Beside my two startups I invest 99% of my time in, I have several side projects I started just for fun. Trying out new programming languages, those kind of things.
One of these side projects is a community (basically just a phpBB installation) geared towards a VERY specific niche, a specific type of equipment underground music producers use.
The website is mostly self-managing (we have some volunteering moderators) and I only check in every month or so to see if everything is still running smoothly.
The website has been running for a few years now and it's a really tight and friendly community. They love the site so much some members proposed to donate money to cover the hosting. (I turned it down, because in all fairness the webhosting costs are minimal.) The site has about 20k visits/100k views a month. No revenue, since we don't have any ads or user subscriptions.
I see tons of possibilities to improve the site and turn it into a business. Not because the traffic is that impressive, but because the target group is so specific and we could provide them with other related services they might want to pay for.
However, I really don't want to divide my time by 3 startups so I guess my question is if there's a way to leverage the potential without putting in a lot of time in it myself.
Perhaps I could try selling it to the manufacturer of the equipment (they already sponsored us once) or am I better of finding someone that can develop it for me? (in exchange for shares or money).
I have thought of just putting advertisements on it, because it's such a specific niche. This way I could develop the site based on its revenue, but the community seems very adversed to this idea. They are bit 'anti-commercial' if that makes sense. The advertisements would have to be highly targeted which again means I have to curate them which I currently don't have the time for.
Any ideas on this?
Selling to one of the potential advertisers would tank the site, because blasting with ads is exactly what they'd do. So if you care about the integrity of the community, that's out.
Of course a co-founder is the obvious choice -- someone with enough equity that they're extremely motivated and devoted. Often great co-founders for sites like this come from the site itself -- one of those uber-moderators who have offered to pay for hosting. They've already proven they personally care about the site and understand the culture and content.
20k uniques is a start, and the target certainly increases the CPM, but even so you're probably still in the $6-$15CPM range, which means $150-$300/mo, which isn't close to enough to be a "business." So this co-founder also would need to grow the community.
I find it odd that the community is willing to send you money for hosting costs, yet is not willing to see a relevant ad in the sidebar to support hosting costs.
Maybe you should start with a tip jar -- a button that allows them to donate $5 to you via PayPal whenever they want.
The target posts thing sounds good, but you still won't be able to charge too much for it, and it's a ton more work on your end than running ads, and it would be hard to do it in a way that ad-wary people won't still be pissed. In fact they might be even more pissed because you're cloaking an ad as an article.
Maybe you could earn affiliate money when you do product reviews? Maybe you could encourage people to buy their online stuff through you (your affiliate links) as a way to passively support the site?
It's hard to make money in media.
Wow, thats impressive. I gotta tell you first of all, 20K is an impressive number and you are lucky to get that many people. Can we have a link?
You can try co-founding the business with someone else who you trust. Keep most of the equity to yourself but give them more money because they'll be spending more time with it.
You can try selling the startup but thats easier if you get contacted, not the other way around.
For one thing 20k visitors is a small number for a site where the revenue is content related.
First, find out what's the earning potential of the site. I looked around a bit, and found
http://www.talkarcades.com/revenue/11326-how-much-you-earn-per-visitor.html which is focused on online games, not forums but gives us the hint that the revenue is $.1 or under per visitor per month. With 20k visitors, you could get $200 per month.
Next, you need to calculate if it's worth your time. My take is that if you're busy with two other startups, it's not worth it, but you know the details better.
If it's already easy to manage, KEEP IT.
Try get some revenue from it. I have successfully used text-link-ads.com, linkworth.com and buysellads.com
I also have few forums I keep "afloat" (they have a similar traffic) and still get some money out of them. You don't need to put too much advertising, most of it can be pretty discreet. And it pays pretty well too