PublisherForums Contest Reflections

April 20, 2007 Posted by Tyler Cruz

Maybe you guys can help me.

I’ve held two contests for PublisherForums, back to back. The first contest I gave away $800 in pure cash and in the second I gave away $1,000. I also spent around $500-600 in marketing and advertising of the contest.

Yet, it’d be safe to say the contests failed. At least, they yielded extremely poor results. While I received a couple hundred new sign-up’s and a few thousand posts, the amount of time and money I put into the contest was definitely not worth that. I’ve seen many other contests in the past fare much better as a result of their contests.

Why was this?

Prize Money

I don’t think think the prize money was an issue as $800, and then $1,000 in pure cash is pretty decent. I divided the prize money up into 10 categories to provide incentive that give more possibility to win something, instead of just one big prize.


This may have been one of the underlying problems. Some members had mentioned that they felt it was too difficult to be eligible to win a prize. They do have a point, as members needed at least 500 posts to win the top post category, 200 to be eligible for the quality posts category, etc.

However from my point of view I needed to make such restrictions, otherwise I could end up paying out $1,800 for a total of 25 posts. Also, the contests were 6 weeks each, which means an average of 10 posts per day were all that were needed to become eligible for the highest prerequisite.

Although, I will definitely be taking this into consideration the next time I hold a contest. I’ll try to view this aspect more in the participants eyes. Maybe I’ll lower the prerequisites and see how that fares.

Quality of Site

I’m biased here, but I doubt it was the actual site, PublisherForums that was a cause of this. I don’t think peopel went to the site and it actually repelled them from entering the contest, so this can’t be a factor…

Poor Marketing

I think this may possibly be a factor. While it sounds a bit strange to spend more money marketing the actual contest than how much you actually give away in the contest, it does make some sense. Maybe next time I should be prepared to spend more money marketing.

Yet, I did to a pretty big campaign. Apart from the many posts on my own blog, I had purchased some paid posts on other people’s blogs, and even purchased one from John Chow. I changed my signature on all the webmaster forums I frequented, e-mailed existing PublisherForums membesr, and I even purchased a press release!

One difficulty that I hadn’t really thought about before the contest was that I found it extremely difficult to advertise the site for free where you normally could; for example, webmaster forums are a great source for traffic and announcing such things, but obviously this was a competitor to other webmaster forums, and so I found my threads getting deleted and such, even though I posted according to the forum’s regulations. I’ll give props to DigitalPoint though for allowing me to post about it.

But that did limit my marketing efforts. I don’t know how I could market such a contest much better in the future, unless I offered a lot more money or something. Buying ‘ads’ on webmaster sites is out of the question for something like this since it’s way too expensive when I’m not selling a product or service.

My best hope would be either word of mouth (luck), or else getting as many webmaster blogs to write about it as possible.


So what do you guys think? Why did I fail? Was I doomed to begin with considering the saturatized nature of this market? I don’t think that’s it, either.

I don’t know. I’m really scratching my head here.

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Posted: April 20th, 2007 under My Websites  

23 Responses to “PublisherForums Contest Reflections”

  1. DB says:

    You and failure tend to go hand in hand.

  2. Sam says:

    I think most has to do with the fact that not a lot of people signed up and actually started actively posted, the ones that started posting were people who had alot of questions but almost never any answers.

    There was too much focus on minor things instead of actually making money, there was never any active discussion to actually help people or teach people stuff.

    But don’t worry Tyler, I plan to put some threads up soon that will surely help alot of people and publisherforums should get some more exposure from them, because they will actually teach you how to make that goddamn money! (promise!)

  3. Tyler Cruz says:

    Well I also plan on integrating tying PublisherForums and PublisherSpot soon. Right now it’s difficult to tell they are related.

    I’ll be providing some stuff on PublisherSpot such as “Wish to comment or ask a question about ? Post on PublisherForums”.

  4. Lyndon says:


    I think you’ve really got to take the long term view with forums.

    If only 10% of the entrants stick around and post for the next year would you still view the contests as failures?

    Plus you’ve got to think about all of the lurkers that the contest created.

    I personally never take part in such contests as I’ve also got a real life job that takes away the bulk of my time and there’s no way for me to compete and I feel somewhat alienated because of this.

    Perhaps you should try something like offering a Publisher Forums t-shirt/USB pen/baseball cap for posters who achieve 100/200/500+ quality posts and keep the promotion running either indefinitely or until your budget runs out….

  5. Marc says:

    Here’s my take. For starters, it seems every webmaster on the planet has started a webmaster forum in the past year. Simply speaking there are too many webmaster forums. I frequently check in and read a couple of threads on Publisher forums, but I already am a member at about 5 big ones. I just don’t have the time. Personally I don’t give a damn about prizes and never care to compete for them.

    Here’s where I give you props. I like the look and feel of Publisher forums better than most others. I notice you are a perfectionist with many things and pay great attention to detail. That’s a good thing, but I think you lose some opportunities when you could spend your time a little better strategically.

