WordPress, the multi-billion dollar software industry that has us begging for money

November 29, 2021 00:06:54
WordPress, the multi-billion dollar software industry that has us begging for money
The WP Minute - WordPress news
WordPress, the multi-billion dollar software industry that has us begging for money
/

Show Notes

It seems a year can’t go by without the pesky lifetime WordPress license topic popping up to spice up the holiday conversation.

A struggle dating back 7 years ago to the month when Jeff Chandler covered, now defunct, Sidekick.pro where then owner Ben Fox shared his pricing experiments.

When Brad Touesnard purchased Advanced Custom Fields back in June, he was swiftly reminded how hard lifetime license pricing really is. I mean, he did his due diligence, he knew what he was getting into. But the lifetime license woes lingered well before the new owners arrived. Elliot Condon wrestled with it, “get it all for one price forever” that is, until he finally revised pricing for 2020 to build the business a better runway.

On Delicious Brains acquiring Advanced Custom Fields

Amidst a fumbled start, Brad, did bless all lifetime license holders with access — forever. It’s on Twitter, so it’s permanent in my book.

This isn’t the first pricing rodeo for Brad and company.

When asked about lessons learned with pricing in a 2018 interview with Joe Howard on the WPMRR podcast, Brad had this to say:

“I think the biggest thing that people don’t do is experiment with their pricing.

When I launched Migrate DB Pro, I think the developer license was, $99 per year.

In December of that year, I doubled the pricing. Which would have been totally uncontroversial, except that I changed all the prices for the existing customers as well. I didn’t grandfather it.

And there was definitely quite a bit of blowback. I’d regret doing it because I feel like at that point, it wouldn’t have hurt us to like grandfather those people in but I don’t believe really in grandfathering people in forever.

That’s the same aversion I have to like unlimited things and “lifetime this and that.”

Brad Touesnard

Pricing is challenging, no doubt, and lot has already been said about lifetime licenses.

Should you offer them as a product owner? Clearly the data (and the community) is pointing to a firm “no” at this point. Should the customer expect that a lifetime license actually means a lifetime of free…everything? Read Chris Lema’s take, On Lifetime Licenses.

WordPress, the only billion dollar software industry that has us begging for money

Paul Charlton of WPTuts posted a reaction video to a recent e-mail sent from Delicious Brains, the new owners of Advanced Custom Fields. In the video, Paul shares his frustration with the ask of lifetime license holders to “pitch in” to keep the development of the popular plugin alive.

Paul was one of the first in line to question what would happen to lifetime license holders when Delicious Brains acquired ACF back in June.

From the current events: Agency Principal, Alex J Vasquez doesn’t seem to have an issue with the ask, stating “ Could this have been said differently? Sure, a better crafted msg would go a long way but I have zero issues with the ask.”

Where for folks like Charlton, it “sticks in his throat” that customers are almost feeling guilted into supporting the product. Charlton has no problem if users want to support their favorite software, but is not entirely thrilled when a brand requests it.

When the dust settles

After reaching out to Paul for a post-publishing lay of the land, he responded:

“My biggest takeaway is the complete silence from them to be honest. They’ve been tagged in many replies and spin off comments and nothing at all has come back from them.

As for learning anything new, it’s pretty much radio silence across the board. Just speculation and frustration from most commenters.”

UPDATE: An updated quote from Paul after the recent ACF tweet

It’s good to hear Delicious Brains are going to honour the LTD, but maybe it would be a good idea to run future emails through a competent PR company first to avoid confusion.

The ACF Twitter account tweeted:

“Lifetime license customers: We are still firmly committed to honoring lifetime licenses and all future emails. We will reaffirm this commitment. So there is no confusion. Signed, Brad Touesnard.”

When I asked Brad for a comment, that was the tweet he shared and pointed to his previous thread, posted back in June.

Some of our WP Minute Producers have expressed their thoughts in our Discord server:

“Well, Brad is in a tough spot here—there are a ton of these “lifetime deals” with ACF that he inherited and their something of a liability from a business perspective.”

Dave Rodenbaugh

“Brad should save himself a lot of LTD headache in the long term and just stop supporting them.”

Joe Casabona

“I think it would be very bad form for Delicious Brains to abandon lifetime license holders without some kind of very sweet yearly deal (maybe like 75% off for the first three years.)”

Liam Dempsey

“I think it’s great that they still /are/ honoring the lifetime deals, they’re just asking if anybody would like to offer additional support, so I think they’re toeing the line the best they can.”

Keanan Koppenhaver

Arpad Szucs, A WPTuts viewer, suggests the following:

“they should have suggest one-off donations instead of recurring payments, with a marketing copy something like:

“Thank you for being an early adopter! As an LTD license holder you will NEVER need to pay again for ACF PRO, however if you’d like to continue supporting us, buy us a coffee. We would really appreciate it (you know developers run on coffee right?). ”

The challenge ahead for all of us

To be clear, Delicious Brains — the company — is a few orders of magnitude larger than a single Elliot Condon, who founded the ACF plugin.

