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Interview with the $222,718.36 Man – Lee Dodd

A couple of weeks ago I introduced readers to a new forum EarnersForum.com (a forum for people making money online). It’s headed up by a guy named Lee Dodd (who writes a blog called Forum Trends (sort of like ProBlogger for Forum owners). Lee recently posted a screen capture of his latest payment from YPN for a whopping $222,718.36 (that’s for three months). Obviously he knows a thing or two about making money from forums (something that I’ve heard time and time again is difficult).

I’m often asked about using forums alongside blogs and as I’ve never run one I thought Lee would be a good candidate to interview. I hope you find his answers to my questions helpful..

Darren – Thanks for agreeing to be interviewed Lee. For those ProBlogger readers who are unfamiliar with you could you gives us a brief introduction to who you are and what you do?

Lee – My name is Lee Dodd and I am live / work just outside of Dallas, TX. I have been in business online since the summer of 2000. I am 27 years old, married for almost 10 years, and the father of two beautiful girls (ages 4 and 6).

Darren – How did you get into making a living online?

Lee – It all began in 2000 when I got started with my telecom business. I decided to build my first website to use it as a lead gen source. I soon expanded to have a total of 3 sites generating leads for my salesmen to work with on the telephone. After I sold that company in

2004 along with another offline business in later that year, I began to dive more heavily in to content sites and forum building.

Darren – You seem to focus most of your energies on forums – why is that? What are the forums that you work on (have worked on previously).

Lee – Ever since early 2002, I have been a proponent of online communities. At that point, I knew it was something powerful, but didn’t tap into that power until late 2004 / early 2005. I have owned and/or sold numerous forums like sprintusers.com, zeldauniverse.net, cruiselineforums.com, guitars101.com, adminfusion.com, and several others. My most recent forum start up is EarnersForum.com which in about a month and a half has grown to nearly 3,000 members and 40,000 posts.

Over the last couple of years I’ve heard a number of forum owners talk about how difficult they are to monetize. Do you know something others don’t? What is it?

The whole concept with onlin communities including forums and social networking sites is that traffic, specifically viral traffic, is the key to success. Statistically CTRs are CPM rates are lower, but I am definitely seeing an upward trend on the CPM as more and more large online advertisers are seeing a true benefit of buying ad space on these community sites.

Darren – I know of a number of ProBlogger readers who are considering adding a forum to their blog. Do you think forums and blogs could work well side by side on the same domain? Have you seen any good examples?

Lee – I am not so sure this is the best idea. I considered with Forum Trends, but rather than go that route I ended up deciding to use the blog as a main source of cross-promotion with the forum. You can see how I do some of this to my forum for forum administrators, adminfusion.com. I know SERoundtable.com has a forum along side their blog, but the blog is definitely the main focus.

Darren – You have a blog at Forum Trends – why did you start it? What’s the strategy behind it? How’s it going?

Lee – I started it with the simple intention of giving back to the forum admin community. I had and still have no intentions of monetizing the blog, but did decide early on I would use it to promote some of my other related internet ventures. I believe that due to the success I have been blessed with, I should only help others to achieve some success on their part. We currently get between 1,000-1,500 unique visits daily. I have since started a podcast (we are in week 9 of the show), the Won Li Do Sho, which has also contributed to the success of the blog.

Darren – What mistakes do you commonly see forum owners making?

Lee – Primarily it has to do with planning and preparation. It appears that 99% of the new forums coming online are completely lacking in inspiration, originality, creativity, and planning.

Darren – What Forum Software do you recommend? Why?

I am an avid supporter of vBulletin software as I have used it successfully since 2004. I haven’t had security issues (which are common to other softwares), it is reasonably priced, and the support/modifications (free) are amazing.

Darren – What would be your main tips for first time forum owners?

