There are many options to monetize a forum, from Google Adsense, to affiliates such as eBay and Amazon. The direct selling of advertising space is another option. This requires more active work than the more passive methods such as Adsense and affiliate programs.
Here is how I go about it:
- In an spreadsheet I keep a list of potential companies and their contact information
- Also in a spreadsheet, I keep a list of the advertising slots available and bookings for them, so I can keep an eye on the inventory.
- If the inventory is looking depleted, I then contact potential advertisers on the list to build up the inventory.
- I do tend to target those potential advertisers that already tend to advertise online. I approach them with a one page sheet about the site; its visitors; etc with copies of the analytics pages and other forum metrics and a also one page sheet with details of the advertising options. I want to convince them advertising on my sites is worth it to them.
- The reason I approach those who already advertise online is that I like to think that I have two advantages over other sites that sell advertising to them:
- I use OpenX, so I can geotarget. I know my competitors cannot do that (at least not for now they can’t!). This means that if I approach, for example, a Canadian company, I can sell them advertising space that is only seen by visitors from Canada (unless they want the whole world to see the advertisement!). I say to them, how much are you paying other sites for your advertisements that are seen by the whole world and are outside your target market. Many of them have never really thought about this before.
- Also through OpenX, I can set an advertisement to run for x number of impression (say 10 000) and sell the advertisements based on the number of impressions. Some of my competitors sell advertisements for a lump sum for a certain period of time – at least I can guarantee to the potential advertiser that their advertisement will be seen a certain number of times. I generally sell a small banner advertisement in a side bar for $5-$6 per 1000 impressions. This just means if traffic drops, the advertisement will be displayed for a longer period of time. Many of the advertiser have never thought about this.
To make life easier for advertisers, in the email I send them, there is a link to the OpenX RevMax page I have where they can sign up, book the impressions, upload the graphic and pay via PayPal. OpenX allows me to directly send them reports if they want them. I also show good faith and alter their booking to deliver a free 10% more impressions than they book.
The direct selling of advertising is another source of income. Being creative and offering advertisers something different (eg geotargeting) can make it more successful.