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…
Dennis (@Follow_Dennis) November 10, 2018