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Lee Dodd Interview – Make Money Online With Forums

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Hello Everyone

Today I am very pleased to introduce you to an amazing Internet Entrepreneur who runs a huge network of highly successful forums — Lee Dodd

If you want to read more about Lee and Escalate Media, then you should check out their website!

Could you describe what you do and how you earn your living Lee?

Currently, I serve as the COO of Escalate Media LP.  I am the operations guy and spend my time working with advertising partners, overseeing ad campaigns, building relationships, keeping an eye on our communities along side our amazing community managers, and researching possible acquisitions.

I have never seen a webmaster with so many forums and forums are by no means easy to start, what advice would you give to other webmasters trying to create a successful forum?

Prepare to work hard, to fight an uphill battle, while at the same time doing your homework and working smart.  Any time you want to begin a new project, research is very key.  You should first take a very close look at the market to determine if the forum is desired or needed, if it will be useful, and if it is marketable.  Once your research gives you that green light, then you must develop a plan of action.  No forum should ever start off to large in terms of the number of sub forums.  I recommend no more than 6-10 sub forums as this will make your job of having a new and active forum that much easier.  People want to see action when they visit, so this is a must.  Do your best to pull in what I have long called a launch team.  These will hopefully be volunteer, but paid is always an option.  You will need to create new content, threads, and active discussions before ever beginning your marketing and promotional efforts.  This is where every successful forum should begin.

The company you own “Escalated Media” has bought several large websites over the past couple years, what are the benefits of buying websites instead of creating them yourselves?

Buying an existing site with a solid history is always a plus.  While the transition of ownership can sometimes be touchy, especially with communities, acquisitions provide a fast track to success when you buy smart.  You can step in to a newly acquired site having instant income and a great foundation to grow from.  Of course there are challenges just as when starting from scratch, but I enjoy the acquisition side of things as I feel I have more to work with and a major head start.

The real problem most forum owners have is getting their members to come back day after day, what advice would give you an Internet entrepreneur trying to make their forum sticky?

I think stickiness is derived from having a forum that draws enthusiasts.  A true enthusiast loves nothing more than to talk with others about his passion.  Most people consider automotive forums to be the main enthusiast communities, but there are enthusiasts of all types.  It would be hard to find many enthusiasts of bottled water, so don’t ever try to start bottledwaterforum.com. After having enthusiasts on board, it really isn’t difficult to drive discussion.  Always make sure the “off topic” discussions thrive.  No matter how much on topic discussion you have from your members, the off topic area is where relationships are built and friendships established.  Finally, for those looking to spark stickiness in a young or dying community should always try some creative contests which don’t have to cost much at all.  Often, you can find sponsors of prizes to give away and it only costs you time.  Contests make the community fun and drive people back to the day to day visiting that you desire.

You are now currently living the Internet Lifestyle, what does the Internet Lifestyle mean to you?

I am not flashy, nor do I buy all the latest gadgets.  I like to remain conservative and thrifty, a simplified lifestyle.  What I do adore about my work is that I have my office in my home and have plenty of flexibility with my schedule and time.  It allows me to do much with my family and focus on what is truly important in life.  Each of our 10 full time employees all work remotely as well, so it is really an ideal situation for us all at Escalate Media.

Forums need administrating and moderating, how do you manage your forums and still have time for your family and fun?

We have hired community managers that handle the day to day administration and forum management.  We have 3 of them working with us full time and several part time.  This allows me to oversee, motivate, promote, and help out in times of need.  I am definitely not swamped, not are our community managers.  We also have excellent moderator teams in place across all of our communities who help us keep things clean and tidy.

You are known as the authority website in the Sprint Phones Niche. What advice would you give a new webmasters to dominating their niche?

Do everything you can to be the best.  Whether it is content, community, tools, free things, contests, or being the best resource, you must give your all to doing everything better than anyone else.  I also urge people to do their homework and find niches where a climb to the top will be an easier task.

What advice would you give to people just starting out with an online business?

Learn.  Learn all you can.  Listen. Listen to those who have gone before you and become successful.  Be patient.  Things don’t happen overnight, period.  Persistency is a fantastic characteristic found in almost all successful businessmen.

What’s your top tip for monetizing forums? I understand that forum visitors are usually the same people day after day, how do you over come this when trying to make money from your forums?

I have found that most of our communities generate a lot of search engine (new) traffic.  That is ultimately what we aim to monetize.  I would rather our members pay to be a part of a supporting membership program and never see an ad, while monetizing the visitors with the ads.  Also, we find it easiest to monetize a community through multiple approaches.  Don’t ever limit yourself to CPM or CPC alone.  Why not offer services that relate well to your niche or CPA programs that are a nice fit?

Why should webmasters have a forum as well as a blog or website?

I don’t know that they should. J   It offers unique challenges due to the fact you are dealing with large numbers of people that feel a sense of ownership themselves in the community.  It can be very rewarding at times as well.  Major corporations should definitely be looking to forums as a source for customer relations, support, feedback, and branding.  Most aren’t but there is a small trend moving in that direction.

What is the best advice you have ever been given?

The best advice I have ever been given has nothing to do with business.  The advice given was, “Repent and believe the gospel!” Mark 1:15  I learned that I was a sinner walking in darkness that very much needed a savior. Jesus Christ is that savior and my only hope in this world.  Nothing else matters and I owe my all to Him.

Lee also owns one of the top webmaster forums, worth checking out if you want to network with other webmasters.

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Comments

  1. Daniel Matthews says:

    Great interview and really interesting I’ve learnt a few things.

    One thing I did really like was the quote:

    ‘Learn. Learn all you can. Listen. Listen to those who have gone before you and become successful. ‘

    • victor Morgado says:

      I was also awaken by that….we need all we can to persist and convince ourselves…to make our own reality!

  2. Johnnnson (Droder) says:

    Thank you so much! This interview open my eyes on monetize and create a nice forum. Ty

  3. I find that forums is to time consuming to to all the spam. I already receive heaps of spam comments on my blog. Maybe I’ll try a forum later

  4. Greg Ellison says:

    I was looking at the their corporate website, and those stats they show about their network is awesome. This was a great interview. It looks like it takes a lot of work to run a forum. Thanks Greg Ellison

  5. David Sandusky says:

    This is a timely resource for me (becoming aware of Lee) because we are in the process of improving the experience for my community while increasing revenue.

    A lot of work no doubt and for my business, proving time well spent.

  6. Muzi Mohale says:

    This is a very interesting business model away from blogging. It’s already given me ideas on niche markets to consider, will add to my idea lists to revisit when the time is right.

  7. Research is very important indeed in starting anything. We must equip ourselves with the knowledge and the know how before getting ourselves into something.
    Perhaps patience is one of the most important attitude we need to develop.

    Nice interview. thanks

    Jason@
    http://www.internetmarketing.com-seemore.info/

  8. Deneil Merritt says:

    Awesome interview, It gave me some ideas for my off topic section on my forum.

  9. GoBusiness101 says:

    Wow! It sure help me establish my own community. thanks!

  10. Delords The Blogger says:

    Thanks For Such a great Interview with Lee Dodd,
    Its Really informative and helpful the most inspiring part of the interview was on the best advice he have ever been given?
    The response to that question was such an inspiration cause that is really the best advise anyone should follow.

    Thanks.

  11. Toan Nguyen Minh says:

    This is a great interview. I just learned some lessons from this interview.
    Thanks for sharing!