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Is there still a need for the forum?

HuwHuw Administrator Posts: 7,087
The subscription for the forum is up for renewal in a few weeks. It's incredibly expensive: more than the bill for renting the server for the main site. It's never been profitable and revenue from the main site has subsidised it.

However, looking at the September usage and comparing it to last September, page views have halved and only 80 users have logged in, which works out at a cost of about $40 per user per year.

Discussions seem to have migrated elsewhere, mainly to Facebook, although not necessarily in the Brickset group.

There are therefore several options:

- Show adverts to everyone
- Charge a subscription
- Take the hit again and subsidise it to keep it running
- Don't renew and kill it off

I suspect the first two would have much the same effect at the latter. The first is obviously the easiest to implement, and the effect on income could be seen straight away, although I suspect many of you would just use ad blockers.

What are your thoughts? Is there still a need for this forum?




  • ShibShib Member Posts: 5,469
    I like the forum and would be sad to see it go, and if I'm honest it would probably reduce my visits to the main site (most are either click through on # links unless I'm looking up something specific) but completely understand that it needs to be worth your while to keep going. 

    I dislike the use of Facebook groups and pages, I use Facebook as a means of keeping in touch with people but worry about how much people rely on it for stuff like this now - if Facebook decide they want to start charging for hosting fan pages you wind up back in the exact same position. 

    I'd prefer a small subscription to adverts but in all honesty I wouldn't pay more than £5 a year and I suspect you'd loose more users by putting in a subscription model than if you had a discreet level of advertising. So I guess advertising is more logical than subscriptions, even if its not a popular choice.

    Still I guess if you do kill the forum it'd probably be good news for my bank balance as its my primary source of deals. 
  • 560Heliport560Heliport Member Posts: 3,871
    I'd definitely miss this forum! I don't do Facebook or any other form of social media, so if this goes away, I won't have anywhere to go for LEGO news. I'd be willing to pay $40 a year, rather than see ads.
  • milambermilamber Member Posts: 637
    I'd miss it hugely if it were to go and, like others, only visit the main pages of Brickset after reading the forum. If the forum wasn't here I doubt I'd visit Brickset at all much.
  • datsunrobbiedatsunrobbie Member Posts: 1,817
    I'm one who visits both the main site and the forum every day, and would miss the forum if it goes. Maybe ads with a subscription option to hide them would be viable? Some sites I visit, like Ars Technica, have that sort of option. With the amount of blank space on the desktop version of the forums I think there's plenty of room for ads without them being obnoxious.
  • Speedman29Speedman29 Member Posts: 2,311
    I use the website loads for set searching and getting the latest LEGO news, the forum for discussions, I'm a member of the FB group, but rarely use it.

    Some relevant adverts would be ok, but sites that have side bars, heads and footers full of adverts are a turn off. As others have said even a small sub would likely drive people away.
  • sid3windrsid3windr Member Posts: 1,460
    Interestingly, the only feedback you'd get from here is... the people who frequent and love the forum very much. I'd miss it a lot, there is no ongoing discussion or anything like it on the main site, and Facebook groups are not a substitute for the forum at all.

    I'll gladly assist in trying to transfer the forum somewhere else, although of course that does mean if you run your own software, you also have to maintain it...

    The community and friendships that were formed here are irreplaceable imo - even starting fresh would be better than nothing at all; I'd not go as far as preferring the forum over the main site, but.... ;-)

    (I knew this was going to happen as soon as the facebook page was launched though)
  • sid3windrsid3windr Member Posts: 1,460
    Other sidenote: I have no idea how this forum can cost over 3K to host yearly. It doesn't even have actual usable features other than a like button and some javascript hack to replace set numbers with links. :-P
  • PaperballparkPaperballpark Member Posts: 4,268
    Wow, only 80 members used the forums in September? That's pretty bad tbh, especially considering how many members Brickset has.

    Objectively, paying over $3000 a year to 'indulge' 80 people (for want of a better word) isn't at all feasible, although it could be argued that they're probably the more 'hard-core' people.

    I do come on here most days, although if I'm honest, probably a bit less than I used to. Facebook is ok, but it's not really geared to ongoing discussions and things like that. Maybe people don't want that all that much anymore? Maybe they're happy to just dip in, see what's being discussed at that moment in time, and dip out again? I don't know.

    I did notice the other week that there was barely anyone online, when there used to be loads of people on here at once.

    So from your four options, and again looking objectively, I can't say that yes it's worth taking the hit again to keep it going. I don't know how much the Skimlinks bring in, but I suspect not very much, and clearly nowhere near enough.

    As others have said, a subscription may be feasible, but not at $40 a year. As you say, it would probably have the effect of killing it off.

    So that leaves two options - show ads to all, or kill it off. Obviously going down the ads route means committing to another year and another $3000+, so I'm guessing you're relatively confident that putting ads on a part of the site that only 80 people used in the past month will be enough to cover at least a good proportion of the cost of running it. I'm not sure I'd have that confidence, but then I don't have the numbers!

