Want to know how other publishers monetize?

Publisher Roundtable can help!

pub roundtable

We are very excited to announce the second Publisher Roundtable interview, and you’re invited! Publisher Roundtable is designed to provide insights that will help you grow your website in an effective manner. This is achieved by giving publishers the ability to make well-informed business and marketing decisions based off of information collected from those who participate in each of the quarterly interviews.

This Publisher Roundtable interview is focused on an aspect of  marketing that everyone can relate to- monetization. Who wouldn’t want to know how to get a few extra $$ into their bank account each month? After the publishers have completed the short survey, information will be anonymously aggregated, analyzed, and packaged into a helpful “Tips” report exclusively for members. In the report you will be able to compare your specific answers with those of all the other participants. This will help you understand what changes you can make to your online strategy that will help build your business.

Publisher Roundtable was founded on the idea that marketing insights should be collaborative, simple, and free. We are achieving that goal by keeping the surveys short and to the point. That being said, the amount of information that will be collected will be vast and invaluable. Data often comes at a steep price, but participation is all that is required as it is our mission to keep this a completely free service.

Get started now!

Written by Hanna Fritzinger

ForumCon 2014 Highlights

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Last week was our annual conference, ForumCon, and what a conference it was! Here are the most important takeaways from each of the day’s sessions.

What does “Mobile-Optimized” Mean for Communities?

In the opening session, moderator John Boitnott led panelists Tyler Smith, Zach Hobbs, Craig Dalrymple and Howard Steinberg in a discussion on increasing Internet consumption via mobile devices and the effect that is having on forums. The panel emphasized that forums will need to adapt as users increasingly use mobile devices to consume forum content but less so to create new content. Developing countries in particular have many users who access the Internet solely through their mobile devices.

The Lean Community: Simple Tactics for Building Thriving Communities

David Spinks spoke about his first experience in building an online community that was centered around Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. David argued that forums are far more likely to succeed if they are built as an outlet for an existing community, rather than an attempt to build a new community based on corporate interest. Additionally, David informed the audience, despite conventional wisdom, debates between community members could be key to developing stronger community bonds.

The Top 5 Forum Insights that Changed Our Business

Crista Bailey emphasized the importance of encouraging community members to openly  share their content. As the CEO of TextureMedia, Bailey has built the largest online community for women with curly hair. If TextureMedia weren’t an environment where women in this historically-marginalized community felt comfortable sharing their stories and pictures, the brand would not be what it is today.

Moderation and Management of Your Community

Dan Gill moderated the talk about managing online community with panelists Greg Childs, Justin Isaf and Patrick Clinger. The panel members had important insights about who ought to be responsible for electing community managers. One great example was, if someone asks to be a community manager, they probably aren’t a good choice. Instead, ask an active and influential member of your forum to be a manager. There’s a good chance that they are the type of member who plans on being a part of the community for an extended period of time.

Conversation about Online Community

Conversations about Online Community gave attendees the chance break into groups and answer assigned questions. They then chose their best insights to share with the entire ForumCon conference. Attendees made a series of clever suggestions such as, making sure that each community manager receives individual attention and emphasizing the importance of randomized checks on manager decisions. There was also plenty of discussion about whether to remove “downvote” features altogether.

ForumCon Tech Fest

This year’s ForumCon featured the first ever Tech Fest competition with a series of entrepreneurs pitching their products to a panel of expert judges. Each of our presenters had a great pitch, but Panjo and their advertising marketplace for forums ultimately prevailed.

Using Proven Science to Create Highly Addictive Communities

Attendees had the opportunity to learn about proven methods that increase their community’s retention rate from Richard Millington. One of his most interesting pieces of advice was messaging someone right after they join your community might not necessarily the most effective use of your time, especially if your goal is to get them to contribute to the site. Instead, Millington found that responding within five hours to a new member’s first contribution resulted in a 53% increase in the chance that they would contribute again. Additionally, responding within the first hour increased that figure even further.

The Future Discussion of the Web Panel

ForumCon’s final panel was moderated by Nellie Bowles and featured Jeff Atwood, Josh Miller, Daniel Ha and Thomas Plunkett. Our most forward-looking panel spoke about the need to encourage civil discussion online and some of the ways previous efforts to do so had fallen short. For example, insisting that users login through Facebook doesn’t seem to have any effect on their being civil to one another. What’s most important is for people participating in online communities to realize that even without face-to-face interaction there is someone on the receiving end of their comments.

