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I'd say it's a no-brainer that teens are a highly problematic demographic, but outside of that sweeping generality, does anyone have any experience with demographic targeting?
Naturally, the forum subject matter is likely to predict the membership demographics, for example weddings, maternity, hockey, hunting, etc.
Doesn't it make sense, if your forum building is one part personal interest, one part business and one part public service - to consider market segmentation and targeting - when thinking "should I do this? Will it work?"
Has anyone ever attempted to build a forum where, before the first file was uploaded to the server, you decided 'I'm going after X segment of the market'? For instance, 'male, over 40, income >$75,000/year, etc.'
If that all sounds a bit calculating welcome to my world. Like I said: I've got lots of options, but which one to choose? So I have thoughts like these.
Doesn't a lot come down to group traits, demographics? Which demographic or group is the biggest PITA? Which is the least likely to post to a forum? Which is likely to be active? How do you attract a particular demographic?
Most forums are topic-oriented, which, of course, often defines demographics. I've seen forums that appeal to just about every age group, gender, etc., though I'd guess some demographic groups have lower overall participation. I've heard that stay-at-home moms are a strong discussion demographic, although I don't work with any forums with particular appeal to this group.
From what I've seen, relatively few forums start off as highly commercial ventures - the time needed to nurture is too great. But building a forum around a demographic is an interesting concept. That is what lifestyle magazines do, i.e., develop a core editorial concept and add content and topics that appeal to their primary demographic. These add-on topics are often geared not only to their readers, but potential advertisers. Hence, a magazine that primarily targets men with images of attractive women might feature topics about cars, liquor, electronics, etc. No reason why a forum couldn't take the same approach.
So, perhaps my forum development interest is widgeting by married working women with families earning $75K/year living in cities with a population....
Thus far have forums been these great democracies, nations without borders, with a big 'welcome anyone' signs? Do you want to build a community by self-selection or do you want to raise the bar? Say 'this forum is for people who meet the following criteria'? Age, gender, salary, job status, etc.?
You could do it just because you want to hang out with people of X kind, or, you could consider yourself a media mogul of sorts, targeting a market. Isn't a blog, that allows commentary, a one thread forum with a tightly targeted market?
Why not look at your forum as media focused on a particular market segment? Aren't you all considering selling advertising or otherwise monetarizing your forum in order that it pays its own way?
So, why not conscious demographic analysis and targeting?
I do think that you are on a good track, Webwork. 99% of all forums are started because someone likes a topic and wants to talk about it. With some thought about demographics and how desirable the audience is to advertisers, some advance planning might increase the chance of monetizing it later. However, I think it would be a real chore to start a forum about something that you aren't familiar with and don't care about - there's just too much work involved in the early years and the probability of effective monetization is too low.
Another issue with a pure demographic approach is that web technology doesn't yet allow ads targeted by user demographics; ads are either fixed, random, or content-driven. Here's what I mean: Say you created a forum about cats that was very appealing to wealthy women. This might be a very desirable group from the standpoint of advertisers, but if you put Adsense on the pages you'll get the same pet supplies ads that every other cat forum gets. That doesn't mean that you won't be able to sell your own higher-end ads, but it will be more work than if you picked a high-end topic (like yachting) where you would attract them more easily.
....forum subject matter is likely to predict the membership demographics, for example weddings, maternity, hockey, hunting....
*laughing* Webwork, if you did a demographic with the above list, you would totally exclude me (WAS female, 56 years old, married for exactly half my life, one daughter, two grandchildren, 4 step-children, 8 step-grandchildren) from the first two listings (give me a BREAK....) and the last (hockey is the poorest excuse for a game I've run across), but find me firmly ensconced in "hunting"....