    I'm actually stunned that Vanilla charge you so much for so little usage, but then I guess it's probably based on page views over the previous year.

    I'll have a think. Remind me to chat to you about it at STEAM on Friday.
  • Switchfoot55Switchfoot55 Member Posts: 3,351
    I'll chime in where others have as well and express my appreciation for the forums. I love the community that has been built and sharing of information between users. It is something that I look forward to on a daily basis and would deeply miss it if it were to shut down. 

    I was a part of a very large online forum community for several years related to another hobby. They ultimately ran into the same issue and had to make some decisions. The solution ended up being a combination of ad-based revenue along with optional subscriptions/donations. These financial contributions had a few "perks" to help entice users: Unique tags (along the lines of Eurobricks), Avatars, "paid member only" portions of the forums, among a few other things. The founder of that forum was able to keep it going for quite some time after that until he himself lost interest and passed it along to a new leader. 

    I don't envy the decision you're being forced to make. But hopefully there is a way that makes it reasonable/profitable for you while still being able to have a fourm for users. 
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Member Posts: 2,368
     The solution ended up being a combination of ad-based revenue along with optional subscriptions/donations. These financial contributions had a few "perks" to help entice users: Unique tags (along the lines of Eurobricks), Avatars, "paid member only" portions of the forums, among a few other things. 
    I have been a long-time lurker (since 2015 or so) and have only recently become an active member of the forum.  I am in the group of users who come to the forum first and then click through to the main page.  I also use the links on the main page (Amazon, etc) for my online Lego purchases, and it's a shame that there is no way to quantify what percentage of those main page "buy" clicks can be attributed to the forum users.

    I would be happy to participate in a scenario like @Switchfoot55 has described.  A tiered reward system like Kickstarter works well for hard-core fans because inevitably there will be a few who will pay a premium for a more unusual/limited reward, in the process subsidizing other users who aren't able to contribute as much.

    Hope this helps-- I have enjoyed the years of laughs and good conversation and would hate to see the forum die.
  • mustang69mustang69 Member Posts: 544
    This is the only LEGO related forum that I am really a member of. I use the main site daily and browsing the forums is a large part of my day on pretty much a daily basis. I would much prefer to have to deal with ads than for the forums to be shut down. Like others mentioned, I think ads with a subscription to get rid of them is the way to go.
  • RogerKirkRogerKirk Member Posts: 365
    This is the only Lego forum I visit, so I would miss it if it were to go. I tend to prefer the forum over the main site and visit a few times most days.

    That said, the cost is huge and hopefully something can be done to keep a forum in some format at a lower cost.

    I worry that starting over completely with a new set up would mean many people wouldn't re-register and the lack of content would fail to get new members signing up. It could kill things off.

    One thing to consider as well, is if there can be anything more done to boost activity, so it becomes less expensive per user.
  • Russell844Russell844 Member Posts: 2,417
    I am on the forum several times a day. This is the only forum I really use.
  • RedbullgivesuwindRedbullgivesuwind Member Posts: 2,115
    I agree, I would miss the forum. Sure I dont comment all the time but i enjoy reading the threads. The variety of topics missing from the front page is great as well. I also prefer that this is no where near the hellish state of the comments section on the main website. 

    But I understand that it is expensive and for 80 people it is not worth keeping going. I suppose I would just move to another forum but it would not be as good. 
  • CCCCCC Member Posts: 20,526
    Would adverts on the forum really do much. Serving up possibly irrelevant adverts to 80 users won't generate much income will it? Whereas adverts on the main site (even when logged in) would presumably be seen by many more users.
  • KerreKerre Member Posts: 411
    Many things I agree with have been said already so I'll stick to my initial thoughts. 

    This forum is a significant part of what makes the overall Brickset offering so attractive because of the interaction with other Bricksetters. I do read far more than I post but without the forum the site would be just be that - a site.

    As ads without conversion hardly bring in something worthwile these days displaying ads for logged in main site users wouldn't make that much of a difference. It would also require a redesign as it's now designed for maximum annoyance to make you sign in - something I think it's very effective at. Ad blockers would also be an issue. Since I pay dues for organizations and clubs I'm part of that aren't as enjoyable as what I get back from Brickset and its fantastic community, I'd personally have no issue supporting a solution bringing in additional funding like what @Switchfoot55 described. 
  • lowleadlowlead Member Posts: 683
    I am one of the long time lurker - recent poster members and in a very short time span I have come to enjoy these forums far more than the ‘other leading brand.’  I feel like this site has a much more relaxed membership with a much better sense of humor!

