Unfortunately I have been in the same boat. I had an old community which started in 1999. Started with BBForum software, then migrated to Vbulletin till it became too big to upgrade in a timely matter.
The Discourse team was incredible in their help of converting the forum from Vbulletin to Discourse. But once running, older forum users easily got annoyed, despite us pointing out the useful features of the software.
Even worse, revenue declined terribly, only 30% of ad revenue was left after the migration.
For a new community I would not hesitate to use Discourse, for an old community you should carefully consider whether Discourse would be a good fit.
Many people simply don’t like change and a forum is just a hobby for them, so they don’t want to spent much energy on learning new things. Others will embrace Discourse and never switch to anything else.
I would be very interested to have a separate conversation about this, because I noticed the exact same thing. I have two websites, one Discourse and one WordPress. The RPM of my Discourse is also only 30% of what I see on WordPress. I’m not saying this is Discourse’s fault, but I’d like to look a little deeper into this with other Discourse admins, figure out which factors contribute to this, and see if we can find ways to improve that.
I’ve recently sold the site, so I can’t help much anymore. But I think it’s the combination of infinite scroll and the limited number of ad spots in the ad plugins.
With Vbulletin I knew all code pretty much by heart (as I know the infamous PHP/MySQL combination well). Discourse, being Ruby and Ember, appeared to be a too steep learning curve to get it right myself. I hope for OP (and others) that the team finds ways to increase revenue for everyone…
I’m sure you could do something with CSS if you really wanted to add it to your site. I don’t think it would make a lot of sense for the majority of communities, because the percentage along the bar doesn’t necessarily translate to anything.
I migrated from SMF to Discourse, I did had an ad revenue decline (and visits). But currently, after almost a year I’d say I’ve recovered all my revenue, my community is more active, specially for the improved performance on mobile.
I can understand why would you want that? The (is it called timeline? i remember there was a “nomenclature” post somewhere, but i lost it ) timeline is very easily usable right now. nothing is loaded as long as you keep it clicked (no needless resource usage), you have the back button easily reachable You have the date (in case someone says “March 1989”) Everything feels really nice and “at its place”. Adding the 25% markers would bring unnecessary noise.
With the support and input of @Merlls_Rizzini I have created this plugin which addresses some of this feedback, so now you have options and can happily adopt Discourse regardless of your views on quoting
On the Tomnod forum we decided that topics with many replies be broken down by year… having the topic name preceded with the year. A couple have been broken down into “quarters” or every 3-months. This has made a big difference by not having to scroll forever and a day. In almost all cases, a reference link is inserted by the moderator back to the previous topic (with the same name but an earlier date. The "old"topic also has a link to the newer topic as the last entry, then that topic is closed. In 4 years no one has complained. Of course, a search query will point one to whichever “dated” topic(s) is/are relevant. Just one possibility to think about.
Some thoughts on ad revenue decrease: many algorithms (pagerank from google) and advertising systems are solely rooted in a page based paradigm. More clicks means more engagement. That’s simply at the core of their reward model. That’s how you get paid and that’s how they charge : impressions and clicks. When you remove the concept of page views and migrate to engagement, time on site and analytics based interactions you get something new: civil discourse.
Hopefully we will all stop chasing clicks and go towards quality discussion, engagement and a higher sense of community. And a new sustainability paradigm will emerge.
My opinion is that community forums should have a free component and a premium paid component. Community commerce, as an example. That way instead of ad-supported forums, we start building communities funded in part by member to member commerce. I know it’s a lot to ask. But I can dream.
Generally speaking it’s interesting to see difficulties from people with existing communities. We’re building ours from scratch so have no such problem. In fact, I’m finding it hard to keep people patient while I configure everything.