Bloggers See Red Over New WordPress Fees
Remember the furore when WordPress introduced the block editor a couple of years ago?. I know it upset many of you book bloggers who were perfectly happy with the old classic editor and hated the changes.
The latest announcement from WordPress is causing even more of a stir.
Whether you have a free plan or a paid plan, you’re going to be impacted by changes to the WordPress fees and conditions for hosting your blog site.. Maybe not immediately but there are signals of further changes at some point in the future.
Until recently WordPress offered users five different plans for hosting their blog — one free plan and four paid plans.
The free plan was perfectly adequate for bloggers who didn’t want or need whistles and bells. If you were willing to put up with the WP adverts appearing on your site and the inability to use plug ins, then the free plan was a simple solution.
Bloggers who wanted something beyond the basics (like more storage space for media or a domain name that didn’t include the words “wordpress”) could scale up via the four paid plans. Each gave different benefits like the amount of storage space or ability to host videos.
In their “wisdom” WordPress bosses have now decided that this charging scheme was way too difficult. So they’ve scrapped it and now offer just two options: Free Plan or Pro Plan. Details of what is included in each plan can be found here.
WordPress say that “With the Free plan you’ll still be able to get the word out, create a beautiful site, and take advantage of the fastest WordPress managed hosting on the planet. “
This is the stripped down version. Most of the features remain the same as the old free plan — no ability to remove adverts or WordPress branding; no options to add plug ins; limited number of design themes; no automated back ups of your site and no customer support .
What’s new is the storage capacity: it’s reduced from 3GB to 1GB. More on this later…
WordPress describe this as “The very best of managed WordPress hosting in a single, affordable plan at just $15/month (paid annually).”
Essentially you get all the benefits of the previous Business Plan including: unlimited plug ins; premium design themes; advanced SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) tools; built in social media tools and ad free. At $180 it’s cheaper than the $300 Business Plan and you get a whopping 50GB of storage space.
What’s Not To Like?
As you’d expect the announcement was wrapped around with statements about how much WordPress has listened to its customers and how much customers will benefit from the changes.
But that’s not the case for all customers.
The new paid plan is certainly cheaper than the Business Plan but more expensive than the Personal Plan (annual cost $48) or the Premium Plan ($96 per year). But now everyone who wants just a little more flexibility than the free plan has no option other than forking out $120 for the Pro Plan.
As many bloggers have pointed out in the WordPress forum, they don’t actually want or need all the whistles and bells that are bundled in with the Pro Plan. For example, users of the Personal Plan just wanted some additional storage space (6GB); some personalisation options such as a custom domain and the ability to remove WordPress.com ads.
But all these customers will now either have to pay up or go back to the stripped down version.
Everyone who had a custom domain name will have to go back to a generic name. So http://www.bookertalk.com for example would become http://www.bookchat,wordpress.com.
They’ll also lose a significant amount of storage space which is not good news for any blogger who uses a lot of images on their site.
More Confusion Ahead
There was a big emphasis in this announcement about wanting to make life simpler for WordPress customers (the company clearly doesn’t think its customers are clever enough to choose between five options).
But having opted for a simpler, streamlined charging model, they’re going to complicate it by adding in specific services that you can buy to add to your chosen plan. Their blog announcement says:
- Additional storage will be available for purchase at a very reasonable price, very soon.
- As-you-need them add-ons for both plans, to give you a la carte upgrades. Coming soon.
So far from wanting to keep things simple, what they’re actually doing is unbundling some services and then giving you the option to add them back in again (at a price). I’m not clear how that squares up with their statement that “It’s important that we keep things simple, honest, and clear in everything we do.”
How Will This Affect You?
According to the announcement, if you have a free plan, nothing will change. Any new subscribers will just get 1GB of storage space but you get to keep your 3GB allocation. Whether that will continue to be so, time will tell because on the WP forum, responses by the staff are couched in such a way that there is no guarantee the 3GB will stay.
