I spent some time recently poking about our Theme Showcase and there is now a subtle and interesting development concerning Premium Themes. As of this writing, they fall into two groups:
- Premium themes that are included in the WordPress.com Premium plan upgrade and up, or purchased outright on any plan, including the Free and Personal plans. This is the original Premium theme offer as we’ve known it until now.
- NEW: Premium themes that leverage additional components, AKA plugins, which would only be available to WordPress.com sites on the Business or eCommerce plans.
Welcome Back Third Party Premium Theme(s)
In that second group you’ll find the very first 3rd party Premium theme available since before the Premium Theme Extinction Event of 2020, Makoney from ElmaStudio. This new 3rd party theme requires not only the WordPress.com Business plan upgrade, but also a monthly or annual theme subscription as well. The free Ainoblocks plugin, also created by ElmaStudio, is needed for layouts. (See update below.)
The addition of a Premium theme subscription model is intriguing, and at the same time curious, keeping in mind that under the Business plan, which is required here, you can install any 3rd party WordPress theme on your WordPress.com website. I’m very interested in seeing how this subscription model develops.
Searching for a Premium Theme
Right now, if I were looking for a new Premium theme I would have to go through each Premium theme to weed out those that require the Business plan and up. The banner announcing such a requirement is visible only after you click and open the theme’s full showcase page.
As such, I guess I should be happy that there are still only a few Premium themes available because currently there’s no differentiation between the “need to upgrade” Premium themes and Premium themes which can be activated (or purchased) without upgrading. If you are on the Premium plan and look at Appearance>Themes, they all say “Included.”
Since there’s no indication (yet) in the Support documentation or Theme Showcase about these new Premium themes, perhaps something is in the works and this is a temporary situation. I do hope so. Even with the small number of Premium themes, it’s still an imposition on my time if I need to vet each one.
Update 28 January 2023:
Since publishing this post, two more Premium themes from ElmaStudio have been added to our Theme Showcase and, like Makoney, these themes also require a theme subscription on top of the Business plan.
The much-needed differentiation between Premium themes available to all (as outlined above) and those needing a Business plan upgrade is made by using a star with a green circle around it or just a star. While I haven’t found any support information that says this specifically, perhaps the star with a green circle means that the theme is included in your existing plan or available for separate purchase.
As always, the information in this post is correct as of publication date. Changes are inevitable.