How Purposeful Design Increases Engagement

Courtney Couch explained the power of purposeful design (the holistic approach you take to your site). Couch suggested that every design decision ought to be evaluated on the basis of its benefit for users and not simply because it “could be done” or might look “cool”. His talk tied to previous comments made at ForumCon that the most successful forums are very basic with user-friendly designs.

Thank you to all of you who came and a special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: FORUMS.net, tapatalk, Vanilla, BoardReader, Panjo, Internet Brands, Hi-def Ninja, Vbulletin, Verticalscope and Topix.  Other great wrap-ups have been written byJessica Malnik and Evan Hamilton. You can also check out a great collection of content from the ForumCon Storify and visit our blog for videos of the sessions.

Written by Hanna Fritzinger

Investing in VigLink

VigLink example Today we are incredibly proud to announce the closing of $18 million in Series C financing. The round was led by RRE Ventures and existing investors Google Ventures, Emergence Capital, and First Round Capital are also participating. Additional investment comes from Correlation Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. We are also very excited that Eric Wiesen, a General Partner with RRE Ventures, will join the VigLink Board of Directors. Eric brings deep experience in technology and business and an infectious passion for where we plan to take the business.

This new infusion of capital is a bet on VigLink — our team, our vision, and our technology. It backs our belief that content creators struggle to capture the true value of their influence. It’s no secret that traditional affiliate marketing vastly undervalues the role publishers play in driving commerce. Our investors understand this and they’ve seen that what we’re building dramatically increases publisher yield.

Looking forward, we aim to finance three areas of expansion:

  1. Publisher and network development
    We plan to invest significantly in our publishers. That means more sales staff to reach out to new publishers and more account management staff to work with our existing publishers. It means businesses interested in working with VigLink will be very pleased to see extremely competitive terms.
  2. Advertiser tools
    We also intend to build out our advertiser offerings – providing them more control and visibility into their targeting and performance.
  3. International expansion
    We intend to finance aggressive international expansion, particularly into Europe and APAC where e-commerce and content publishing are thriving.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years. The VigLink Publisher Network is now more than 10 billion pageviews a month and represents a diverse cross-section of the Internet, from household media brands such as Elle, Road & Track, and CNET to independent bloggers, forum owners, and mobile apps. Over 35,000 advertisers work with VigLink to drive sales, including eBay, Amazon, Nike, Nordstrom, Hilton, and Best Buy. And we’re mapping all of this publisher supply to advertiser demand via the VigLink Exchange (VLX), the world’s first platform on which these site-to-site clicks are priced, bought, and sold.

Still, in many ways, this feels like the beginning. We’ve made it to base camp, and now it’s time to summit. We couldn’t be more excited.

For more information, please refer to our press release.

Posted by Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO

 

ForumCon has it’s own Forum!

Thanks to one of ForumCon’s wonderful sponsors, Proboards, we now have our very own forum! We know… Finally! It will be our a year-round platform for you, our community, where you can find the latest ForumCon news, learn innovative approaches from your peers, and start networking with everyone joining us this year. Do come and join the fun!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager at VigLink and chief ForumConer

6 Ways Bloggers Can Better Manage Their Time

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Creating high-quality blog content takes time; as do social media, networking, and blog promotion. If you want to find success on your blog, you must become an effective time manager. The problem is, if you’re working from home and setting your own hours, you may find yourself distracted, allowing the time to slip by unaccounted for. Use these tips to better manager your time.

1. Create a Work Schedule

Creating a basic (but flexible) work schedule can help you manage your time. Set aside work hours, play hours, and time to eat, and try to stick to the schedule as closely as possible. If you know you get to take a break at 1:00, you’ll be more motivated to finish your work before that time.

2. Use To-Do Lists

Once a day, write out your to-do list, separating it into three categories – things that must get done, things that need attention within a few days, and minor, but unnecessary, tasks. Post it at your workstation and refer back to it often. As you complete each task, mark it off the list and move on to the next item.

