Forum Monetization (Without AdSense?)

Hello. When we started our forum, we thought it wouldn’t be a good idea to monetize it, so we decided to keep it as a non-profit, however with over 4.5k views/day, 90% from the States and Canada, maybe we could at least pay for our servers?

We’ve had an awful experience with AdSense in the past, so that isn’t an option, however most platforms require us to insert a code and we are not sure if that’s possible on Discourse.

What AdSense alternatives would you recommend that will be possible to implement? Keep in mind that some platforms require a specific amount of traffic. Thank you in advance!

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I’d say the best alternative would be not using ads at all, and instead trying some kind of patronage / membership program.

Not knowing your forum or audience, this is general advice, but: the ad-supported model can sometimes work, for example when you have a very large audience, and/or users (e.g. students) that either can’t afford or just aren’t inclined to pay. However for many niche forums with a clear, unique value proposition, I think it can make a lot more sense to ask folks to support you directly.

For a nonprofit, rather than making it a hard paywall to access the forum, you could have it be an optional but encouraged donation. Folks who pay could be added to a special group on Discourse…this could be used to unlock a private “patrons” category or something if you wanted, or it could simply be used to add a badge subtly indicating that the user is a supporter.

This may or may not tie into a broader sort of membership program on your site, but I think the idea would be small bonuses or ways of recognizing folks that incentivize membership while not costing you much extra. Even if a fairly small fraction of users end up paying, depending on the pricing tiers you set up it’s likely this could net you at least as much $ as ads, as well as being a better way to more strongly engage a core part of your audience.

There are many ways this kind of thing can work with Discourse:


@bts Thank you for the advice. I already run other forums where we have a membership program, however this one is a game based forum. The audience is mostly 13-19 yo teenagers, so anything paid wouldn’t be a good idea, since the game itself is free.

If your community serves a purpose and has a well-engaged audience then it adds value.

There are lots of 13-19 year olds supporting Twitch creators via subscriptions and donations, don’t automatically assume that they wouldn’t be willing to make a small contribution to your community so that it can stay online. You’ve nothing to gain in dismissing potential revenue sources out of hand, particularly when the trends within the industry indicate otherwise.

Think of some perks that can be offered on top to subscribers, a special title something else which conveys status. People love that stuff.

@Stephen Not assuming. It’s just the game is still in it’s experimental phase and at this point we don’t think it is right to add memberships/donations to the forum, when the game itself isn’t monetized. There’s a huge amount of beta testers, but the community itself isn’t big enough to have special perks. :slight_smile:

Edit: We don’t own the game. We do have permission to run the forum, though. The game is owned by RocketSnail (the creator of Club Penguin, which was sold to Disney for $350M), who is now creating a new virtual world, which at this point isn’t making any profit.