WordPress has already had to change the details of the free plan — initially each blog site was given an allowance of just 0.5GB and there was a cap placed number of visitors. Within days that had changed to 1GB and the cap on visitors was removed. WordPress explained the change as a bug that had to be fixed. But my suspicions are that the change was influenced by a backlash from current users. It wouldn’t surprise me if, once the dust has settled down, there will be a further change.
What about those of you with a paid plan?
The WordPress announcement on this says “nothing will change unless you want it to.” Which suggests that if you have a Personal or a Premium plan you’ll continue paying at the current rate. Which probably doesn’t sound too big a deal.
The problem comes when that plan comes up for renewal . You won’t be able to just continue with those plans because they are no longer being offered.
So your only option will be to downgrade to the Free Plan or upgrade to the Pro Plan.
Should you choose to downgrade you’ll drop to 1GB of storage space. Not a problem if you well under that threshold anyway but if you’re over it then this is what WordPress says will happen:
If a site uses more than 3GB of storage space and switches to a free plan, some of its content, including photos, will be removed because it does not have enough space.
So you’ll lose images from your media library and they’ll no longer show up on pages and posts you’ve already published— visitors to your site will just see an empty box.
There’s one category of user that is already being penalised by the new system: those of use who have a Business Plan. My subscription was renewed just a couple of weeks before the changes so I paid $300. Under the new scheme, I can get all the same benefits via the Pro Plan, for $120 less. But WordPress never advised me of that and if I hadn’t seen Ola and Piotrek’s blog post I’d have continued paying over the odds.
A short exchange using the WordPress chat option and I was moved to the lower price contract and immediately got a refund for the difference. But I shouldn’t have been put in this position — as a customer of 10 years standing I would have expected WordPress to contact me to advise me of the changes (easily done since they have my email address and they are after all in the business of communications.)
What Can You/Should You Do Now?
Numerous dissatisfied users have signalled their intention to look for an alternative blogging platform like Blogger or Wix because of the new WordPress fees and the cack-handed way the change has been handled.
You may decide it’s not worth the hassle involved in switching and learning a new platform or that you don’t want to risk losing followers if you jump ship.
If you decide to stay with WordPress, here’s what I suggest you do:
- If you have a business plan, get in touch with WordPress immediately to enquire about switching to the Pro Plan . You might get pushback under the terms of their Refund Policy but it’s worth asking.
- For those of you will a Personal or Premium Plan, contact WordPress and ask what happens when your plan is due for renewal. Will you automatically be moved to the Pro Plan?
- Make sure your account settings do not automatically renew your contact each year.
- If you decide that on your next renewal date, you’ll move from a paid plan to a free plan, keep a close eye on how much of your storage limit you’ve used. If it’s under 3GB you won’t have any cause for alarm. If you’re likely to be over that, then start doing a clean up of your image library. You can check out my earlier post on how to manage your media library.
Sorry if this post has sent you into a spin but thought you’d want to know what’s going on. If I hear anything further I’ll keep you posted.
85 thoughts on “Bloggers See Red Over New WordPress Fees”
thank you, karen
I had not seen this news Karen – and I missed your post as I was travelling when you posted it. It was a comment by Lisa that drew my attention to it, and finally I’ve found time to look for your post. I would have got here eventually as my practice these ays is to do little blitzes on favourite bloggers because I just can’t keep up.
Anyhow, I currently have the cheapest personal plan because I just wanted to get rid of the ads and felt it was fair enough to pay for that option. $180, while it is nearly 4 x times that cost, is not an horrendous amount to pay, and I guess you can go free if you want to. (I pay for my domain name separately, so I could go back to free and keep paying for my domain name. which is a very small amount pa.) Anyhow, I think we somehow expect a lot of nothing on the internet, partly because in the early days, when it was largely an experimental thing, that’s how it worked. We go used to free journalism etc etc.
