Gauging demand for a Discourse specific advertising service

Continuing the discussion from Issue with Adsense and pageviews:

I don’t think this is the case. Discourse has made an effort to provide functionality that can be used to generate revenue for small community forums. By design (I think) it’s left it up to site owners to figure out the best monetization strategies for their communities. Reading through all the monetization related topics that I can find on Meta, it seems that the most commonly suggested strategy is to use some kind of subscription model. Here’s a success story from 2018: Is there anybody being able to profit from a website based on discourse - #11 by DiscourseMetrics.

Reading these topics also turned up quite a few complaints about Adsense. I know from experience these are tricky issues to debug.

This got me wondering if there would be any demand for a Discourse specific advertising service. The precedent is out there with platforms like Reddit, X/Twitter, and Facebook having their own advertising services. Discourse is at a smaller scale, but that scale might provide an advantage. For example, a business might choose to advertise on a forum partly because they wanted to help fund it. I’ve seen this approach work with a small town newspaper where at least some of the businesses were advertising as much to generate good will as they were to generate sales. I do suspect that forums offer a unique opportunity for advertisers to get in front of niche audiences though.

I’m partly just thinking out loud here - wondering if this could be a viable idea. I’m interested in the general problem of how to generate revenue for small community forums.


House Ads can be a good option for communities interested in selling advertising.


I was actually thinking about a service that posted house ads via the API. It would have a listing of Discourse sites that had signed up for the service and handle the financial and (possibly) analytics end of things.

Another approach would be to use something like this:


I don’t expect Discourse to figure everything out for me, the problem is that there seems to be an issue with most of the options to generate revenue, including with the AdPlugin itself.

I’m not that techy, so while I could give things a try, I’m not a dev so could troubleshoot the issues.

The Google AdSense part of the plugin doesn’t work. Page views in Adsense are more in line with First Sessions than Pageviews. I’m not sure what exactly is the issue but the whole SPA element of Discourse throws AdSense completely. I asked loads of times on here and no one could tell me if GAM worked any better.

I tried AdButler with Smarty Ads and while the AdButler Ad units generated what appeared to be a correct number of impressions, Smarty ads were only registering a fraction of the ad requests they should have been, given the cost of AdButler it was losing me money. It’s possible this could be made to work but at that point, I was in talks with managed Ad Agencies.

In talks with two of the large ad agencies and when they saw/heard I was on Discourse they ended the talks even though they both said they can work with SPAs, they said Discourse would require too much customization.

I am currently running with an ad provider who claimed they had worked with Discourse before but when I spoke with their dev he said they hadn’t actually used Discourse, but they had success with SPAs previously. Currently, the ads are running (using the house ads to add the tags) and while they are getting decent impressions it’s still far short of what it should be by my calculation.

I guess what I was trying to say is that Discourse has put effort into developing functionality that aims to help sites generate revenue, but it seems the advertising end of things has been neglected.

Do you know if they have any kind of “developer mode” that would allow someone from Discourse to test how ads are being served and impressions being counted?


Not as far as i know but you can get setup with a self serve ad system like Adsterra quite quickly and test impressions/pageviews etc

or Smarty Ads