An open discussion on running ads on the forums

Good day everyone! This is a bit of an odd post since this is a site suggestion from those that run the site lol but I have been running some numbers and thinking about it since the beginning of this year and I wanted to explain the situation around ads and try to gather some community feedback on them.

The tldr; is we have grown quite a bit over the last 2-3 years since @kilif was kind enough to let me take over the site. We are now averaging between 1 to 2 million page views per month with about 70 to 80 thousand unique users visiting per month with ~20-25% being returning users. This is enough traffic to start to be considered a lower/mid sized site and due to this we have been having quite a few people reaching out to us about running ads, including google themselves.

For right now we have been declining these offers as we have always felt that our success should be tied to the communities success which is why we feel with the storefront with a % cut is the best way to move forward. That being said I would be lying if I did not say we where leaving ALOT of money on the table with this decision.

The estimates we get out of the AdSense calculator says we could be bringing in between $50,000-$200,000 USD a year or ~$4,166-$16,666 a month. Due to this we do not feel it is an unreasonable assumption that advertisements on the site could net at least $10,000-$20,000 a year or an additional $833-$1,666 a month without them being intrusive.

This is where my conundrum comes in. We are at the point where advertainments could actually bring in a fair a bit of cash, and since @kilif and I have no intentions on taking any for ourselves, most of this income would be reinvested into internal projects or the community directly. This would give us a fair bit of cash that we can invest into promising projects, pay the people we contract a better wage, and even more directly help out people within the community at large if they have a sudden emergency.

The current plan we are thinking of is to just run top and bottom banner ads on the forums only. Since the main site is a store front, ads just wont be appropriate there, but this still could net us a fair bit of additional revenue that we could reinvest.

And this is where I want to open the floor. There is quite a bit of good we could do with that extra income, and while it will become less effective as we bring the main site online it could provide a fairly decent stream of income up to that point that would take a fair bit of financial strain off of @kilif and I since we have really been using much of our own funds to try to grow the site. On the other hand though, we are still on the fence if it is really appropriate to consider running ads on the forums.

What are your all thoughts on this?

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So I will say I’m a bit adverse to ads in general but it ultimately amounts to a minor inconvenience one can easily circumvent if they’re truly resistant to the idea. This is a platform you’re providing on its own merit and for the benefit of the community which is deeply admirable but it ultimately comes down to survival and I’ll be the first to admit that while I plan on trying my best to make successful projects it’s not exactly a lucrative model to rely on our gamble for success to support the sight that maintains the community.

I also say this as someone who has not been part of the community for long so it’s very important to hear from voices that know more than me and have been here, particularly those of us that have projects that could influence all this.

But to summarize. I don’t like ads, but I know why they’re needed in many cases and I’m not against letting them run for groups, people or sites I want to support. Ultimately it’s not my call but I am interest in how the community feels

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Are these ads going to be SFW? I don’t want creepy ads appearing on this website.

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Yes, no plans to run NSFW ads if we can help it. A possible exception for if we allow devs to direct advertise on the forums but they will still have to be SFW.

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If funding from ads are used for things like game jam competitions and whatnot I think its a great Idea! I think that would make the next game jam something truly special, I’m all for it.

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I think personally this is an amazing opportunity to build the community and more importantly centralize it.

Right now we have a lot of projects that all have their own specific Patreon pages to support them. This presents an issue for consumers on which ones they should support and for how long. For vanilla projects this isn’t as much an issue, but since feederism is more niche you have a smaller pool of total potential supporters.

Taking a step further this kind of money and centralization can make things like commissioning artists for game assets much easier which raises the quality of the games and pays artists

Ads are such an easy thing to endure for the sake of the community.

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Ads may not be too bad an idea, especially if it can make things like the Gain Jam more common.

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I should state it would not likely lead to more jams due to the risk of developer burnout, but it would allow us to offer direct funding to the development of some of the most promising entrants to further refine and develop the games as well as help fund brand new ones, not counting our current internal projects.

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Would Patrons be able to view an ad-free version of the forum?

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Banner ads are fine and I wouldn’t mind turning off adblock to help support the site, but the second I get a popup, or any of those click-hijacking ads, I’m turning adblock back on.