3. Reduce & Eliminate Distractions

Social media, emails, and fantasy sports leagues can be incredibly distracting during the work day. Identify the distractions that pull you away from your work, then come up with a game plan for reducing or eliminating them. For instance, if Internet surfing is your vice, use the free download, SelfRestraint, to block access to selected websites during your work hours.

4. Make Time for Breaks

Taking breaks may sound like a sign of laziness, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Taking frequent breaks helps keep you fresh and clear-headed. Schedule at least two each day, and commit to taking them.

Also, recognize when you’re just not being productive – it’s a clear sign that you need to step away from your work. Stroll around the block or visit a local park for 20 minutes to regain your mental focus.

5. Don’t Overdo It

Do you think you’re doing yourself a favor by banging out five or six blog posts all in one day? Do you have the habit of working morning, noon, and night? These strategies don’t work well, especially over time. Working too many hours to pump out content can lead to lower-quality work and burnout. If you’re always exhausted and you notice a decline in the quality of your content, commit to doing less.

6. Carve Out “Me” Time

Don’t forget to carve out personal time for yourself each day. Even if it’s just spending time on your PS4, or listening to music on your iPad, getting away from the business side of things is important.

Blogging for a living presents many benefits, but one of the biggest challenges is that you’re your own boss. You don’t have anyone breathing down your neck to get something done, or pressuring you to reach specific goals. This is why effective time management is so important. Start improving yours today to reap the benefits later.

Are you a blogger? How do you manage your time?

Ever wondered what ForumCon is?

Ever wondered what this amazing thing called “ForumCon” is, that we have been talking so much about?

Well, know we have our very own promo video to explain it. Happy watching!

PS. You might just recognize a few familiar faces…

If you fancy joining us for what promises to be a day full of learning, networking, and most importantly lots of fun. Please use our special VigLink registration link to receive 25% off. You can also check out the full agenda of amazing speakers and activities here.

See you on Thursday 19th of June!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager and chief ForumConer

How to Monetize Your Blog: Podcast

Our very own Senior Marketing Manager, Lucy Bartlett, was invited to joined Candis Gaerte, She Is Media, for their weekly “Chaos Makes Sense” podcast to discuss how to best monetize your blog. The duo talk through top monetizing tips, best technologies, and most useful resources available for online publishers.

Here is the “sparkly” advice they shared.
 

 

 

In 2014, Turn Your Forum Into an Ecommerce Media Giant

Cross-posted from the new ForumCon blog. ForumCon is the only conference dedicated to the business and future of forums  and community management and will be held this year in San Francisco on June 19. Follow this link to join us for the day and get a special VigLink 25% off discount!

Written by Chad Billmyer, CEO, Panjo

Businesses purchase forums based on trailing revenue and traffic growth. Do you want more revenue and more traffic? Evolve your forum into an ecommerce media giant.

In the last few days, VerticalScope agreed to acquire PBNation.com for $1.38M (a paintball vBulletin forum) and Freelancer.com paid $3.2M for Warrior Forum (a digital marketing vBulletin forum). You can grow the value of your community higher than that. To quote the Sean Parker character in The Social Network, “A million dollars isn’t cool. You know what’s cool?” A billion dollars.

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According to BuiltWith, the number of forums powering the top million sites on the web has declined by 33% since 2011. In the face of the decline of Web-based forums, you can still grow the value of your community. Now is the time for you to evolve your community into an ecommerce media business.

In a recent interview with Fortune Magazine, Ben Lerer, founder of Thrillist.com, explains, “Now we’re at the beginning of Commerce 3.0. Every day you surprise and delight people by showing them interesting things, and then you layer on great storytelling on a daily basis…. People come to your store more often because they never know what they’re going to find and what they could discover. When they get there, they spend more money buying the basics that they actually need. It’s been four years since we acquired JackThreads, and we’ve gotten really good into making a reader into a shopper and a shopper into a reader. We will do more than $100 million in revenues this year, and I believe we can be a $1 billion business.” [source]

This past March, Lerer spoke at the South By Southwest conference in Austin. You can find the slides from his talk, Content & Commerce: The Digital Cronut, on slideshare. There is an excellent recap of the presentation in Publishing Perspectives.  In summary, you have thousands of enthusiasts frequenting your site. You have earned their trust. You need to move beyond advertising, subscription, events, and licensing. Says Lerer, “you’ve got to actually physically sell something to that consumer” to have a chance at that billion-dollar goal.