I have just renewed my plan in February so I will probably go with the $180 option. Broken down per month, the whole is now a bit over 3 x coffees a month, versus just under 1. Yes, it’s another cost, but it’s a service I am using. Of course, I realise I can afford it, but this is a business we are dealing with not a social service?
BUT, the communication has clearly been poor, and that’s not good. And, it would be good if the HELP service were easier to use and get satisfaction from. When you pay more (as clearly many of us will, you expect better service ice, where that’s fair or not!) I have had them genuinely try to solve some problems, but with not great success.
I like your equation in terms of cups of coffee – that does put it into perspective. True that we shouldn’t expect services to be free; the issue here though isn’t that they are charging. It’s that their fee structure doesn’t make a lot of sense when you consider that WP said they wanted to make the structure simpler, yet they are already talking about adding optional services
The monthly charge is pushing it, the same could buy decent quality managed hosting for a WordPress.org site at a third party hosting company. I don’t think this will help WotdPress compete with its rivals.
Some other bloggers who have gone down the third party hosting route have made a similar point Bill. I’ve been tempted but am not sure how much technical stuff I would have to deal with
Yes, that’s my concern. I don’t want to have to bother with the extra technical stuff that I feel I’d be responsible for. I’m prepared to pay for something simpler, if that makes sense. BUT if you loved tinkering technically, clearly it makes that option more appealing. BTW We do have a WordPress self-hosted blog for travel, which my husband manages (I just do the writing), and he said it’s about $300 per month. But I’m guessing there’s a whole lot of variations here depending on who you are with and, well, I don’t know what because I’m not interested.
The price does depend on the hosting company you use and what services you want. I don’t have the bandwidth to tackle that right now
Thanks for the info. Very well done and informative. It’s rather dreadful. I have six blogs U use for various things, including business and only free plans plus domain name and one personal plan. I won’t be able to pay for six pro plans. Or rather – not willing. The block editor was bad enough.
Perfectly understandable Caroline, the total cost would be hard to swallow. We’re waiting to hear the details of the bolt ons that WP has said will be available -right now its not clear if that will include domain names. If they do, then the free plan plus domain name add on might be the way for you to go
Yes, I think so. I’ll contact them. I have one upgrade that gives me the possibility to chat with them and I’ve had very good experiences in the past. Thanks again for your helpful post.
Good luck Caroline
Thank you. I’ll let you know how it went.
Yes, good point from Caroline, I do administer two group WP blogs, but they are very low key with usually one post, one image a month, so keeping them free and to 1Gb, is unlikely to be a problem in the short to medium term. If we lose book cover images on them (which is mostly what they are) that won’t kill us either. But I can see that for someone managing multiple busy blogs this change is problematical.
As long as you keep your image file size small, you shouldn’t have a problem – there are various tools around that enable you to shrink the file size before you upload to WP library
Many thanks for this very informative post.
Glad you found it helpful
Wow, this sounds frustrating! I’m making a note to upgrade my account once my current plan expires. I wish companies wouldn’t jerk people around like this.
I don’t know when your plan is due to renew but a couple of weeks before that date, take a look at the prices WP is indicating – they may have announced their bolt on packages by then which would make it more cost effective to have a free plan with extras, than to go for the full Pro plan
Thanks for this – Had seen none of it and am pretty cross because it’s really not been communicated to me anywhere! I am on a free plan and only pay annually to have ads removed. Maybe I will be ok as a legacy plan but it all sounds very confusing…
Exactly, the lack of communication is not helping to sell the idea at all. In an effort to supposedly simplify things they’ve ended up making it even more complicated
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Thanks for this Karen, I was totally unaware of these changes. I’m on the ‘Blogger’ option at £27 per year plus £19.10 for domain registration to remove wordpress. If I’m honest the latter is probably a waste of money as I suspect it matters not a jot to most people but makes it easier for me to remember. My renewal has just gone through so I guess I’ve got a year to think about my options. My blog is very heavily image based so going back to a free site is a non starter. They’ve already started adding ALL images to the media gallery which didn’t happen previously – it depended on the size. I currently have 6GB storage of which I’ve used 28.6% over 5 years but this is now being eaten into quicker. If we could keep our existing storage capacity I’d take it on the chin and go back to free, but that won’t happen. Ah well, we’ll see what’s going to happen. In the meantime I’ve turned off auto-renew.
