The cost of running a forum

Hi all!

Hope everyone is keeping well.

Most of you probably know that I set up this forum to take over a gap from another. It’s been funded out of my own pocket (which I have no problem with), but naturally, it would be good for the forum to be self sufficient. The cost is minor in the grand scheme of things, don’t get me wrong. But for personal reasons, I’m tightening my belt on a lot of my own outgoings (unfortunately, still don’t have that magic money tree).

To be clear, I’m not looking to profit from this forum, it’s a hobby, not an income. I’m not proposing we spam the forum with ads, nor do I propose we make it all private and charge for access.

What I would like to see, is the forum generating a small income to reduce the reliance on me and to basically fund itself.

So, this is a chance for you to have your input with constructive comments. What would you like to see, or not see? Would something as simple as a sponsored banner across the top of the site be sufficient? Would you rather ads placed between so many posts (powered by Google or similar)? What about sponsored categories on the forum? Would you prefer us to sell ad space directly (rather than through the likes of Google Ads)?

This isn’t going to happen overnight, and I’m more than happy to try a few things to see what works and what doesn’t.

Let me know. I’m happy to consider any reasonable suggestions. This is your forum, I’m happy to read your input and make sure it works for everyone.


Do you mind sharing a bit how much you need/want to make from monetisation?

Would you rather ads placed between so many posts (powered by Google or similar)

I work in the CPC ad / sponsored content space and I’m just gonna say: These sort of ads usually pay single digit pence per click (that figure has really taken a tumble over the last couple of years). The majority of your users will have ad blockers too I assume, so you’ll earn even less. There is a reason why ad supported businesses spam their site with ads to the extent that they are unbearable without adblocker - you just don’t earn enough otherwise.

If you want to do a bit of maths to see if cpc ads can help:

  • get your avg monthly visits from Google Analytics (not from discourse or another “internal” figure, as these may include those with adblockers, who’ll never see/click on your ads)
  • assume that at most about 0.5% of these will click on an ad once per month, so multiply the figure with 0.005.
  • multiply the resulting figure with your estimated CPC (1.5p is a reasonable figure, but sometimes you can get more)
  • that should give you a realistic monthly income figure from CPC ads.

Another figure I frequently hear: for every 10k visits you can expect to make at between £1 and £10 per month (the price range depends on your niche and ad-block rate, but most people are clearly in the bottom range of this).

Sponsored content is definitely more lucrative imho, but if you have fewer than a few 10s of 1,000s of unique visitors per month you won’t earn an awful lot there either.

Selling ad space directly is a pain to manage, but probably the only way that ads actually make you money, and generally more privacy respecting. (But you need a very clear picture of the demographics you have.)


I moderate on another forum the owner of which [who also pays out of his own pocket] has just asked the Mods. for their views on ads -v- sponsors. It seems as though there has been quite a jump in hosting fees and domain renewal costs. We have just less than 1k members, so I think we might struggle to sound attractive. R-

Doesn’t look like there are many of us who visit this forum sufficiently to raise decent funds imo either :frowning_face:

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Donations are perhaps another way, and with lower visitor numbers, are likely to the best for a small community. Though of course it depends on the running costs you’d need to meet.

Personally I despise thoughtless, privacy invasive ads, and as @nanos says, at the volume you’d need for it to be effective, it would more likely drive me away than keep me coming back. Ads annoy me.

Sponsored content I could get behind though. Or selling ad space directly, but I don’t think we’re at a size where those options are viable. But if every website did things like Daring Fireball the internet would be a much more pleasant place to browse.

Which leaves donations. Those of us who appreciate this place enough to keep the lights on, are likely going to be willing to help support it if they can, but I think it requires a lot of transparency surrounding the running costs to determine viability of that.

How many of us would need to buy you a coffee to keep this place running for a year?


As I said, it’s not a huge amount, but if it was to start now rather than when the site grows (which, fingers crossed, it will), then it makes that job a bit easier further down the line. It sits around the £10 mark every month (£120 per year). That’s excluding the domain name which hasn’t increased in price, but with others (.com, .net etc.) going up recently, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the .uk go up within the next 6-12 months either.

I don’t particular want to go into the donations side of things. Not against charity, but I don’t feel it should be up to the members to fund it, especially at the size of the site as it stands. At around £10/mo, I’d happily keep paying it before taking donations.

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Interesting thought. As a counter point: If not the members then who?

And if you were doing ads (whether CPC, sponsored content, whatever) - isn’t it still the members paying?


Really insightful post.

For my money, if we can’t capture the necessary (albeit modest) advertising income I’d be happy to do the Wikipedia thing (I contribute from time to time).

Now that I know the truth, I’m uncomfortable with @Mathew paying for our forum. It’s the principle, methinks.


I donate to Wikipedia too, albeit just once a year - in January. And I would be happy to do the same to keep the lights on in this place too.

Unsure I like the idea of ads or sponsored content, especially if those streams are banking/fintech related. I think I prefer impartiality.


If we went down that route, we could donate any excess to charity of choice……


I would be happy to donate towards the costs to keep the forum going .

Wonder what the difference is between USER and ACTIVE USER?


Both excellent ideas, although can see charity if choice being difficult.



It doesn’t come out of the members pockets, but rather the advertisers

I like the charity idea that @Graham mentioned though. Food for thought!


Could always poll it, or leave that decision up to the site owner, in this case @Mathew!

Alternatively, if it’s done the Wikipedia way, excess money could just be set aside to continue funding the forums until it runs out, then run another donation period.

I’m completely with @nanos in that ads are still the members paying, it’s just more indirect and at the expense of the browsing experience, and their privacy. Though it is of course entirely possible to ads in a more user friendly way. Microsoft is better for privacy. Carbon is better for their unobtrusive nature. Affiliate revenue is another potential source too.

I’m always happy to pay for something that is free but costs money to run as a means to support the thing if they’re otherwise not making any money for providing it, as is the case here.


USERS = Number of created user accounts (in that period)
ACTIVE USERS = Number of USERs that has actually visited this community (in that period)


Affiliate revenue is another tricky one, and one that takes forever and a day to realise (publishers often don’t get paid until 3/6/12 month after conversion), so is definitely a long term take. (In my experience “EPC” is typically even lower than with CPC clicks, as voucher sharing sites will take the majority of the revenue.)


Thanks @PoelieV - that is helpful. R-

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What about pinning an “official” referrals list to the top of the feed? Regulars would definitely use your links, if they knew it was supporting the forum, and other visitors looking for referrals would probably go to it first.

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I too donate to Wikipedia occasionally and would be more than happy to donate £1-£2 per month to keep this place going. You’d only need a handful of others to do the same, which by the sounds of things should be perfectly doable.