Through his research, Michael Brito, author of Your Brand: The Next Media Company, found that successful media companies shared five characteristics. He shared the five characteristics in an interview with SocialMediaExaminer:

  1. Storytelling

  2. Content

  3. Relevance

  4. Ubiquitous

  5. Agile

Perhaps the sentiments of Lerer and Brito are a bit too theoretical or macro for you. You are in the trenches, building and moderating your community and keeping sponsors happy. What is your next step?

  1. If you don’t already have a content management system (CMS) attached to your forum, add one.

  2. Create a plan for the creation of compelling, original content. Focus on storytelling.

  3. Identify the ecommerce opportunities within your vertical. Who are the entrepreneurs, small businesses, and major vendors who want to reach your audience? What is the best way for those partners to sell product through your web property. What ecommerce platform will you use to power that commerce?

To help you execute on the three steps above, you can turn to tools and services like RebelMouse, Contently,DivvyHQ, SingleGrain, Panjo, Magento, and others.

Returning to the topic of valuation, let’s break down the valuations of the aforementioned forums. Warrior Forum’s $3.2M acquisition price means that Freelancer.com paid…

  • $4.36 per registered user
  • $0.44 per thread post
  • $2.62 per monthly organic search inbound visit for the trailing month
  • $1.23 per monthly visit for the trailing month
  • $4.36 per email address

CrowdGather purchased PBNation in 2011 for $2.4M. [source] PBNation’s recent $1.38M acquisition price, a decline of over $1M, means that VerticalScope paid…

  • $2.08 per registered user
  • $0.02 per thread post
  • $6.40 per monthly organic search inbound visit for the trailing month
  • $1.66 per monthly visit for the trailing month
  • $2.08 per email address

Usually, forums are bought and sold between two privately held companies and there is little or no public information about the purchase price. These recent transactions involved publicly held companies and as material transactions, required public disclosure.

Forums are not bought and sold based on the metrics above. As stated above, forum acquisitions are based on traffic and revenue. Do you want more traffic and revenue? Evolve your forum into an ecommerce media giant.

 

Resource-Aware Graphical Models with Katharina Morik

Katharina Morik

We are delighted to announce, Katharina Morik, TU Dortmund University, Germany, will be joining us on Thursday May 29th, to give a special talk on “Resource-Aware Graphical Models.” We would love for you to join us and this special one-off presentation in SF. To save your spot you just need to register here.

The evening will start with drinks, snacks and networking. Please note the talk will start promptly at 6:30PM.

Abstract

Machine learning can help to enhance small devices. For instance, keeping the energy consumption of smart phones low is one of the major concerns of the users, as is well illustrated by various “charge your mobile” stations at public places. Where the operating systems of smart phones already offer heuristics and battery apps show consumption profiles, machine learning can do more. Predictions allow better optimizations of the operating system, prepare for particular app usages at certain points in time, or manage services such as GPS or WLAN in a context-aware and adaptive manner. This challenges learning algorithms to real-time application of their models. Moreover, it demands the models to run on the resource-restricted device without consuming more energy themselves than they save!

In the talk, graphical models are presented that face these challenges. Using Conditional Random Fields (CRF) for the prediction of files that the user will fetch next on her smart phone can be used by the operating system for organizing the memory. Analyzing groups of apps running on the smart phone may estimate the energy consumption over time.

A novel spatio-temporal random field (STRF) has been implemented, smoothing the temporal changes and distributing the optimization. This graphical model has been used to predict app usage over time. In another application, it has been combined with a trip planner resulting in smart routing for smart cities.

In order to run graphical models on very restricted devices, even those without floating point calculation, one computing with integer values only has been developed. The integer approximation of graphical models shows good accuracy and speed-up and opens up novel applications on resource-restricted devices.

