The fallout of online media companies and its effect on forums

Discussion in 'Finance and Traffic' started by mysiteguy, Dec 5, 2018.

  1. mysiteguy

    mysiteguy Devotee

    Over the past few months, I've been reading about how online media companies are starting to suffer the same fate many traditional media companies (newspapers, magazines, etc) suffered. Recent examples:

    Additionally, Facebook and Google have come under scrutiny for their privacy and business practices (especially FB).

    Ad revenue drives their businesses, whereas some of the successful traditional media companies have successfully transitioned to subscriber based models. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal are two examples. But these companies offer unique context and are generally considered to be more polished and professional in their reporting, whereas online media companies tend to be centered around opinion, viral content, "glitter" and less in-depth reporting.

    I think ad blocking is hitting online media companies harder with each passing month making it more difficult for them to continue. I'm not presenting this topic to debate the merits, pros & cons, and causes for users implementing ad blockers. However, it is certain blockers are hurting publishers. There is no free lunch.

    Long term, how does the decline of online media and possible dramatic changes in social networks impact forums? My thoughts:

    - If large online media companies close down, or the quality or quantity of their content decreases, I believe it will help forums. There are only so many page views to go around, and if people aren't visiting these sites they will spend their time elsewhere.

    - The same thing applies to social media. Facebook, in particular, has seen decreases in user engagement and traffic as people start pushing back against their practices. Forums, including non-traditional forums such as, are the natural recipient of traffic lost from social media.

    People have long discussed the decline of forums, and I've always maintained the opinion that forums who work harder to survive, maintain or grow (and larger boards with a big following) would eventually see a turn-around.

    Forums have suffered the consequence of any growing industry: most first players grow fast, subseqent players jump in because they see a gold mine, competition greatly increases, and there is consolidation (buyouts) of many larger players making it harder for independents to compete.

    The past 9 months or so I've started seeing the next phase of what happens to in most business sectors, the players who survived start growing. Between social media declines, online media declines and some forums "giving up", growth on my own forums and those of my larger clients has increased and the trend continues upward.

    The difficulty is forum owners won't see this trend continue long term if mobile isn't better utilized. Push notifications are a good move in this direction, but ultimately forums need to have native app support or more direct interaction with mobile browsers to give a "native app feel."

    Additionally, while growth has accelerated, revenue has increased but not nearly at the same pace of traffic. Ad blocking is a big cause of this, and the percentage of page views with ads being blocked continues to increase.

    There are other revenue models to replace or supplement ads:

    - Memberships. Some forums are successful with this, but they are the exception, not the rule. And of those who are successful with this will generally not see the same kind of income ad revenue brought in before ad blocking because widespread.

    - Affiliate programs. This varies between site niche. Most will not see anywhere near the type of RPM they receive with ads.

    - Donations. I can't speak from experience how well these do, but I can't imagine that a thriving business model can be built upon this. Sure, it will work with forums seeking only to cover expenses, but not much more. And to me, its a bit of a turn off, I feel its begging users.

    But in most cases, none of the above bring in the type of revenue ads bring in.

    We need game changers for revenue models. I don't know what the future holds for this but one shift would help tremendously. This would be server-side advertising, where ad code is directly inserted into pages instead of relying on outside content via iframes and scripts. These are much harder to block, especially if the server side randomizes elements.

    If Google were to provide a server-side version of Adsense which strictly enforces good advertising practices, it would be positive for everyone. Sites would see revenue increase, users would see ads but they would be limited, and sites could continue to exist and provide content/services.

    I'm also working on some revenue ideas of my own, but that's for another topic on another day.
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  2. maksim

    maksim Serial Entrepreneur

    Good discussion.

    I do believe, thanks to Forbes and others, ad-blocker blockers will become the norm, and much like TIVO did not kill tv advertising, ad blockers will not kill online ads.

    Keep in mind, YouTube, the most watched content, has ads, and we are used to seeing them.

    I still believe firmly, general forums, unless you are in the top 1% will die. You HAVE to focus on a niche and build a community around it.
    More than that, I think the best success would be transitioning the 100% forum model to 25/75 and eventually 50/50 blog & content /Forum.

    While a forum will keep existing people, and older folks, new members and quite frankly eyeballs will come from both articles and video.
    Use those to inform, and use the forum to discuss.
  3. zappaDPJ

    zappaDPJ Administrator

    The majority of forum platforms still haven't embraced mobile technology. At the very least each platform should offer an app with a unified interface and push. In my view this lack of functionality will ensure forums never fill the vacuum left by any decaying social platform or media outlet.

    There is of course one huge exception, a platform that's threatening to consume all our forums if we let it. Oddly enough that started life many years ago as an app with a unified interface and push :rolleyes: I'm sure I don't need to name it.

    Setting aside the mobile issues, forums are still the best product for service provision (check out the official forums for any forum product) and they still have value for niche areas although that by definition is likely to limit their potential.
  4. stijl

    stijl Aspirant

    You cannot beat a dedicated community forum for a niche or product support, the forum platforms that are mobile and device friendly from the core will surpass the others and survive as the “mobile friendly” apps and plugins are a pain and dated.

    I’ve noticed over the years community owners can over design their forums sometimes making it confusing for interested visitors to register and contribute increasing bounce rate.

    As a content creator I’ve noticed a huge drop off in the US since the election but a major increase of business coming from Europe and Asia.
  5. Joel R

    Joel R Fan

    Discourse has a unified mobile app.
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  6. cornnfedd

    cornnfedd Captain Futurama

    The online media are all left leaning pretty much in basic terms anyway, I think with the rise of fake news people know that most of it is crap so just don't bother going to these sites anymore...
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