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Not likely, we will be using the official discourse plugin for ads and I do not think it allows for selective disabling of ads unfortunately and we would rather spend the effort on the main site instead of customizing that, though it could be an option in the future. That being said we really do not want the ads to be intrusive so we hope that if we did run them they would not ruin the overall experience of the forums.

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I think that it would be for the good for not only the forums and your storefront, but for the entire community if you started running ads. The mild inconvenience of advertisements is well worth all the good that income could do. Even the most conservative estimate you posted would be a great boon for Weight Gaming and the developers you end up supporting.

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As much as I would miss a ad free weight gaming you should put ads on the site the benefits would far outweigh the negatives I could see even doing a fun thing with it like let the community vote for the ads we want like as an example let’s say we all absolutely despise Dr Pepper (obviously not everyone does but go with it) and they wanted to put an ad on the site you could make a poll for if we wanted to see those ads on the site since we all hate Dr Pepper we could vote for a different ad like orange juice or something you could make it a fun thing by setting it as like a battle royal between ads for our amusement to see who gets to be on weight gaming just an idea but yes put ads on the site it will be a good thing

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as long as the ads are handled appropriately I see no issue with it. especially since we live in an age with ad-blockers, so if someone thinks they are to much just block them no problem.

it is also a way for people to support the site if they don’t have money to spend (or are cheapskates like me). I know I will disable my ad-blocker on this site for as long as the ads are reasonable

the reason people (like me at least) hate ads is because they are made so you can’t ignore them and the people running the site loads so many of them (even to the point where it lags your browser so you can’t navigate the site because of the buffering)

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All I can say is if the ads are out of the way and profits go to improve the content of the site, I say do it. No questions asked. If we don’t want ads we can just use ad-block or go to the discord, small banners atop the forums or on the side won’t ruin my experience here.

The trade-off for a little space for better content is a sacrifice that I, and am sure others are willing to make.

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Personally I use an ad-blocker because most sites don’t know how to appropriate ads on their site. Often times their peppered all over te page that it gets annoying as to which is actually part of the page and which is just there too be a nuisance. I’ll turn my ad-blocker off for this site since I would like to support it. But know that I’ll be messaging you if any of these adverts seems… Misplaced for a site like this (meaning I’ll voice if I think the content of the ad shouldn’t be on a site like this, ie. If the adverts include minors).

Placing them just on top and bottom seems reasonable enough and not too intrusive to a forum reading experience. If those ads bring in revenue that can be used to help the site and alleviate some of the financial burden of it, I’d say do it! I would especially like it if some of us are able to play to advertise our games on the site for a short while :3

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I would be okay with ads if and only if most of the money was invested into making higher budget weight gain games. Otherwise, if the money just gets pocketed, what’s the point?

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I don’t mind appropriate, non-invasive ads. FurAffinity has a fair approach for this, from my own experience, and it helps boost content creators as well.

I think it would certainly be a boost for developers here as you point out, Grot. Even with a smaller community and active projects on the go, when a significant update is released you want to do what you can to maximise exposure. Running an ad to that effect can only help in bringing more eyes over to a thread or itch.io page that wasn’t being previously watched.
The same can also be said for the budding Streaming/LP presence as well, who would also stand to benefit.

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Personally, I loathe adverts. Probably because I’m of an age when I can remember opening a website and not having half a dozen adverts/attempted popups in my face before I’ve even started reading. To be honest, if a website starts bleating at me to turn off my adblocker, 99% of the time, I just leave.

That said, I recognise that adverts are the only way a lot of sites can survive and/or grow. If the site is good (such as this one) and the adverts are relatively unobtrusive then I can live with that.

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I join @tiggertoo’s opinion, I hate advertisements too. Usually if a side shows me ads I just leave, the more ads, the more likely I leave.

Some alternative thoughts:
What about adding memberships to the forums giving users cosmetic badges? Maybe an icon, a colored name (a moving rainbow name?), maybe having a GIF as profile picture, framed profile pictures, etc - there are many possibilities. What about adding a reward system like Reddit has? Purchasing coins and coins can be used to give trophies to posts and these trophies could give coins to the post owner. What about sticky posts? That’s like advertising, but it’s just forum-intern, where only forum-relevant topics can be sticked on the top of a category or something, so more people get to see them.

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