    Here’s the main problem I see with Publisher Forums. It has no focus. It is way to generic when it comes to focus. People go to Wickedfire for arbitrage. They go to Earnersforum for spammin and jammin on myspace. They go sitepoint to buy and sell services and sites. They go to WebmasterWorld to see what ancient threads look like in an online museum…hahaha. just kidding. WMW is good for knowing the current state of GOOG DCs. It’s also a good place to talk about not making money;)

    So what is publisher forums known for? Well there are some young entrepreneurs in there, but Young Entrepreneur has you beat. What’s the focus Tyler? What is the big topic for Publisher Forums?

  6. Tyler Cruz says:


    Yup, you’ve got me down pat.. I’m a perfectionist and do pay a lot of attention to tiny detail.. and that’s both a good thing and a bad thing.

    PublisherForums actually had a very clear and distinct direction, which was to focus on discussion on monetizing websites as well as online entrepreneurilism. Mainly discussion on ad networks, monetizing websites, ideas and entrepreneurilism, etc.

    It’s still focused on this, but needs the proper members to help spark the right discussion. Maybe by merging more with PublisherSpot I can help drive this…

  7. ROI_Guy says:

    I’ll echo quite a bit of Marc’s thoughts. There are just so many, many webmaster/publisher forums out there now that the average guy … I don’t even have job to get in the way, but I do have a life … can’t keep up.

    And the ne ting you didn’t mention in your possible rasons is, the quality of posts driven by the contest. In general you had very few trolls and jerks … but so many people were obviously posting just to increase their post count. You may recall I used to participate a bit before the contest(s) but once the first contest started there was a significant number of nothing but “noise” posts and therefore the value of taking the time to read the threads just went so low I haven’t bene back.

    Sorry, becuase I know what you were trying to do and I wish it had worked better for you, but I really don’t think the pay people to post idea has any true value in building a community.

  8. Marc says:

    Hope my comments helped, but just to clarify a bit further. I know monetization was the intended focus for Publisher Forums. But lots of newbies won’t know that when they arrive at the forum index. I think everything to do with monetization needs to be at the top visually. That includes monetization methods, techniques and strategy. I would include traffic genration in that as well. For most sites money and traffic are part of the same equation. Essentially everything to do with websites and money. The other forums need to take a backseat and probably be pared down in a major way. I think it’s tempting to want an exhaustive forum on any topic, but I think in this niche, you have no choice but to specialize. I think PublisherSpot works well as a sister site btw.

  9. I think you need to better integrate the two sites, I had personally gotten confused as to which site was which. Also, advertising wise, you are basically in a little pond with a bunch of other people fishing out of the same spot for the same fish. Forums need to have a clear value proposition to ever succeed. Maybe go beyond the me-too forum idea, merge the two sites into one, and create more of a resource for publishers?
    Also try and write down what makes your site better than the rest. why should i use publisherforums instead of netbusinesstalk, digitalpoint, wickedfire, sitepoint, etc…. ?

  10. PigsnieLite says:

    Thanks, Tylo! MoVa is hokay now! Cheerios & a pip pip! 🙂

  11. Cam says:

    Could be the fact there are already many webmasters forums.

  12. Brian says:

    I took a look at your contest and decided that a better use of my time would be to spend time writing on my blog than posting 10 times/day about publishing and making money. I think smaller prizes (perhaps even more of them for the same total money) with lower total post requirements would draw more people in.

    OTOH, I think I subscribed to your feed after seeing the contest, so you probably brought in some money that way as well.

  13. What if you had reduced the requirements and increased the number of prizes? After doing this, you could lower the prize amount (per person) so that more people would have a chance at winning money.

    The market you’re going after is full of people that are very often very busy people. So when I personally read about this contest, both on your blog and on JohnChow’s blog, I thought to myself, “That’s pretty sweet he’s giving away so much money.” But as soon as I read the requirements just to get a chance at the money, I really didn’t feel like I had enough time to try so it almost had the opposite affect on me. Why post if I don’t have a chance to win ya know?

    I think that by lowering the prize money per person so that it would be 20 $50 prizes would have encouraged more people to participate. You could have had like a bracket to get into so that once someone gets like 50 posts they have a chance at one of the $50 prizes or something like that. Then you could randomly select the people that made it.

    And what about implementing adsense revenue sharing on your forums? Many of your larger competitors do so, so it’s a tough sell to get people to join and post at your “new” forum when you don’t offer the same thing they do. (Perhaps you do offer revenue sharing, but I haven’t looked that closely for it)

    That’s my 2 cents

  14. Ed says:

    There is a big difference between rewarding existing fans for contributing to your site, and encourageing new people to contribute to your site with the lure of rewards.

    If you are in it for the long term, I would tend to give current fans some rewards for adding their quality content to your quality content. The more good content, the more new visitors you should get.

    Personally I don’t think making people jump through hoops is a good way to encourage new participation. People are lazy by nature. To increase your readership, make it easier to be in the gang.

