The future of WordPress is premium plugins

NB: Read all the way to the end of this post for a really exciting announcement!

I was checking out the Commercial theme listings at WordPress.org the other day and was pretty pleased to read what must amount to the clearest, most definitive and straightforward overview of what it means to sell WP (and, by definition, WPMU, BuddyPress and bbPress stuff too):

“While our directory is full of fantastic themes, sometimes people want to use something that they know has support behind it, and don’t mind paying for that. Contrary to popular belief, GPL doesn’t say that everything must be zero-cost, just that when you receive the software or theme that it not restrict your freedoms in how you use it.”*

As I said, it was nice to see .org acknowledging not only that it’s totally OK to sell themes (and by definition plugins and so on) and pointing out one of the major reasons why people choose to use Premium themes – provided of course they are GPL. And that, in fact, by releasing these plugins as GPL we are supporting “open source, WordPress, and its GPL license”.

Especially so, as it allows me segue to not ‘whether it’s ok’ for people to sell plugins and themes for WordPress – but why, in fact, it freaking rocks out, because you’d better believe me, premium plugins and themes are the future of WordPress.

Why is that, I hear you ask, well, let me fill you in…

WordPress ‘aint just for your blog any more

Sure, when WP started out, the idea that it was for much more than a regular blog was a bit of a big deal, you got attention for saying it was killing Dreamweaver or similar (well, at least I did ;)

WordPress now powers major cultural, commercial and political sites, in a big way, and the people who run those sites categorically do not want to be at the mercy of someone who, most likely in their free time, may or may not choose to support, maintain or assist with the functionality they are using.

Premium themes and plugins offer guaranteed maintenance, support, upgrades and extended features… that’s just something people want, you just can’t deny it, and you can’t stop people wanting it either.

Voluntarily supported plugins and themes are all good for people pursuing a hobby, but when it gets bigger than that, more is required… and few are the organizations that will want to hire a FT WP developer, talking of which…

Developers have to eat too…

I am sick to the hind teeth with this assumption that WordPress plugin and theme developers should be perfectly happy to give up their evenings and weekends, or row with their work over the legitimacy of sharing, and that that should be what drives WP.

Sure, this was largely the case when WP kicked off, and people were finding their own personal uses for it, but if you want a platform like WordPress to grow as it has done you simply cannot ignore the commercial side of things.

Matt, to his credit in my opinion and to WP’s great benefit, has never lost sight of the commercial imperative and WP is now supported not by (or hardly by) people doing it just out of love but but an 8 figure valued, venture capital backed, commercially motivated organization.

Which is great.

And is exactly what all plugin and theme developers who want to succeed need to take note of, let’s make a living, heck, let’s make some money…

… but not by client work!

Because it’s too damn hard, too damn unreliable, too damn tricky to get and too damn un-extensible (if that’s even a word :)

What I mean is take your earnings learnings from ‘mattic… they make their money out of (I’m guessing here in terms of order):

1. Advertising on wp.com – It just grows and grows
2. VIP hosting – Basically recurring hosting
3. WordPress.com upgrades – You got it, no extra effort required to sell 1 or 10,000
4. Miscellaneous stuff like Akismet, TalkPress etc.

Which is exactly how plugin and theme authors should be able to work, because it rocks out, because it’ll attract the best and the cleverest and because it’s an extensible, sustainable and manageable future that will bring about the most improvements in WordPress.

Improvements which, IMHO, will far transcend the current functionality available to WordPress.

Systems need to be in place where plugin and theme developers can concentrate on what they are good at – writing, developing and supporting great plugins and themes – and make a damn good living from that too.

And, do you know what’s even better, I have proof that I’m right, that those systems work, and, most importantly (keep on reading :) that it’s time you reconsidered throwing in the towel because boy do we have something for you.

This isn’t guess-work, it’s already working

You can disagree with me on anything I’ve previously said, Twitter Tools & Apps, but you can’t disagree with me over these statistics.

The Thesis theme affiliate program paid out over $100,000 before 2009! – That means before this year had even started, they’d made over USD$300k from selling just one theme!

Our WPMU DEV Premium site is an very successful example of how you can provide premium plugins (and themes) – I ‘aint going to go into specific numbers, but suffice to say that our members support forums now have many more posts in them than the regular MU forums!!!

And this has allowed us to develop and actively support over 100 plugins, themes and videos for WPMU and BuddyPress… and people actually thank us for it, a lot.

Why do they thank us, well, I think it’s because

WordPress users genuinely want premium plugins and themes

I remember someone boasting about the number of WordPress job queries on elance or a similar site, WordPress users want custom development, but they don’t necessarily want to (or they cant afford to) hire people to do it for them, yet alone in-house talent.

It’s crazy really, I mean if you want a Windows app you don’t go out and hire someone to write it, you find one that’s been developed and then buy it.

Sites like WPMU DEV Premium give users hundreds of thousands of $s worth of development, not to mention the expertise and support, for a very affordable fee.

There’s nothing wrong with that!

But how on earth, as a plugin author, do you get started with this?

That’s where WP Plugins comes in

It’s time that someone backed a premium plugin marketplace, and that’s what we intend to do with WP Plugins.

WP Plugins

Launched as of today, we’re offering WordPress plugin authors all the tools they need to sell their plugins in the same way we do at WPMU DEV Premium, giving them the opportunity to get by on more than donations and be properly rewarded for their work.

All plugin authors need to do is:

  1. Create a user account
  2. Describe and upload your plugin
  3. Set a price
  4. If you wish… support it in the (automatically created) plugins forum

That’s the lot, it’s completely free, and the only fee is a flat 10% of any sales, to cover the hosting, development, support and ongoing management and development of the site.

You get to decide whether you want to offer simple downloads (for one payment) and/or ongoing upgrades and support (for a subscription).

Believe me, I think you’ll get more out of the subscription!!! But it’s up to you :)

We’ll host and develop the site (and features available on it) based on plugin authors requests and feedback and vet initial plugin code to make sure it’s up to scratch.

We’ll advertise your plugins through adsense, on wordpress related blogs and through other advertising networks, provide you with affiliate tools you can use to promote your own plugins and work our darndest to make sure you are a success.

And in doing so, I reckon we’ll be supporting WordPress in the best way we can.

So check out WP Plugins today, and sign up as a plugin author!

Or, even better, grab one of the premium plugins already on there :)

And be part of the future of WordPress.