    I’m ready and willing to donate if/when there is a mechanism in place to do so!
  • FowlerBricksFowlerBricks Member Posts: 1,731
    I would be really sad if this forum closed down.
  • lowleadlowlead Member Posts: 683
    ...oh, and Facebook is evil.  Thank you.
  • 560Heliport560Heliport Member Posts: 3,871
    I enjoy this forum so much that I'd be willing to pay $10 a month... thus subsidizing two fellow regulars. C'mon, people! Step up!
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Member Posts: 2,368
    I enjoy this forum so much that I'd be willing to pay $10 a month... thus subsidizing two fellow regulars. C'mon, people! Step up!
    Sign me up also- if it helps I can help cover a couple of subscriptions too.
  • SumoLegoSumoLego Member Posts: 15,229
    I think the burning question is: would @SumoLego get to keep his "likes"?
    Nobody can take those away from me!  And it's not a contest.  

    I love this Forum and would be very sad to see it disappear.  I also understand it makes little sense to dedicate that level of resources to service a statistically small community.  I certainly would advocate against keeping the Forum open if there would be a negative effect on the main site. 

    (I'd be very disappointed if the database were ever to go away.  The main site what brought me here, and -whispers- I'd be willing to pay for access to the main site.)

    I also think the moment the Forum were to go behind a pay-wall, we'd just be temporarily extending it's inevitable demise.
  • SumoLegoSumoLego Member Posts: 15,229
    Idea: Everyone that remembers the Fairy Bricks raffles from a few years back would probably be down for a 'Brickset Forum Servers' raffle.
    I could certainly offer up $1000.00 worth of product for such a raffle.  If this ends up being a fundraising option - I'm game.
  • KungFuKennyKungFuKenny Member Posts: 2,368
    SumoLego said:
    Idea: Everyone that remembers the Fairy Bricks raffles from a few years back would probably be down for a 'Brickset Forum Servers' raffle.
    I could certainly offer up $1000.00 worth of product for such a raffle.  If this ends up being a fundraising option - I'm game.
    I can also chip in some nice sealed/retired sets for a fundraising venture
  • lowleadlowlead Member Posts: 683
    edited October 2019
    I enjoy this forum so much that I'd be willing to pay $10 a month... thus subsidizing two fellow regulars. C'mon, people! Step up!
    “General, Count me in.”

    *patiently waits for the proper reply...*
  • SumoLegoSumoLego Member Posts: 15,229
    I can also chip in some nice sealed/retired sets for a fundraising venture
    Sounds good!
    And how much would he pony up to keep them from disappearing into the ether?
    Apparently, some portion of a pony...
  • Switchfoot55Switchfoot55 Member Posts: 3,351
    Well, using my latest calculations and market demands, ~32.9k likes is the equivalent to roughly 95% of a pony.  

    Joking aside, and not that it fully matters in the grand conversation of this thread, but it is members like @SumoLego, @stlux, @snowhitie, @CCC, @Paperballpark, and so many others (not to mention all of the WV fanatics out there) that have truly helped grow my interest in and passion for LEGO. I've learned a tremendous amount from the collective forum!

    BUT, I recognize that the financial impact to one can't/shouldn't be justified by the warm fuzzy feelings of others. 

    I hope there can be a great outcome of this conversation that benefits all involved. It sounds like some great suggestions by others above. I'm confident things will live on!
  • GremerGremer Member Posts: 183
    I don't really pop in much anymore, I usually just go to Eurobricks and read. I'm not much of one for talking, and EB generally gets leaked information first and has a larger population.

    That being said, I certainly wouldn't mind ads. Or, what about moving to a free forum site, like freeforums or proboards? I've been on a few of those and in general I find them to be fairly good.
  • oldtodd33oldtodd33 Member Posts: 2,694
    I would be willing to pay the $40 a year to keep the forum going. This is the only social website I visit and is well worth the cost. 
  • brickmattbrickmatt Member Posts: 103
    I don't post often, but read daily; I didn't have a chance to comment earlier, but like others I enjoy the community and would miss it if it left. I was planning on mentioning the tiered subscription idea as well, with a basic subscription to read/post ad-free; for higher tiers, perhaps there are some experienced designers and/or builders in the community who would be willing to offer monthly Q&A sessions, building tips, instructions for mini models, etc. Other ideas for behind-the-paywall perks would be potentially exclusive contests besides the ones on the main page, perhaps a weekly podcast, or possibly an exclusive piece of branded merchandise for subscribers who pay for a year.

    I'd certainly be willing to pay for the forum even without extra perks; I feel like some of the advanced features on the main site could also go behind a paywall. For example, you could read and comment on the news, browse the database, and enter a collection up to a certain size for free, but with ads. There could be again, an option for a basic no-ads plan, with the next tier up offering access to the Advanced Collection Manager, unlimited collection size, and the archives of other materials such as catalogs. Those are probably used more by the dedicated AFOLS who'd be willing to pay for them anyway.

    It's a big commitment so I understand if you end up letting it go, but I'd certainly be willing to become a subscriber if you want to go that route.
  • Bosstone100Bosstone100 Member Posts: 1,431
    I'm good with a yearly subscription. This site helped get me out off my dark ages in 2011. I visit here whenever I can and if I break that $40 by the numbers of hours I'm reading posts, it's a friggin steal.
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