    You have to motivate people to overcome their laziness. You could do this by throwing big money at the issue of attracting fans, but like you have seen, it doesn’t always work. For what it is worth when deciding on prizes, you need to tap into what your readers really like, (and cash may not be it) and how much time they have available (a lot of people do surf for a hobby not for a way of life).

    I have given away 3lbs of gummi bears just for looking around my site. My Technorati ranking has improved 30,000 and I have 100 extra regular readers per day plus spikes. It was luck, but it hit the sweet spot and it is something sustainable for a while yet.

    I am sure you will work it out for your current issue.

    My 2 cents just run out.

  15. Bo Ek says:

    Of course you failed. You really thought you would succeed? Just look at earners forum. The initial contest was a huge success, but now the site is slowly decaying. It’s the same thing for publisher forum.

    You are simply to lazy to handle a forum (no offense). You really thought a pretty design plus some money contests is enough for people to sign up and participate on your board?
    That only works on newbies, but people don’t want to read that crap. They want to learn from the big sharks.

    That’s why you will never succeed (at forums that is!). If you want that forum to succeed you’re going to have to work ALOT more.

    Example: Lee was simply amazing at the beginning, now he barely provides concent to his forums, he just keeps adding revenue streams and more ads.

    The difference between you two, is that he already is an estabilished authority, and you’re not. So he can get away with it, while you are racking some bad fame.

  16. Tyler Cruz says:

    Thanks for telling me to “work more”. That’s pretty easy advice to give. Do you have any more specific tips or advice to help grow the forum?

  17. fry says:

    Why do you keep talking about that Chow guy as if he were some sort of God? I’ve never heard of him and couldn’t care less about who he is or what he does, but seeing you go over and over about how you are trying to copy every move he does is boring. Instead of trying to be someone else’s shadow you need to be unique and stand out.

  18. Tyler Cruz says:

    I believe you’re referring to the fact that I had mentioned that I purchased a review on his blog? If you weren’t aware, John Chow is in the top 100 technorati and has over 4000 RSS subscribers. I was merely mentioning that I did take steps to advertise the contest.

    If you find my blog boring then you are free to leave at any time you wish. So many people are quick to criticise yet keep returning for more…

  19. will says:

    I was a member of your forum, and not because of the contest either. I was a member because i liked your blog and im also apart of pokerforums, I’ve already explained why i think this failed or why it would never work.

    1. the rules are way to hard, you say it would only take 10 posts a day to reach minimum requirements for the highest post category? well what are we suppose to post when theres no real content on the site, at least not enough to allow ten posts a day.

    2. the semi contests to receive points to win the bigger contents were totally dumb. even a funny story contest would of been better than that.

    3. The reason your not getting tons of people in my opinion is because your basically another Digital Point. Your like the person who opens a super market right next to a Walmart. 90% of your target traffic is on DP and your left with the scraps.

    4. Alot of people who visit these forums ask questions and want answers. Your forum gets a post like every 2-3 hours. DP you can ask a question and get answer’d 5 mins later. I’m sorry to say but im really suprised you managed to get that many user sign ups. Your in DP’s shadow, you cant expect to accomplish much with them in front of you.

  20. will says:

    also, i don’t want to sound like a dick but you sound like a total fluke. Its like you know almost nothing about online marketing yet you make thousands a month. If anyone wants living proof of lucky people. Your looking at him, Tyler Cruz.

  21. fry says:

    lol, you are a living joke, Tyler. First you whine about yet another failure and ask “So what do you guys think? Why did I fail? ”
    But when people tell you why you failed you turn into an arrogant prick and tell them to leave your blog.

    You might want to type “chow” in your search box so you can see how many times you post about your God and how you are trying to copy him all the time. Truth hurts, doesn’t it?

    If you don’t like to receive bad comments why don’t you just go back to playing games all day and working 2 hours instead of posting in your blog?

  22. Avid reader says:

    Consider this, time equals money so when you are writing your long replies you could instead be making a few more dollars on your sites….Just somthing to consider…

  23. Chris says:

    In my opinion, it failed for two reasons. First, there is an absolute glut of web development sites/forums out there. And second, the simple premise of it was flawed. It’s one thing to pay someone to, say, write an article. But the guideline here is vague: you want them to post about…what? To me, it’d be like saying “$500 to whoever builds the best thingamajig.”

    I think contests are better when they’re specific. Some sort of actual knowledge or skill based competition goes a long way, because a sense of accomplishment adds to the value of the prize. People are EARNING the prize, then. With mere post volume being the goal, no sense of accomplishment exists.

    I realize the contest was a bit more nuanced than this, but I’m speaking in broad terms.

    All this is irrelevant, though, because even if these prizes had garnered more signups and produced more posts, I think it’s obvious they would have been “soft” — it wouldn’t create any kind of self-sustaining user base. Many would leave or visit/post less often once the contest was over. Communities are fickle enough to begin with without being enticed by temporary prizes, IMO.


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