There must be something strange going on with the media library because Rosie also left a comment that images are being added that she hasn’t done personally.
They are images that we have posted to the blog post that are now automatically being added to the media gallery thereby eating into the storage space. Previously it would only add larger images in addition to the ones that had been directly uploaded.
Does your plan enable you to get help via the Chat facility? You’ll find it bottom right of your screen as a large ?
Hi Karen, I’ve looked back over the media gallery to pinpoint when it started happening and I’ve emailed support. Given what you revealed about the new pricing plans I suspect this is a deliberate change to eat into storage quicker meaning users will need a higher capacity (& as a result have to upgrade).
Let me know what response you get Jill, there are other bloggers who will be deeply interested to discover if they will encounter the same issue
Hi Karen, I had no joy in actually getting an explanation as to why things changed. I tried several times and each time was given a solution to the problem rather that an answer as to why my previous working methods had changed. At least going forward I have a solution. I had been adding images using a simple cut and paste which didn’t add the image to the media gallery. However, as Rosie had also discovered, they now were which which was eating into the storage. Anyway the answer is to add the image via the URL option (video explains how) https://d.pr/v/Stb8Fh this doesn’t guarantee a permanent image but it solves my initial problem. I’ve also been looking into the fees issue and in theory those of us that already have a WordPress account or have recently renewed are deemed to have a legacy plan. This means we retain our existing features and we don’t have to move to the new plan once ours comes up for renewal. How long that might last remains to be seen as I can’t see that happening indefinitely. I think it just kicks the inevitable a bit further down the road.
Thanks for sharing the guidance on the right way to add an image Jill. I suspect if you do a copy and paste, the image comes across in the same size as it is on the site where you copied it and that could be very big. So creating a problem further. I’m trying to access that video but it’s having a problem loading
Hi Karen not sure why it’s not loading as the link from the comment works for me when I click on it from your page. You do need to click on it once it’s linked to start the video. Essentially though, all it does is to show you how to add an image using it’s URL rather than linking to an image.
This was another link they sent if this works https://d.pr/i/1UC2jb
Got it to work finally. I suppose the benefit of adding via a url is that the original stays in the place where it was located initially (on some other website) so isn’t using up your media storage quota
The only problem I foresee though is if the original changes. We have no control over the original.
Yes that’s certainly something that could prove a problem – if the url of the site where the original image came from gets changed then your link is broken and your picture will not appear
I’m slow catching up on comments Jill but I see that you’ve now been given a solution even if its not an explanation
Yes, well… hm… my plan is supposed to come up for renewal on November 1, so… I guess I’ll wait until then, but I will probably go pro and pay double what I’m paying now.
They should have announced the optional extras by then so you could take a view at that point whether you need the full Pro version or could go with the free version with some top ups.
To be honest, the price for the Pro version isn’t all that horrible for me, so I might go with the path of least resistance!
It wil prove cheaper for me so I’m going for it too.
Very useful post, Karen. Thanks
As I read it, the changes apply to new WordPress accounts opened after March 31, 2022. Existing users can stay on the legacy plan. I cannot even find Canadian pricing for the new options on my site. Either way, I have a full year to find out what happens because I just renewed. I imagine that the lack of a mid-range option may lose some users and they may have to tweak things. Remember when they swore the Classic Editor was going? It’s still there, you just have to know how to find it. I’ve considered switching to WordPress.org, but there are disadvantages and the costs are not much lower than what I pay for Premium right now. So I’ll wait and see.
