This is a follow-up to my earlier post on changes to advertising on WordPress.com.
With the introduction of WordAds, WordPress.com stopped accepting applications to the earlier AdControl program. We still don’t exactly know who is eligible for the new WordAds program (although the October announcement about the joint program with Federated Media gives a few clues) or what the revenue sharing terms will be. Members wishing to take part in the new program are encouraged to show their interest by filling out a form linked from the official announcement. The only stated conditions are that the participating WordPress.com site must be publicly visible and have a Custom Domain, which is a paid upgrade costing between US$12-17/year, not including domain privacy which costs another US$8.
Interestingly, Matt Mullenweg, whose company “Automattic” runs WordPress.com, commented on the WordAds announcement, “We stopped running Adsense on WP.com a few months ago”, which begs the question what kinds of ads do they now run on our sites? Staff has mentioned in the past that they regularly test new ad platforms for WordPress.com, but given the increase in the number of complaints in the Community Support Forums about spammey Flash ads appearing on their sites, it seems that some of those ad servers do not provide a quality product and as a result more members are likely to buy the “No Ads” upgrade at US$30/year to rid their site of them.
A Gallery of ads currently on display (click for full size):
While there is no such thing as a free lunch (WordPress.com is a commercial product that needs to fund those basic free services), it shouldn’t have to come at the price of leaving a sour taste in members’ mouths. In spite of the pronouncement that ads are shown on a limited basis to select viewers, members report that their site visitors are shown an increasing number of ads. For new community members encountering ads for the first time, they are surprised and often upset.
Many people start or move their sites to WordPress.com in the belief that it’s a better choice than the competition and are unaware of the Advertising clause in the WordPress.com Terms of Service.
Ultimately those who do not qualify for the WordAds program and are aware that there is advertising on their sites will have to decide whether they are comfortable having no control over the types of ads appearing on their sites or pay to remove them. Again, for WordPress.com the above scenarios are win-win.
Of course there is a third option for users, which is to move their sites to a different web host, install the stand alone WordPress software and pay the associated costs of running a self-hosted site (and run any ads they like). For many, the biggest downside to such a move is having to deal with the technical aspects of running WordPress. WordPress.com is a very attractive solution if you aren’t technically inclined and it seems that Automattic is counting on that to keep users here along with the estimated 25,000 new users who sign up for WordPress.com every day.
Some thoughts on the power of choice and happiness: