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Now WordPress.com Users Have To Bear With Ads In Subscription Emails

In 2011 when I started my blog at wordpress.com and with a free plan, I was fine with the idea that they would occasionally show ads to my readers, while I get free hosting in return, it looked like a win-win situation. I was fine with it because the ads were shown occasional and not on an excessive way, and also because I know that it costs money to offer a great service. I’ve been a loyal wordpress.com blogger ever since.

But more recently they introduced an additional feature. They now show ads in emails and there are different cases where this might happen. First case would be, you’re in the WordAds program and accept it because you want to monetize your site, that’s fine and your choice. The second case is more dramatic, because that is where you have no choice. That is the case if you are on a free plan. As said, previously it worked on a way that you got offered free hosting, while they would occasionally show ads on your site.

What changed for users on a free plan? Well, it all looks like they found out that many people still don’t see an incentive to go for a paid plan. They do for example offer the “No-Ads” feature if you go for a plan. Now they basically changed the terms for users with a free plan, because they will have to accept that three ads are shown to their readers via email, whenever a post is published. You did read that right, if you are on a free plan, they going to exploit your email or subscription list. They will basically spam your readers with ads in emails whenever you hit the publish button. Your notifications are exploited. And what makes it dramatic is the fact that you can’t opt out of it.

Not only will you have to deal with loyal readers that tell you how annoying these email ads are, it could very well happen that your readers click on any of the three ads before they even land on your site. Right, your website and email list is exploited by wordpress.com, because now with all the energy you put into your site, it’ll happen that your subscribers don’t even open your site because the click-bait title of any of those three ads sounded more interesting. What happened here? You lost control over your subscription list, they forward people to other sites.

And if that is not enough, there are the first reports from people who spotted ads that pointed directly to sites with scam schemes or dubious offers. Here we have the issue, you do now actively promote third-party sites, maybe even dubious site, no matter if you want to or not. Again, the thing is that you can’t opt out of it. This is why I think the word “exploiting” is justified. Yes, from now on wordpress.com is exploiting your email list if you are on a free plan. That was never the case but out of the sudden after 8 years I was using the service they come up with one of the worst forms of ads.

Generally, ads in emails are seen as spam. Ask ten people and you will most likely hear ten people telling you it’s spam. This type of marketing should die as pop-ups died at some point. It’s way too blatant, and it’s especially dramatic if you have no control over it or if you can’t even opt out.

Guys, I don’t like to be that guy but to protect us from that type of damage I must do it. There is no way they will stop doing this unless we tell them what we think about this. And yes, it might even happen that they don’t even care if we do. But I personally believe that there are times where we have to raise our voice no matter if it helps or not. We can’t just accept things with closed eyes or shut ears. So, if you are on a free plan as well and if you don’t like this spammy practice that they exploit your subscription emails with ads, we need to do something.

Currently I see different ways how we can represent our opinion…

  • Contact the wordpress.com support about this issue and give them your negative feedback about the feature.
  • Plug into the thread I started and tell them why you don’t like it.
  • Comment under the related blog post about the ads feature on the WordAds site and tell them why you don’t like it.
  • Share my post or write your own posts about the topic to inform people about this change, because some might not know about it.

There are things that are acceptable but spamming my readers with ads in emails is definitely border-crossing. In fact it’s exploitation of all the energy we did put into our sites. I am not against the feature, but I want to be able to opt out without extra costs. Because previously free plan users didn’t have to accept ads in email subscriptions. So, if you think the same way, I’d suggest to tell them your constructive opinion.

I contacted Automattic founder and CEO Matt Mullenweg about the issue as well, but I regret to have to say that I didn’t get a reply. If you are concerned about the change, you might want to retweet this as well…

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9 Comments »

  1. At the moment, I think everyone is very upset with their new — and incredibly buggy — formatting application. It’s a stupid application for the kind of blog you and I have which is personal. But it’s evil for big blogs like mine with 8400 posts and 776,000 views. Big blogs with huge databases do not take kindly to completely altering the formatting. It affects not only what I write today, but it makes all my previous material look funky. And so much of it is just plain BROKEN.

    They did fix me and send me back to classic, completely deleting Gutenberg. But I had to find them and BEG and point out that while I would find that format overkill and annoying, at least two of the people who write on my site — Ellin and Garry — won’t ever figure it out. These are the people who don’t know the difference between a browser and “The Computer.”

    I’m hoping (they are thinking about it) they set it up as a choice: Classic or the new one. As for getting spammed, it’s not going to change. Greed is the new god and I guess they don’t feel they are making ENOUGH money. A lot isn’t enough. They want ALL of it. All the money in the world.

    • For me the classic editor still works with this GreaseMonkey script: https://diaryofdennis.com/2015/03/24/how-to-force-a-redirect-to-the-classic-wordpress-com-editor-interface/

      I wonder what happened that it doesn’t work for you anymore?

      I never clicked on the Gutenberg button, because I knew it can’t be anything good. The classic experience is all what I need. I could imagine when you click on the Gutenberg suggestion, they might store a cookie or cache it on a way that you will always be directed to it, unless you clear your cache and cookies I assume. But I am not sure about that since I never tested Gutenberg.

      Yes, you’re right… I think we all agree that we’re absolutely fine with it if they do business, because for a long time they offered a great service. But the borderline between making good business and becoming an absolutely greedy corporation is very small. Today it’s not enough anymore to make decent profits, it’s all about maximizing profits to the point that the customer is completely milked out, or to the point that the offered service suffers heavily. Over the recent years it seems that wordpress has chosen that way too, I agree.

  2. I have self-hosted my WordPress for almost 12 years now. Never liked the idea of readers seeing random ads on my website. Either way, you pay. In the case of WordPress.com with your privacy and your readers’ privacy. The $5/month for hosting is well worth the cost.

    I don’t understand why you are upset at Automatic. You are getting a free ice-cream and complaining about the flavour and the size of the scoop.

    • I am since 2011 on wordpress.com, I don’t like it if they out of a sudden change conditions. Ads shouldn’t be in my emails, and if they are, I am going to fight back with articles against it, complain all over the forum and what not. I am not someone who says “Yes and amen” to anything just to keep peace. I didn’t complain about ads on my site, I’m just complain about the ads in the mails. They make enough money with random ads on my site. If you believe I will accept everything that corporations do, you’re wrong. My reasons are well explained in the article.

      • I guess the botoom line is they will only change if doing so will benefit them. Corporations exists to make money. If the money from doing this action dries up they may change it. If they can make money regardless of your complaints,they will do so. You’ll have to make a choice then.

        • And my experience is they will change if enough people complain. Been part of way too many “shitstorms” to know how important the own voice is, because it works. Sometimes it doesn’t but often it does. To me it doesn’t matter if it works or not, I’ve been raised up with the philosophy that it’s worth it express your opinions. The reason why so many things work in this world is that so many people are still “Yay sayers” even if they get ripped off. But that’s changing because younger people are less likely to accept anything at any time. Which is great. WordPress had to cave in several times because the community concerns about previous stupid decisions were way too strong. It’s always worth it to be honest.

    • By the way, the ice-cream did cost $26 per year for 8 years straight… and it was not for free because they showed ads on my site which was fine. I accepted these conditions from the beginning. A win/win situation. But now the conditions are changed. With this change, that they spamming my readers with ads in mails, to get ad free the ice-cream would cost $48 per year. If you like almost 100% price increases, that’s fine. I don’t.

      $5 a month is for low traffic sites. I’d get kicked out of the contract in no time due to traffic spikes and due to taking way too much bandwidth of the shared host. Suggesting someone who is blogging 8 years straight to go hosting on a cheapo shared host, is kinda funny. There are tons of reasons why some people prefer wordpress.com over cheapo shared host. And one is ultra fast cloud hosting without any traffic limitations.

        • I respect that. But we are different. I broke my addiction with always saying yes to anything at any time and it was relieving because it’s actually a way to become part of changes. I have difficulties to lose the impression that you didn’t understand my article. By mentioning the “will to pay” you’re basically implying that I don’t pay for things but I do, even here at wordpress.com but how can you know as Digital Ocean customer. I also find it kinda interesting that you spend so much time to convince me to pay more than previously, while not being a wordpress.com user yourself. That makes me wonder why you are so emotional invested in this.

          Don’t get me wrong. I like discussions about things but you mentioned it: If it has value to you. But the reality is that value is something every individual defines differently. Which is why these discussions could continue infinitely without getting to a consent.

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