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 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 – It just grows and grows
2. VIP hosting – Basically recurring hosting
3. 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.

20 Responses

  • Even though I think that one of the main accelerators for the success of WordPress was the fact that the software, themes and plugins are free, I think that this model is not sustainable for the future. Now that there are more and more big commercial sites powered by WP, there is a need for a more professional service providers.

    I have very good experiences with some paid themes and plugins and I see the creation of the WP Plugins app store as a very good development. I do hope that there will be a strict approval process for the plugins to guarantee the quality.

  • Congrats on this one :)

    I assumed this would occur what with systems like Gravity Forms and WishList Member coming about as serious premium well supported products.

    I do however fear fragmentation and another GPL fight (believe me it will come) but overall it looks like a pretty slick site, well done all involved :)

  • All for developers getting what they feel is entitled to them monetarily – I think there is a lot of potential in this model for great development.

    But, as a premdev subscriber I don’t want to see premium plugins start to move to wpplugins and then are not accessible through my premdev subscription. Not sure I want to go to the plugin store to pay more past what I paid for my premdev subscription.

    How do you see the relationship between these two sites working?

    Keep up the great work – can’t do what I or my students do without your efforts.


  • Thanks Aaron – but I guess I’m just thinking of the future – where will the best stuff be -in premdev for $500/yr or wpplugins a la carte.

    Guess we’ll see what happens.



    • New Recruit

      i would imagine it would be in both (with regards to the in-house plugins anyway). So the choice will be to go the premium route and get everything for one fee, or just get the ones you want individually. Also worth noting is that the site is aimed primarily at WordPress plugins, whereas Premium is very much geared towards WPMU.

  • New Recruit

    Hm. I think I like the idea of a premium plugin site. It’s infinitely preferable to the WPMUDP model of “all you can eat for a giant sum”, given that at least 90% of the content behind such paywalls is inevitably of no interest to the individual. I’d rather pay a lot less for just a couple items I’ll actually use.

    It’ll actually be pretty amazing to watch what happens. Say Dev Bob creates a plugin, but doesn’t support it very well. Nothing’s stopping Dev Suzy from forking the plugin, adding her version to the site, and competing entirely on the basis of quality support.

    Question is, how will .org react when some of those premium plugins get uploaded to the official repository, and the “plugin homepage” link points back to WPPlugins?

  • New Recruit

    Recently I used the Shopp e-commerce plugin for WordPress. Would it be fair to expect e-commerce functionality for free? No. For about $50? Absolutely. No way would I risk using a plugin that didn’t have support forums and hadn’t been updated in two years, not for something so vital.

    I design a lot of websites for nonprofits clients and they don’t have much money. It’s more reasonable to ask them to pay a relatively small amount for a good premium theme than to expect them to pay for a theme to be designed from scratch. And the quality of paid-for themes is good: I’ve used WP-Remix, WooThemes and StudioPress themes and been happy to pay for them.

    A market for premium themes and plugins obviously exists. So WPPlugins is an welcome move, look forward to seeing what it has to offer.

  • It appears that their will always be a “free” plugin comparable to a premium one, if you search hard enough. The users calls for it. Although, I do believe if you want that plugin NOW and it’s a new idea, then yes it’s going to cost money. But overtime, most of those plugins will end up as a free version somewhere done the line.

    Premium themes are great when they offer something new and unique. Otherwise, I think many can jump from free to a professionally designed theme starting at least around $650+, once they have a dedicated audience.

  • Some very good points in here – “Developers have to eat too” – ultimately there will always be those that want a ‘free’ plugin or theme but premium offers the support that those using the plugins/themes will (usually) end up needing.

  • New Recruit

    I also don’t mind the premium model as long as it still offers me great value and a serious drop in development time. But the price for me is of serious concern. Like Jason King, I also develop sites for many non-profits and arts organisations, and we need the value offered by the resources out there and that’s what makes WordPress so valuable to me.

    A subscription model with an upfront payment, like the one offered by WooThemes, seems to work well in my business, but the individual payment model offered at Wp-Plugins, plus the lack of quality control, means that some developers are pitching their plugins at super expensive prices that don’t have the corresponding quality.

    I pay for the Woothemes model because there’s support, upgrades, and a community who finds errors and issues more quickly than I do, all of which saves me time and allows me to develop more sites more quickly. So I hope this model can be applied successfully when it comes to plugins, where as the plugin developers that I quickly saw on the site didn’t seem to be providing quality plugins yet. Waiting to see more..

  • My company is need an authorized wordpress plugin for

    We have a javascript code similar to google analytics, and wordpress does
    not allow outside javascript, they only only authorized plugins.

    These plugins are usually widgets inside

    The widget needs to contain what wordpress calls “shortcodes”.

    If anyone is interested, please call 408-340-7440.

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