You've created a forum and have opened it to registrations. Now as you look around the internet you might begin to wonder about revenue. In fact you may have built your forum with the intent to generate revenue.
Its bubble bursting time.
Most forums do not generate revenue. Or at least, most do not generate a substantial amount of revenue in the first year. Many never do. Most forum admins build a website with the mistaken notion that "If you build it, they will come." Nothing is further from the truth. There are thousands of forums on the internet that sit empty and generate little to no revenue.
What does it take to generate revenue?
Registering twenty members over the past month does not generate much traffic. You may put up some Google ads on your forums and log into your Google account to see your reports but in one month's time you may find your revenue is less than $2.00. Why? You have no traffic.
Revenue is generated because you have eyeballs, many, many eyeballs, looking at your website. Browsers visiting, even if they do not register, add to the traffic required. Where do you get traffic?
Research and investigate how to get your forum listed well with the search engines. SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is a must to getting your website's links into keyword searches when someone heads to google. Trade links with another website. Buy advertising in Google's Adwords to tell others about your website. Yes, in most cases it takes money to make money.
Once you have traffic coming to your site, what is a reasonable stream to expect a revenue?
In my experience, on average, it takes 12,000 page views per day to generate $10.00 from Google Adsense per day. 10 x 30 days = $300.00 for the month. Notice, this is not a paycheck. And notice that gaining 12,000 page views on a new forum is not something one can expect without hard work, day in and day out to generate traffic. For comparison, 12,000 page views per day is very little in the land of the "big-boards".
While this is a reasonable revenue to generate, most forum admins never enjoy this kind of funding. The keywords utilitized on their website do not provide a high bidding war on Google among the advertisers or the traffic simply is not noticing the ads.
While I know many forum admins that run their websites out of a deep passion for their topic and the members of the site, few of them earn a salary. They started their forum to help others and continue to run it that way daily. Any revenue they generate goes into hosting fees and systenm admin service costs and rarely is there enough to add to their own pockets. In fact, most forum admins report that their forums take money from their pockets. If you have built your forum for the specific purpose to generate an income, you should probably think again. Unless you have a deep-seated passion for your topic you will burn up, run dry in a year or two.
Revenue is possible
Yes, revenue is possible. I know of a few forum owners who make a living off their forum's advertising revenue. This is probably only 5% (or less!) of the forum admins that manage to make a living from their forums. Usually its in combination of advertising, affiliate sales, subscriptions, direct store sales and plan old hard work after years and years of taking no income while passion was poured into the community. Of course what young admins fail to realize when they hear the numbers that a "big-board" makes from advertising, is the cost of running their servers. Gone are the days of hosting for $15.00 per month. At that point think in terms of servers and system administration fees costing thousands of dollars per month to maintain and manage the sites.
The bottom line
Do not waste your time and resources building a forum community for the purpose of providing yourself a salary. You may be sorely disappointed. Build your forum community out of a passion that ignites an excitement for a new community that is needed. If the community flourishes, the traffic swells, the membership grows and if the search engines are kind, you may find a little extra in your pocket after you have paid your hosting fees. But don't count on it.
Build the site. Get traffic. Lots of traffic. Nourish your community daily for a couple of years while you see the numbers climb upward both in page views, members registering and advertising income. Build a community with passion for a topic not a lust for money and you won't be disappointed.