Lee:

1. Do your research before you decide on your niche.
2. Pick a specific niche, not a broad topic.
3. Be creative and use the power of viral marketing.
4. Be different or be better. Come at the online world with an angle you can sell.
5. Start off on the right foot. Get a custom design, solid forum software, and a team in place to aid you in your launch effort.
6. Contests, creative contests, really work.

Darren – sounds a lot like the advice I give about starting a new blog….

Darren – What are the best ways to monetize a forum?

Lee – I have the philosophy of having my eggs in numerous baskets. I don’t feel you can fully monetize a forum with less than 3-5 different sources of income. I am a big fan of contextual ads like Adsense and the Yahoo Publisher Network, but you need something more. So incorporate along side of your contextual ads some CPM ads, some affiliate programs, link sales, a premium membership program, email newsletter sponsorships, forum sponsorships, and so on. Use the fact that you can display certain ads to “guests” only to your advantage.

Darren – Tell us about EarnersForum.com – why did you start it? Who is it for? How’s it going? Why should ProBlogger readers join? Is there a blogging section? (if not – why not?)

Lee – I started EarnersForum.com because it was something I wanted to participate in really. I wanted a place unlike most other webmaster forums that concentrated on helping folks to achieve their income goals and that reached out to a broader section of webmasters, etailers, bloggers, and so on.

I think it is going great, much better than hoped for. In less than 50 days, we have almost 3,000 members and 40,000 posts. The quality is definitely there and people are already earning more. We have had numerous “promotions” on the forum already where a user that was earning $100-$999 a month is now able to say he is earnings $1,000-$5,000 a month.

We offer a private application that our members can choose to fill out that will give them priveledges and access to private areas on the forum depending on their monthly income. It has been a great way to promote networking with other like-earning web entreprenuers and facilitate partnerships and JV opportunities. I think any ProBlogger reader should be participating at EarnersForum if they have a desire to make more money. There is much to be learned, I learn daily.

We DO have a blogging section as well in our Earning Arenas section of the forum.

Darren – Thanks Lee for giving your time. I think I’d better go dig a little deeper in EarnersForum and find that blogging area.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Jeremy says:

    Hey, long time (well 3 months) reader first time commentator. I just have to say that was a good interview which contained some excellent tips.

    I absolutely love this site, keep up the good work :).

  2. René says:

    Hello Darren!

    There is a little mistake in your introduction. The earning are the result of a payment range of 12 month between August 4th 2005 and August 4th 2006.

    Anyway a good six figure payment and a nice interview. Go ahead! :)

    Kind regards,

    René

  3. Ian says:

    Good interview. I’ve checked out the earners forum and defiantly feel that there is good info there.

  4. Brunette Jon says:

    Liked the subtle Lee Majors $6,000,000 man joke!…unless that’s just me being over caffeinated again :)

  5. Ray says:

    Thanks for posting this interview.

    I’m thinking about setting up my first forum so this article looks like its going to be really useful.

    Ray

  6. Kimber says:

    I love the fact that he is giving back to the community.
    It would have been so easy for him to focus on his own success
    and not lend others a helping hand.

    He definitely seems to have a “what can I do for YOU?” attitude.

  7. Damien says:

    Very insightful interview. I’ve run some small forums before (never with the intent to monetize, though), and it is indeed a rewarding experience. Anyway, good stuff. :)

  8. Awsome interview Darren, this was a pleasant surprise.

  9. Blonde Jon says:

    I thought adding a forum to a blog would be a great idea. The regular commentors in your blog would probably make posts in your forum. I wish Lee would expound on why he thinks it’s not a good idea to add a forum to a blog.

  10. Jason Drohn says:

    Fantastic post! The most important part in starting anything rewarding is the preparation and research that is done beforehand! That holds true online just as much as it does in the real world..

  11. Rex says:

    Great interview Lee!

  12. jostar says:

    so good .and so great. i drive to you website and i get more idea from your site .. thank you.. lee and darren. I love this site, keep up the good work.

