WordPress Give Insight into Monetization Strategy

Matt Mullenweg has just announced two new interersting additional features to WordPress.com

Just launched some pretty major features at WordPress.com: private blogs, store, and custom CSS.

I am more interested in the insight into their monetization strategy though.

WP Cash

So the idea is you buy credits at $1 each. For the new Custom CSS (and only so far) product it will cost you 15 credits, so that is $15 a year for the privelage of tweaking your theme. If only a percentage of users take this up that is plenty of cash into the coffers and I expect this to be the first of many small, cheap upgrades that together will probably add up to a pretty sum.

My first reaction was this seems a pretty lame first product if you ask me, I can think of others I would have preferred. After thinking on it a while I think this is a good move. This nicely introduces the WordPress.com user base to the idea that it’s not all free without holding a gun to the users head saying “pay up or lose out”. Anyone using WordPress.com just because it is free will probably not miss this functionality, those who are interested in a more unique look will not be overly put off by the price tag.

What I would have thought though, if this is the route they are going as a business strategy, would have been the option to use your own domain. Perhaps that will be next? WordPress.com users would probably pay extra to get Javascript ability, allowing for third party advertising and Performancing Metrics.

This will be interesting to observe. Good move Matt and co, I hope it is well received.

11 thoughts on “WordPress Give Insight into Monetization Strategy

  1. I agree, I probably would have put my focus someplace else to monetize things…but, then again, I think/thought Myspace was the dumbest site I have/had ever seen. I guess a lot of people like to “express” themselves. I would like to think that Matt and his peeps have put a little thought into this and probably decided to address an area that they get the most inquiries about first. Just a thought.

  2. I remember when I was a Xanga blogger and they did this. Their pro account costs MUCH more than this (though it does offer much more flexibility than just tweaking the css – like greater image storage capabilities and .zip archiving and such) but they did offer the ability to resolve your own .com to your xanga site as an alternative option (didn’t have to go pro – just paid $x a year).

    I think this is a great step forward for wp.com, and trust that they will keep the free option. You have to remember though, they’re going to be relying on the funds from those who choose to pay to help offset the cost of hosting EVERYONE, not just the paid people. So to support a company/site you believe in this way is something else people need to keep in mind. Hell, I pay $8/month to have a premium account on Neopets and I used to work for them! But it’s the fact that I support the company, believe in it, and yes, enjoy the “perks” of the premium game account, that make paying them a measly $8 a month not so much of a problem for me.

    If I used a wp.com account, I’d probably pay for the perks – Simply because I love the people behind the software and the dream.

  3. I say $15 a year for a somehow low profile presentation issue is a clever thing because wp.com will have good data for the future to see how loyal wp.com users are and if they welcome the service for money.

    Not to forget that implementing the CSS thingy is not as complicated for them as other high profile issues.

    It is very smart from the marketing point of view for a first step. It is like market research comment baiting. Smart!

  4. $15US/month to be able to select a custom CSS file? really? Not sure why that would “cost” so much – it’s a single record in a database, most likely… This might make people who are about to outgrow wordpress.com just make the jump to their own hosting on Dreamhost/Godaddy/whatever for not that much more cash…

  5. the two challenges facing wordpress.com is the service has been offered for free for a long time (relatively speaking) so convincing those “customers” to pay for something will be a challenge. as well, people who are keen about tweaking their CSS would, i think, be more likely to use a non-wordpress.com version that they host themselves or have a hosting company handle. i could be wrong but…..

  6. I would like to get wp.com to become something like a virtual Expression Engine which is a commercial product where you buy modules to get more features. Typepad also showed a good way hot to become a valuable service for people not too much interested the technical details.

    To start with the presentation approach is a good start because many people start a blog and are theme oriented after a very short time.

  7. “monetization strategy” scores 10 points in buzzword bingo, don’t knock it, heh

  8. Personalised WP domains are clearly on the roadmap, and may well be imminent, as this call for beta testers shows


    Personally, I am a very satisfied WordPress user and don’t lie awake at night, tormented by the lack of theme customisation. If I was, I would go and find a PHP/mySQL host.

    My main concern is that everything that is currently free will remain so. But WordPress have stated that is the case so I am content.

    PS. The phrase ‘monetization strategy’ just cracks me up.

  9. I agree on the domain name. Let people use their own domain name for $15 a year, with WP.com as the registrar, and you’ve got a very nice foundation for the business. Then start adding other options on top of that for incremental profits.

  10. Could backfire a bit if they have a reasonably large selection of ‘upgrades’ that all require money.

    It could look like “oh yeah, you get really basic stuff for free, but for anything even remotely professional you want about 6 products and end up spending as much as it would cost to jsut buy some hsoting etc…”

    If they were to sell ‘packs’ of upgrades, say get custom CSS, personal domain, adsense tags for less than it would cost to get individually, they might manage to avoid some of that.

    I have been fed up with apps in the past that have what seems a reasonable fee for the core functionality, but actually, when you start looking at all the cool stuff it ‘can’ do, you realise it ends up being a lot more expensive.

    Webhosts have been there, done that, and it can get too complex for customers.

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