Sponsored Posts and Some Premium Blog Changes

Just before I went on vacation WordPress.com popped up a little notification that said that they were going to soon begin injecting native sponsored posts into blogs that were gliding along on the free plan.

A megaphone to spread the alarm

That was certainly something I did not want.  But would it affect this blog?

Technically I was on a plan, so not a freeloader.  I had been grandfathered in for a few years on the old “no ads and allow me to edit CSS” plan, which ran for $30 a year.  However, so far as the WP.com UI and many features were concerned, I was on the “free” plan.  It said so  right in my main admin page.  And while they had continued to honor the no ads part of that plan… or I think they have been honoring, you don’t see ads if you’re logged into your own blog so I might not be the best judge… this seemed like something possibly outside the terms of that agreement.

I thought about chasing down somebody from WP.com to find out, but their “Happiness Engineers” and general happiest not answering direct questions and have occasionally been of the opinion that I am on the “free” plan as well, and thus not entitled to direct support.

That sounded tiring and I was getting ready to go on vacation for ten days, so I decided to just upgrade to one of their standard plans to be sure that the blog wouldn’t become an immediate cesspool while I was away.  My cynicism knows no bounds and I tend to be of the “hope for the best, prepare for the worst” persuasion on a good day.  Looking at the menu of options, I went for the Premium plan.

Premium features

I’m not actually a “freelancer,” as that would imply somebody would actually pay for my writing, but it did offer Google analytics integration, something the “personal” plan at half the price did not offer.

This, of course, bumps up the amount I play for the blog annually quite a bit, but fifteen years in this is clearly my primary hobby (as opposed to the games I play) so spending a bit more on it isn’t a big deal.  I had been thinking about that plan for a while, and almost pulled the trigger on it a couple of years back, but at the time they were really adamant that you had to sign up for a domain name to get that plan… it was part of the sign up process… and I have no interest in changing the URL of the site at this time.  I might have been okay with “tagn.blog” I suppose, but after fifteen years I felt like tinkering with the address would not end well.

Anyway, they changed the signup since then and you don’t have to get a domain name RIGHT FREAKING NOW so I went with it.  (They do keep pestering me about the domain name thing, but I can ignore that.)

So does everything feel “premium” now dear reader?

The first thing I did was setup the Google Analytics integration, so I will possibly be able to answer the question “how many regular readers do I really have?” finally.  There is a whole report section on user retention.  Expect more graphs for the 16th anniversary post, though I might skip the pie chart that shows 100% of my users access the site on the web.

Not a free thinker in the lot

I can now also accept payments.  I can put something up on the sidebar that lets you donate to the blog.  I am unlikely to do that, but I could if I wanted to.

I am also, somewhat ironically given much of the above, able to have ads on my blog… ads that will earn me money rather than it all going to WP.com.

I am half tempted to try this for a stretch, just to see how it goes.  Aywren did a Blaugust post about ads on your blog and you need to earn $100 before they’ll send you anything, but I am curious as to how well (or badly) that would play out.  With the premium plan there is simply an opt-in switch to turn them on.  I’d ask for some feedback before I did it, and promise I would never become somebody who gets angry about people visiting with an ad blocker turned on.

So that is what has changed here.  I suspect none of this is at all noticeable from reader side of the window.  And now I have the option of bugging WP.com Happiness Engineers directly via live chat.  We’ll see if that improves their historically poor responses.

4 thoughts on “Sponsored Posts and Some Premium Blog Changes

  1. Aywren Sojourner

    It took a while for WordAds to pay off for me – it depends on your traffic and the type of ads they run on your blog. You don’t have control over the ads or where they’re placed, but you can report inappropriate ads – though I’ve never seen one. There are obvious better paying ads – I get ads from FFXIV often and I assume those are higher paying – but I feel like it takes WordAds a bit of time to figure out your content and match it with well-performing ads.

    That being said, my payouts have been getting faster. For example, it took me 5 months to reach the above $100 threshold last time. This time, it’s taken me three months. This could be a fluke, but it’s hard to tell until I see long-time stats. I can say that since 2018, my blog has paid out a little over $500 (not including the upcoming payout), so it has certainly paid for itself. And that’s even with folks using ad blocks as I know they do (which is fine).

    Good luck if you decide to try it!


  2. bhagpuss

    I actually said in a comment somewhere not too long ago that I would pay a subscription to opt out of Google analytics. What was really anoying me about it was the monthly email report they kept sending me, which I found very hard to stop myself looking at and always felt worse after I’d done it than I’d been feeling up until then.

    I found out how to stop them sending me emails so I rescind my offer to pay them for not giving me a service. With predictable irony, however, I immediately regretted my decision because I’d forgotten I was just about to stop using incomprehensible fragments of lyrics from impossibly obscure songs for post titles and swap to simple descriptive declaratives and I am curious to see if it makes any difference to my page views.

    I do wonder how long Blogger will remain free. I know most bloggers seem to think WordPress is superior but I think that probably says more about the technical abilities of bloggers in this particular field than the suitabilty of the two platforms for a general user. Blogger pretty much does everything for you. How long it’s going to keep doing it for nothing, though, is another matter.

    I might conceivably accept having to have a few discreet ads but do think I would draw the line at having my entire blog replaced by “sponsored” posts. That seems exceptionally intrusive. Fingers crossed Google don’t any funny ideas.


  3. Telwyn

    Ooof, thanks for the heads up. That’s quite a red flag to me. I may have to finally pay for the blog hosting or change to a different platform. I really don’t like the idea of posts appearing on my blog without my control. Maybe there’ll be enough of a backlash that they’ll rethink the idea…


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