If you renewed within the last 14 days you could try and get moved to a cheaper plan (which is what I did)
Yes its the lack of the mid range option that is one of the annoyances – people having to pay a lot more for services they don’t need.
I renewed my existing Premium plan (paid March 7) before this change was announced. It’s good until April 2023. Hopefully beyond.
Keeping my fingers crossed for you…
This is so irritating. I have two WordPress blogs. One is self-hosted so that won’t be affected. The other is the archive of my old blog that I had wanted to leave with WP.com for simplicity’s sake. The only features I need are the custom domain name, and no ads. I’m not sure about storage capacity, I’d have to check (thanks for the heads up). The personal plan fee was tolerable, but I definitely do not want to triple what I’m paying for an archive site. So now I have to look into other options.
I imagine Business users will find out through the grapevine soon that they can save by switching. But you’re right, you should have been notified. One does long for a touch of humanity in the tech world but it is all about the money. I don’t think that is going to change any time soon.
Custom domain name, and no ads may be offered as optional extras – and the cost could work out cheaper than the Pro plan. If its an archive site, maybe you don’t need to worry too much about the no ads aspect and could bring the cost down further
Yes that is dispensable but the domain name has to stay. Otherwise old links will not work.
Of course – I hadn’t thought about the effect on links if the domain name changes. That would be a lot of work to fix
Basically impossible! I had thought I could use a redirect, but it didn’t work because my URL had https on it. Anyway, I messaged WP and I got the response that actually I can renew my old plan. This surprised me but maybe they are really making is possible for “legacy” customers to stay as they are, at least for now.
As an update — WordPress confirms you cannot add on a custom domain name with a free plan, even for an extra fee. However, I was told that I can renew my Personal plan at the current rate of $4/month. I was sent a direct link to do this. Not sure how long that offer will stand, but at least it could give me one more year.
Well that is interesting. We don’t yet know what the optional extras will be because they haven’t been announced so I wonder whether the answer you were given means a) they don’t plan to offer custom domain name as an extra or b)they are telling you the current status where this is not an option. I’ll watch out for any further announcements Lory and let you know.
At least it was worth you asking so that you got the discounted deal.
They might offer extras only for the paid plan not the free plan? I think the answer was for the future plans, not just now. Yes I’m glad I asked about the renewal, I think I’ll keep it for another year and then decide if I want to go self hosted.
Well the mention of the extras was in a paragraph about the free plan so it looks like that’s going to be an option.
Not the domain name though it seems. Unless my customer service rep was wrong, I am not sure I trust her.
I’m not surprised, I have noticed that recently they were adding photos to my media library every time I copied and pasted a photo. It began using up my media storage rapidly. It didn’t used to happen. Everyone around the world, it seems, is hiking up fees to claw back money losses from the last two years.
You mean copied a photo already used in one post, and pasting it into another?
Hi Rosie, I had the same issue and contacted WP about it. They suggested adding the images via URL rather than cut and paste (as I was doing too). Here’s the video https://d.pr/v/Stb8Fh
I have tried the URL option occasionally over the years. But there is the issue as you say of the image disappearing from that URL. Probably if you choose Wikipedia images (those you have the rights to use), their URLs will probably be stable.
True, Wikipedia images would tend to have more longevity
It’s the reason I went for self-hosting WP as price is lower than WP plan with self-hosting and I like that I get money through AdSense which is not possible with any WP plans.
I’ve contemplated self-hosting many times but didn’t go for it in the end because I thought it would involve more work, especially if there were technical glitches
setting up is only a bit of work and some hosting companies offer the help with migration with extra money but once it’s done there doesn’t seem to be any issue. I’m having good experience in this one year of self-hosted site and also got $20 through adsense. I didn’t get a penny with WP plans.
Would you be interested in doing a guest blog post on how you made the move to self hosted, what the pitfalls/benefits are?
