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July 28, 2009 9:53 PM   Subscribe

What are some examples of Medium-High Traffic websites that have successfully started to make money and how did they do it?

It's been 5 years since This Question and many things have happened on the web. I help to run a pretty high traffic (~150k visitors a month) site in a specific demographic. I have some ideas about how to make money off of it without driving away our users, but some examples of others that went from labor of love to money-making without a lot of fuss or being sold would be helpful, but I can only think of giant ones, or Metafilter, obviously. Unique details would help a lot.

posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (6 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Yes, unique details would help a lot, especially in your question. What the hell is a "medium-high traffic website"? What is a specific demographic? Do you mean a specific niche (like money or shoes or cars)? Or do you mean specific audience (like young Asian-American males)? I suspect you mean the former, though I can't be sure.

I feel like I might be able to give you a solid answer for your question -- I built a website to about 500k uniques per month, a website generates enough income to support me -- or I could be way off the mark (maybe my site is too big -- and it certainly took "a lot of fuss", whatever you mean by that).

I came here hoping to answer your question. I can't, though, because it doesn't have enough unique details.
posted by jdroth at 11:20 PM on July 28, 2009

I run a site with about that many uniques and I make a couple hundred a month from it...obviously in no way a living. However, if you have an intensely focused demographic, and that demographic is one coveted by advertisers, and you're willing to put in what will probably be quite a bit of work, it's possible you might be able to follow in JD's shoes and make some real money.

Some possible paths to money:

1) Use the site as a springboard to making real money in another endeavor by building a reputation as an innovator/good coder/good content person/whatever. Use that to get you noticed by someone up the food chain.

2) Become the leading site in a field where you can charge enough for advertisements related to it to make some money. Not convinced 150K/month is a large enough audience for this unless you're really focused in a lucrative niche.

3) Sell stuff that is of interest to your audience. (Can you sell enough of it for it to be worthwhile? People only need so many T-Shirts.)

4) Charge site users a fee for some sort of exclusive content or privilege. Would a few percent pay a dollar a month to access something special, or just to be badged as a site supporter?

Ways not to make "real" money at that traffic level:

Adsense or other similar programs.
posted by maxwelton at 12:30 AM on July 29, 2009

Can you differentiate between registered users and browsers? If so, show Adsense only to unregistered users (or, if you can, to those arriving via search engines - does this). That's one way to make some money from ads without bombarding your regular users with ads.

I've found though that discreet ads don't tend to tick off one's users if they know it's helping to keep the site running.
posted by mahke at 12:32 AM on July 29, 2009

You may want to read Chris Anderson's new book Free, it gives some good examples of how websites can be free and still make money.
posted by bertrandom at 1:36 AM on July 29, 2009

It's morning now, and still no more details. I'd love to be able to give a better answer, but I'm not going to be able to without some clarifications. Instead, I'll give a vague answer.

As my site grew, I monetized it in several ways. I used Google Adsense. I used affiliate programs (through Commission Soup and Commission Junction). I used direct-sold ads.

I tried to keep the ads low-key. Also, because I write about money, my site is highly-monetizable. I have not idea what you write about. If you're writing about apple pie, that's going to be more difficult to make money from. This is a case where more detail could really help us answer your question.

Note that my method primarily generates revenue from search visitors. That is, it's not designed to make money from my existing readers. I'm sure the site does make money from existing readers, but that's not its intent.

There are other models, of course. I've been following Chris Guillebeau's progress with interest. He has no on-site advertising, but still makes money. Instead, he markets his own "information products". These e-books (etc.) bring him income. I haven't asked him, but I wouldn't be surprised if these actually generate more income from existing users than from search traffic. In other words, I suspect this may be the reverse of my model. And please note that, for the most part, Guillebeau's subject wouldn't seem to be monetizable in a traditional sense.

Finally, Ramit Sethi has a third approach. He doesn't have ads on his site, and he doesn't sell anything either — at least not directly. Instead, he has used his site to become an expert. He's used it to get speaking gigs and a book deal and so on. It's more like advertising for him, and he's the product.

Those are three distinct, successful approaches. Again, I've only provided vague details because I feel like this question is poorly framed.
posted by jdroth at 6:50 AM on July 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

Seconding the Chris Guillebeau recommendation. In particular, he gives details about his process and income in his (free) 279 Days to Overnight Success. A great inspiring read.
posted by eileen at 8:53 AM on July 29, 2009

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