Mobile Apps · Online advertising

What is the best way to monetize an website/app used by teens?

Jim Flannery Founder of Open Source High

November 17th, 2016

I would like a general answer but will give you some specifics if it is helpful.  I've built a website that connects unschooled teens (an extreme version of homeschooling). I guess it's sort of a social network for lack of a better phrase.  I don't want to charge them money to use the website... it seems like free is the way to go here. I imagine if it gets enough traction that converting the site into an app would be useful.   So many apps out there seem to follow this model of "get lots of eyeballs and then implement ads." If that's the route, where should I be looking for ads?  I know at a bare minimum I can get $1/1,000 views from something like Google Adsense.  What other models are out there?  What are the better ways to approach ads than slapping a Google Adsense code snippet on my site?

Josh Levitan Product & Marketing Guy

November 17th, 2016

Depending on the age of your users, you'll want to be very careful not to run afoul of COPPA.  That can be a very costly mistake.

Ways to monetize include:

1) Ads.  This is likely only going to be a big source of revenue in two scenarios.  The first is if you have a large audience (which it sounds like you won't).  The second is if there are specific advertisers and products that would pay a lot to market to your niche audience.  I don't know enough about unschooling to assess that.

You can start out with something like AdSense.  If you have a large enough audience or do direct deals with advertisers, you can then plug that into DFP or something similar.  You can also access more programmatic demand there as well (again, probably only useful if you have a big audience).

Depending on how much you want to risk annoying your users, you can also look into instream ads or other auto-play video content with ads on it.  

2) Lead generation.  Again, you have to be careful about children's privacy, but there may be companies that would pay a good fee per lead/signup/install to get your audience to do or buy things.  You can check out sites like Affiliate by Conversant (formerly Commission Junction) to see the affiliate programs and pay-per-lead offers out there.   And I should say that I do not know if affiliate deals often target teens (my work in that space was all over-18 oriented).

3) Subscriptions/Premium Content.  If your site is useful enough, then perhaps students or their parents would pay a subscription to use it.  Similarly, you can try the combo of a free, possibly ad-supported site with a premium option that unlocks more features and content and turns off ads.

My suggestion would be to focus on building out your site first and see what kind of audience you have before worrying about monetizing it.  If you make something worthwhile and it gains traction, money will probably follow.

Pankaj Nathani Founder at VersionN Studios (

November 18th, 2016

This is a good question. I work with lot of product startups that try hard to monetize their apps in the long run. Most of the ways are mentioned by Josh and Valeria.

In my opinion, giving a full experience to the user of the app / website for limited time is a good idea. This way the user knows what he'll be paying for if he purchases the app down the line.This could be implemented in a number of ways. You can either offer limited 'productive app sessions' before the app asks to do an in-app purchase to continue using the app. What's even better than this approach and works really well for games / event based apps, is offer the full functionality of the app for a couple of times in a day. If the app is useful enough there is a good chance that the user may pay for it.

I don't think it applies to your use case, but many apps build an enterprize version of the app to offer more useful features to businesses and thus monetize their app.

Valeriia Timokhina Eastern Peak Software: Custom software development

November 18th, 2016

eLearning and mLearning apps can bring significant benefit. Take a look at examples in this article: Coursera sells online courses from universities all over the world, Maximum improves brand awareness and marketing.
There are most common monetization models such as:
  • Paid courses
  • Paid subscriptions
  • Freemium model - a free app that is initially free but has paid features
  • You can promote other education-related brands or goods on your resource

Peter Kronberg Chief Compliance Officer & General Counsel at Proficio Capital Partners LLC

November 18th, 2016

Sabbatical Homes is an AirBNB for academics.  They rely on an honor system and donations from grateful users.