I have made rough notes on the topic as I was thinking to write post on it but it needs lot of work. I haven’t written a guest post so far and I would like to try it. I mihgt have time next month to actually write that post. How about I email you once it is ready and see how it looks and if it need edits for you to publish?
Good to hear you are willing to do this, your plan sounds a good one.
Well, it is a pain, but I’ve long thought that this sort of change was inevitable. The whole Block thing was about making it easier for people to monetise and sell things from their sites. It was nothing to do with improving the product.
WP — like all the other tech innovations — starts out free and then the creators want some reward for the work they’ve done, and they want to recoup the costs of staff they employ and their storage costs.
What we see as cack-handed is just the way young tekkies operate. They think it’s a good idea. They understand it straightaway. They don’t see any problems with it. They love upgrading things to ‘make them better’. And they assume that everyone else thinks the way they do. Oh yes, and they do not understand text as a primary form of communication as in writing! That is soooo last century! LOL we are stuck with that unless we invest a whole lot of time in their playground, when we would rather do our own thing.
It’s going to cost me $156 more annually so I might be adding one of those ‘donate to my site’ things to help cover the costs.
They do seem to be heading more towards serving people who want a website for transactional purposes (selling products/services) than serving people who just want a publishing platform. I don’t have an issue with them trying to recoup their costs – it’s the way they are going about it that bugs me. You get two choices that are at the extreme ends of the range – either free but very basic, or full on and costing $180. Nothing in the middle….
Before you renew your plan, it will be worth taking a look at the bolt ons they are promising, one of those could suit your needs and would be cheaper than upgrading to the full Pro plan. So for example, if the only thing that the free plan doesn’t give you is the ability to have a customised domain name, there could be a bolt on for that.
Yes, I expect there will be more info about that in due course.
I’ll let you know when the announcement comes out about the next stage
I am using their free plan and I can’t afford to pay monthly since I don’t have an income of my own. I blog but I am not good; no matter, thank you for sharing! And I am sorry.
You’ll still be able to use the free plan
I used WordPress.org for my blog, but my blog is hosted by BlueHost, so I THINK these changes won’t affect me, although I hadn’t heard about them before reading your post. I guess I should look into it and compare costs. I keep renewing year to year with BlueHost, but I don’t have automatic renewal set up.
yes well worth spending the time to dig around for info Laurie. Also worth pushing WP for answers
The changes only apply to wordpress.com blogs. I have one of each kind. The fees you pay for .org hosting depend on your host (Bluehost in your case), not on WordPress.com.
Thanks Lory for the clarification – I should have made this clear in the post.
Thanks, Lori! That’s what I figured, but I wasn’t sure. I wonder if WP hosting would be cheaper for what I use, though…
Whoa, that sucks. I’m on the cheapest paid plan (for removal of ads) and I don’t really want to invest more, but at this rate, I’m too deep in this platform to change. I especially prefer WordPress.COM for the Reader, as it’s how I found your post too. Hm, this is a pickle indeed. Anyway, thanks for this post!
I think a lot of us are in the same predicament Stuart where we have been so many years on WordPress that to change would be vey disruptive. WP is signalling that there will some optional extras that can be purchased so you may find that the ad free option becomes available though we don’t know what the cost will be yet
And to think I had to find out from a fellow blogger and not WP itself.
Exactly – not good customer relations is it
Thanks for this info, Karen. Just one thing – if all people want is no ads, currently with a free plan you can pay £25 per annum (I think – it might be £30) to get rid of ads. Hopefully that will stay as one of their optional buys. They just billed me for it a couple of weeks ago, so presumably that means it’ll remain for at least a year. It will be interesting to see how much they intend to charge for additional storage and if that will also be available as an option for free plans.
That might have been the case up until the changes so if you just got billed then you’re ok for a year. In future it looks as if they will offer this as a bolt on to the free plan but we don’t know what the cost will be
Thanks for the info Karen!