  13. I really like the idea of adding a blog to the front page of a forum so the administrators can maintain a communication with the forum users and give the forum some personality. A lot of administrators use an “Editor” or “Administrator” sub forum but in my experience people don’t visit them or don’t realise there are posts in there. A blog is more prominent and may encourage people to visit more often.

  14. Jon says:

    Having done both a blog and a forum, I’d guess the reason that Lee thinks it is a bad ides to have them both on the same site is that they are very similar in intention…to form a community, only they do it in completely different styles. So by trying both, you end up diluting the effect and ultimately confusing your visitors.

  15. Very interesting interview. Thanks for useful tips for forum owners.

  16. Ray Dotson says:

    I love it. I’ve seen ads showing up on some forums I’ve visited and always wondered if there was any money to be made that way. Now I know it can be done. This is another great idea to ponder.

  17. Adam says:

    Really inspirational stuff. I’d love to know how Lee managed to get that many members in just a month and a half. Has it solely come from his prize contest?

  18. Great interview!!!! I have two friends that are currently setting up forums and this article would be an excellent resource for them.

  19. Salman says:

    Posting cheques online is the ‘in’ thing to do these days eh? hehe

    I like Lee’s approach, he is very down to earth and really does give some great tips on how to get a community going. Its not very often you get to know some of the inner workings of people doing well online, its all about learning the professinal way of doing things. I find that the ease of getting something online (and at a very lost startup cost) causes people to take things to lightly and as a result don’t put the necessary effort to get things going.

  20. Bill McRea says:

    I have a forum of about 2100 very actuve users http://www.kansasfans.com

    I put this together in 2002 and have never maid a penny off any advertising until just recently. Adsense Failed, Amazon was okay, Chitika failed, but I am now making about 36$ per day on a Your Music affiliate program.

    I guess the moral of the story it that it is very hard to monetize frequent vistors and you need to change the ads around a bit until something clicks.

  21. Gilad.G says:

    Good interview, Lee definately knows a thing (or two) about not only creating and growing forums, bust also monetizing them.

    There is a podcast of another interview with him, very insightful as well which can be found Here.

  22. Good interview, good tips. Thanks Darren.

  23. SteveJ says:

    Good interview, good motivation.
    Thanks

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Problogger har en intressant intervju med Lee Dodd, som publicerade en skärmdump som visar hur mycket han tjänade via Yahoo Publisher Network under tre månader. [...]

  2. [...] How much was your last paycheque? Was it $222,718.36? No? Then read this now. Problogger interviews Lee Dod, who has earned more than 200K in the past quarter thanks to his online businesses which mostly involve forums. Blog, or not, some interesting tidbits to be learned here. Check it out. (tags: adsense yahoo smallbusiness ecommerce marketing monetization) [...]

  3. [...] I found this amazing show of entrepreneurship on ProBlogger.net. Not only that but it seems like a great way to work from home. [...]

  4. [...] Jedenfalls sind Foren entgegen meiner provozierenden Einleitung noch lange nicht tot. Dass man damit sogar ganz gut Geld verdienen kann (wie immer nicht unbedingt im deutschsprachigen Raum…), zeigt das Interview von Darren Rowse mit Lee Dodd, der seinen Lebensunterhalt mit dem Aufbau von Foren-Communitys verdient und darüber auch in seinem Weblog Forumtrends bloggt. Er war übrigens auch der Mann, der dem Earners Forum zu einem rasanten Aufstieg verholfen hat. [...]

  5. [...] However… I got an email from the folks over at the Earners Forum the other day announcing that they would be giving everyone who had 500 pr more posts a free Earners Forum T-Shirt. Unfortunately, I usually just do a lot of lurking but not much posting so I didn’t qualify. The Earners Forum is certainly t-shirt worthy so I asked if they would be willing to trade for some chocolate covered Macadamia nuts, and they DID so I sent them some of Island Princess’ world-famous Mele Macs. [...]