- Oct 1, 2020
For a lot of communities, ads just do not work. I have a forum where if used ads, I'd end up with content diametrically out of step with the purpose of the site. On the other hand, if I blacklisted a long list of problem words, the adverts would become very untargeted and pay very little. Even in the best of circumstances, as you indicated, ad revenue has become unreliable for most.I'm of two minds on this. On one hand, I think it's a far better way to generate income than ads -- more reliable and allows those who wish to contribute to do so without inconveniencing those who don't. Of course you have to have something of value to offer to those contributors.
On the other hand, I don't want to end up in a tiered internet, where the quality or quantity of content you get is proportional to what you're willing to pay. If this becomes the norm for forums and other sites, we will see less and less good content offered to those who won't pay the price. It would be almost better to simply put the whole site behind a pay wall, at that point.
There always will be a place for hobby sites. But long-term, I envisage a further shift to various paid access business models. As with news sites, giving it away for free becomes less viable over time. Paid access means not having put up with dreadful ads all over the place (look at The Daily Mail website in the UK for example). It also (generally) means that data associated with online activities are less exploited - a good thing. There are access issues to consider with paywalls, but that's always been the case for the less economically disadvantaged. That's not a defense of the status quo - just a statement of reality and I see no realistic practical way around that.
I am involved with the development of a social media site with its primary focus on groups. No adverts. No paywall. Instead, the forums (groups) are free, but with a premium option for additional services (and a revenue sharing system for groups too). We have also seen a growth in these kinds models over the past few years.