread. That way, the topic owners’ posts are displayed in regular chronological order, while everyone else’s posts are set as indented “comments” and displayed under each topic owners’ posts.

Possible use cases for your forum:

  • You have a DIY forum → build logs
  • Personal development diaries
  • Sports/Nutrition forum → Food logs, diet progress reports, etc.
  • etc.

Sponsored Diaries/Contests for monetization

With the popularity of our growreport forum, we established a duplicate category called “contests” in which users can compete against each other or simply run a “grow-together”. This became a fantastic win-win-win monetization opportunity.

As our sponsors struggled to find suitable growers to showcase their products, we started offering a “matchmaking” service to hand-pick experienced growers for them to showcase their products and feature them in a growdiary thread:

It has become an absolute win-win-win:

  • Established community members get free products
  • Seed shops/breeders get authentic showcases of their products by experienced users
  • We get paid by the sponsors to match them with the right users

Questions, Feedback?

I wanted to share our case study as quickly as possible, and I will fill the gaps based on your feedback guys!

[tbc based on your feedback] :slight_smile:


What is Discourse Journal?

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I think you are hitting the essence of community building here :slight_smile:

Really cool to see this forum about a “niche” topic thrive!

How did you figure out that the growreport was the one thing that worked best? Did you have the category from the start of your forum? What other initiatives did work and which ones didn’t?

NB: I would be very interested in hearing more about the financial results and your business case in general! If you aren’t happy to share that in public, please send me a PM :slight_smile:


I’m not seeing what’s different about the category with the journal plugin?

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I reckon it’s broken.

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Ah sorry guys, we haven’t rolled it out in each and every category yet…

You can see it mostly in contests categories here:

Edit: I edited the first post accordingly

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Looks like a cool plugin I might be able to use. Is it defunct though?

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We are on latest stable and it works for us. For tests-passed, @angus or @merefield can chime in.


I installed the plugin. It works ok and is really cool but it does seem a bit neglected overall.


Good when it works for some. For me it doesn’t do anything else but changing text of create/reply buttons.

Well, I didn’t even ask it, so not a biggie at the moment.

1 Like