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Figure 1.1

WordPress upgrades add capabilities to your blog, for a price.

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Unfortunately, paying WordPress.com to go ad-free does not allow you to put in your own ads. To do that you need to host a blog with the WordPress.org software.

One premium service many of us might consider is going ad free, which costs about $30 per year. It's said that most WordPress.com site visitors never see an ad, but some blog-gers don't want any ads to appear on their blogs, ever. Other bloggers find any ad, or specific ads, so inappropriate that paying to prevent them makes sense. For example, a nonprofit or government organization won't want to show ads, or a company might be concerned that competitors' ads could appear on its site.

The most visible service for many of us is the charge for getting your own domain name, which currently costs about $15 per year. This is double or more the price you would pay for registering a domain on your own without hosting, but it includes Automattic's costs for supporting the external domain, some of the hosting services that non-domain-owning WordPress bloggers get for free, and probably some profit.

You can also pay for additional storage for text and graphics beyond the 3GB allowance you get for free. You have to pay for at least one such chunk of additional storage to have WordPress host even the most minor chunk of audio; the current charge is $20 per year for the first such chunk.

You have to pay a separate charge of about $5 per month for WordPress video streaming support, though you can work around this with third-party hosts such as YouTube. All of these hosting-related options are described in Chapter 10, "Adding Upgrades, Audio, and Video." WordPress allows you to customize the style sheets for your WordPress.com blog; that is, the code that gives sites their look and feel, in the form of CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, which are described in Chapter 12, "The WordPress Toolkit: Themes." The cost of customizing your style sheet is currently about $15 per year.

If you maintain a private blog, you're limited to 35 users for free, which is usually plenty for testing and small groups. If you want to go large and serve a wider audience with a private blog, you can add an unlimited number of private users for about $30 per year.

There's a paid version of Automattic's tool, PollDaddy. Created and improved to make hosting polls easy (and free), the paid version removes the PollDaddy branding and allows unlimited questions per survey.

Automattic developed Akismet, a spam solution for WordPress blogs. Akismet is said to do an excellent job of stopping comment and trackback spam, which we explain in more detail later in the book. If you maintain a corporate blog or run a network of blogs, you have to buy a license for Akismet, which costs $50 per month or more. There's a bit of a Robin Hood aspect to this, with only the better-off users having to pay for a service that protects all WordPress bloggers from spam. Automattic also charges for access to their Support Network for WordPress. If you pay for this support, the WordPress development team gets involved in fixing any problems you may have. Charges for this service start at about $2,500 per year. Again, there's a Robin Hood aspect here, as the problems that are resolved for the minority who pay are also resolved for the majority who don't.

WordPress.org hosts a list of third-party web hosting providers who pay a fee to be listed. These are referral links, so Automattic gets a commission from sales.

Automattic also makes money by hosting blogs through WordPress VIP Hosting. This is an exclusive service for big name customers and well-supported startups; you have to apply to join. CNN's Political Ticker site is one of their customers; the Official NFL Blog is another. Pricing begins at $500 per month per blog. We don't discuss WordPress VIP Hosting as a separate topic in this book. So the summary of charges for most users is as follows: Google AdSense ads on your site, which is not a direct cost; domain name fees; additional or audio storage; specialist video storage; super-PollDaddy. If you had your own domain name and one chunk of extra storage, for either graphics and audio or for video, you'd still be paying less than $100 per year.

Large sites might pay for these services plus others: Akismet for corporate blogs and blog networks, Support Network access, listing as a WordPress software host, and WordPress VIP Hosting. The charges here can easily be thousands of dollars per year, but the people paying these fees have many choices, including hiring people and buying equipment and software to do it themselves. The free or very low-cost services that most users enjoy contribute to the willingness of many WordPress users to contribute to the WordPress community. In turn, all this community work helps keep the costs to Automattic of routine operations for WordPress low. The result is a virtuous circle that benefits all involved.

The impression most people, including long-time participants in the WordPress community, have is that Automattic keeps costs free as far as possible, and as low as they can in most areas where they do charge. There might or might not be a soak-the-rich aspect to a few of the charges for big sites, but only for customers who have plenty of capability to analyze the fees and decide whether the charges are a good value for them.

It's hard to make a case that Automattic is charging anything like what it could get if short-term profit or revenue growth was its main goal. WordPress's early success was significantly due to a competitor trying to monetize the asset they had in the form of bloggers dedicated to their platform. When the charges went up, though, the asset—that's people like us—went elsewhere. It seems Automattic keeps this in mind and works hard to avoid the same fate.

What does this mean for you? You can go very far indeed with free WordPress services and online support, and a lot farther with a few investments in, for example, a domain name, an independent hosting service, and a few learning resources, including books like this one. If you then really want to go large, the sky's the limit, and you might have to invest a lot more money—but only after you've reached a point where you are likely to be able to afford it, and to have many other options as well.

What If You Want to Make Money?

WordPress.com has a strongly noncommercial ethos. As such, most of its bloggers don't seem to mind that they aren't allowed to integrate their own Google AdSense ads, multiple Amazon links (which can generate revenues), and other money-generating add-ons. Such ads, and much more, are available via plug-ins or custom coding if you run WordPress software on your own host and such blogs have a non-WordPress.com domain name.

This stance seems to make sense for WordPress.com users who don't have their own domain names. If your blog is at yourname.wordpress.com, you're getting just about everything free, and

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