For those interested here is Katharina’s suggestion for further reading

  • Nico Piatkowski, Sangkyun Lee, Katharina Morik (2013). Spatio-Temporal Random Fields: Compressible Representation and Distributed Estimation, in: Machine Learning Journal, Vol. 93, No. 1, S. 115 – 139.
  • Jochen Streicher, Nico Piatkowski, Katharina Morik, Olaf Spinczyk (2013). “Open Smartphone Data for Mobility and Utilization Analysis in Ubiquitous Environments”  in: Mining Ubiquitous and Social Environments (MUSE) workshop at ECML PKDD
  • Thomas Liebig, Nico Piatkowski, Christian Bockermann, Katharina Morik (2014). Predictive Trip Planning – Smart Routing in Smart Cities, in: Mining Urban Data Workshop at 17th International Conference on Extending Database Technology.
  • Nico Piatkowski, Sangkyun Lee, Katharina Morik (2014). The Integer Approximation of Undirected Graphical Models, in: 3rd Int. Conf. on Pattern Recognition Applications and Methods (ICPRAM).

Look forward to seeing you later this month!

 

ForumCon 2014: Agenda Announced!!

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We are delighted to share that this year’s ForumCon agenda has been announced! And what a agenda it is! We will be joined by experts from across the forum and online community space including: NicoClub, Texture Media, Discourse, Disqus, Gawker, and so many more! Check it out for yourself:

Agenda

Time

Session

7:45am Registration Opens
8:15 – 9:00 Full Continental Breakfast
8:30 – 9:00 Speed Networking
Meet 10 new contacts in 30 minutes
9:00 – 9:15

Welcome & Opening Remarks

Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO VigLink
9:15 – 9:45

What Does “Mobile-Optimized” Mean for Communities?

Craig Dalrymple, Online Community Consultant
Howard Steinburg, Mobile Professional, HScott Mobile

9:45 – 10:15

Lean Communities

David Spinks, CEO of CMX Summit, TheCommunityManager.com and Feast

10:15 – 10:45

Keynote Address

Crista Bailey, CEO Texture Media

10:45 – 11:15 Networking Break
11:15 – 12:00

Panel: Moderation and Management of Your Community

Greg Childs, CEO and Founder of NicoClub
Justin Isaf, Co-Founder of Communl
Patrick Clinger, Founder and CEO of ProBoards

12:00 – 12:45

Conversations about Online Community

From the People Who Know Best – You!

We are leaving this one un-structured. You decide the flow and the conversations that will happen. Bring all your questions and stresses about forums and community and we will use the knowledge of the crowd to find answers. No question is too great or too small and there is no better source of information than the ForumCon attendees to help each other work through the issues we all face in our online community roles.

12:45 – 1:45 Lunch
1:45 – 2:30

ForumCon Tech Fest

Hear from forum technology innovators as they pitch you and a panel of experts. We have invited five brave participants to the stage to give you their best 5 minute pitch. Then we will be opening up questions to the floor and the experts. We’ll grill these companies and end with a panel vote on who is most worthy of being awarded this year’s ForumCon Tech Fest Winner.

Expert Panel:
Brian Glick, Entrepreneur in Residence at HomeBrew and Former Google+ Communities Product Manager
Crista Bailey, CEO Texture Media
Vlad Dusil, COO PurseBlog

2:30  - 3:00

Buzzing Communities

Richard Millington, CEO and Founder of FeverBee

3:00 – 3:05 ForumCon Tech Fest Winner Announced!
3:05 – 3:20 Networking Break
3:20 – 4:00

The Future of Discussion on the Web

Jeff Atwood, Founder of Discourse
Josh Miller, Co-Founder of Branch, Acquired by Facebook
Daniel Ha, Founder of Disqus
Thomas Plunkett, Co-Founder of Gawker

4:00 – 4:45

Keynote Address

Courtney Couch, Co-Founder & CEO, Muut

4:45 – 5:15

Closing Remarks

Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO VigLink

 

If you haven’t heard of ForumCon before, then we’re doubly excited to share this news. Every year we produce ForumCon and it remains to be the only event dedicated to the future and business of forums and online communities, providing a platform to share tips, tools, and best practices for managing, and growing forums.

This year’s ForumCon is going to be held on Thursday, June 19th,  at the Hotel Kabuki in downtown San Francisco’s Japantown. We will be starting the day with last year’s hit, speed networking, and ending the day with another networking reception

ForumCon 2014 is going to be our best year yet! And we would love for you to join us. Follow this link and get your special VigLink 25% discount off normal ticket price.

Can’t wait to see you all on June 19th!

Written by Lucy Bartlett, Senior Marketing Manager and chief ForumConer