Does a company that spans across five very popular products require a donation approach, to keep a product like A CF, afloat?

If so, we better start getting better at pricing and voting with our dollars.

Reading into the email sent over one of the largest holiday sales of the year: Maybe this was all just bad marketing copy gone wrong.

We know lifetime deals are (mostly) bad for product owners. It rarely spells “sustainable” for most. As consumers, we want what we were paid for and for brands to honor their promises.

Imagine if coca-cola asked you to donate to them “just cuz you like it.” Or if Comcast came knocked on your door with a tin cup in hand saying, “don’t ya just love the internet?”

I say this with half my foot in my mouth seeing as I run a content site that relies, partly, on donations. But hey, if only I could start a business with SaaS-like margins…we’d be in a different boat.

Maybe selling some merchandise or premium support would have been a better route.

Either way, expecting lifetime updates for one price coupled with a part-time donation strategy, is bad for both the consumer and the business. I don’t see any other major markets operating this way, but if you know of one, please let me know.

In the end, WordPress might be the only multi-billion dollar industry that plays the tune of a poor freelancer, the supporting donor, and pioneering capitalist all at the same time.

Unfortunately, only one can prevail.

That’s it for today’s episode, if you enjoyed please share it on your social media, leave us a review on Apple Podcasts or Podchaser. Don’t forget to share share share this episode with others and jump on the mailing list

Other Episodes

Episode

July 28, 2022 00:06:16
Episode Cover

Selling WP Conference Schedule

Guest host, Amber Hinds is sharing with us her POV on Equalize Digital's first "exit." "This post tells the story of how WP Conference Schedule came to be and why we ultimately ended up selling it before even launching the paid version of the plugin."Amber Hinds Links Amber Hinds Equalize Digital Sells WP Conference Schedule Amber Hinds Blog ...

Listen

Episode

September 28, 2022 00:04:49
Episode Cover

Next contestant in website building

There is a new demo to try out on make.wordpress.org where you can run WordPress directly in the browser without a PHP server. Although it is not fully stable yet, it is a major breakthrough that could transform learning, contributing, and using WordPress. Go check out the post to learn more about how you can test it out. Jesse Friedman, Director of innovation at Automattic was interviewed on the WP Minute about the wp.cloud initiative. If you would like to know more about this, go listen to that interview. WooCommerce WooCommerce Blocks 8.6.0 was released with support for a new block that displays cross-sells for products that are based on the current product in the customer’s cart. Sarah Gooding covers the details over at the WP Tavern. From Our Contributors and Producers Nyasha Green, the Editorial Director over at MasterWP was further encouraged to write “Enough with this woke stuff: and other racist speech you can unlearn” after WP-Tonic’s co-hosts died on a hill attempting to deconstruct racism in the workplace, following an article regarding Twillio layoffs. The episode has since been removed from their podcast feed and YouTube channel. To hear an archived clip, Cameron Jones shared an article from Tom Finley that discusses racism as a weed and this type of speech does not represent WordPress. Further, Allie Nimmons has announced a “How to be an Ally” workshop. It kicks off on October 4th at 3PM.  If you want to try out a visual collaboration tool with your clients, the Atarim plugin is now available in the WordPress Repository. This is a great tool to use when you have more than one person making changes ...

Listen

Episode

July 13, 2022 00:04:39
Episode Cover

Five for everyone, sometimes

Five for the Future is back on the radar, surfacing more clarification and criticism. Here’s snack pack of links from around the community addressing various opinions on the subject:  Five for the Future’s True Intentions by Josepha Haden ChomphosySarah Gooding summarizes the link aboveJoe Casabona compares 5FTF to the Creator EconomyRob Howard warns of “toxic scorekeeping.”  Gettin’ Guten with it Gutenberg Times will host a livestream July 22nd featuring PEW Research Lead Developer and Director of Digital Strategy on how they use WordPress core + custom blocks. Want to know where FSE is headed with all things media? Anne McCarthy posted the FSE Program All Things Media Summary. Product updates LearnDash has taken to the clouds with its latest hosted version of the popular WordPress LMS plugin. SpotlightWP has launched a new analytics dashboard for those of you posting to WordPress and the gram. Pure HTML and CSS WordPress builder LiveCanvas has launched their builder version 3. Product acquisition Amber Hinds' Equalize Digital has sold their WP Conference Schedule plugin to Events Calendar: “Earlier this year, we realized that continuing to support WP Conference Schedule no longer made sense,” said Hinds, “It was a distraction from our mission to improve accessibility in WordPress and took development and marketing time away from Accessibility Checker.” Events A call for organizers has been placed by the WordCamp Euorope 2023 team. The Grab bag! Call for sponsors for WordPress Accessibility Day 2022See what it looks like for a hacker to attack a WordPress wesbite.Congrats to WordPress Historian Jeff Chandler for taking on a new role at WP Engine.Part 2 with Corey Maass on Matt Report, Building Amazing Products. Next up!  Michelle Frechette ...

Listen