I’ve been recommending WordPress as a stable and yet fast-moving CMS to clients for years. The first few times I was surprised to get pushback about those shaky “open source” projects that fail after a few years (anyone remember the darling of the first tech boom – osCommerce?). After a dozen times of receiving this question, I’ve since heard a zillion variations like:
- “isn’t WordPress just for bloggers” or
- “I’ve heard WordPress is not suited for a site with more than 30 pages” or
- “what about all those security issues from 1997?”
Many times over the years I’ve given an answer that sounds a bit like this: WordPress is a unique open source CMS project, mainly because it is backed by a highly profitable company whose value is only enhanced by its investment in said open source project. Elegant ain’t it?
This is not unlike the Linux OS ecosystem – a free and open source platform that has many companies like RedHat making money customizing it, supporting it, or consulting on it. However, Automattic (the company behind WordPress) makes its money in a few interesting ways, which I share below. What I find fitting about the situation is that the company makes its money doing things that very few people or companies could do well – and more importantly it stays out of the business of most everything else, such as hosting small websites running wordpress or developing professional themes for sale. They could easily do this, but it would squash the wonderfully rich economy of professionals built up around WordPress, whose members (like Dinkum) help to evolve and support the system at a high level.
So how does Automattic make money? Here’s my list (feel free to comment in and add more):
- They host very large WordPress installations through their VIP Hosting program. Not cheap, and you have to apply to be a customer! Hosting costs $2,500 per month minimum.
- They support very large WordPress installations through their VIP Support program. Again, not cheap and you have to apply. Costs are based on a per seat basis and start at $15,000 per year and go up to $250,000 per year (per seat). Need an analysis of your big WP site? $55,000 please.
- Akismet subscriptions – Akismet is the all mighty comment spam protector that crowdsources spam (much like Google’s Gmail system) and helps keep your blog from becoming a Viagra commercial. $0-$50/month per site.
- Web Hosting Referrals – This may seem puny, but on WordPress.org they recommend four different hosts and are upfront that they get a nice kickback. Not bad when 22 out of every 100 new domains run WordPress.
- Google AdSense Ads – Free blogs on WordPress.com (there are a few gazillion of those) display Google ads under many conditions.
- Premium Features – WordPress.com is awesome for most mom and pop bloggers. But if you’re serious you might want a few of their extra features, such as a branded domain, extra storage, the ability to customize your theme, etc – welcome to premium paid features.
- Polldaddy – Not sure how much this makes, but there is pricing and again scale is everything. $0-$899 per year for the pleasure of more features and less limitations.
Photo Credit: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/865435