Automattic announced today that its WordAds advertising network is now available to self-hosted WordPress sites via Jetpack and the new AdControl plugin. WordAds, which bears a name confusingly similar to Google’s AdWords, delivers all the advertising seen on WordPress.com’s free sites. (Ad display on VIP or upgraded sites is opt-in.)
Self-hosted WordPress site owners who want to earn money with WordAds must first apply to join the network and are required to meet a minimum traffic requirement. Automattic doesn’t publish the exact minimum necessary for eligibility but the WordAds FAQ page says “a site generally needs thousands of page views each month.” The site will also need to have both Jetpack and the AdControl plugin installed.
“We’ve been working on the plugin off and on (mostly off) since mid 2014,” said Derek Springer, a Code Wrangler at Automattic who helped write the AdControl plugin. “We took a big pause to completely re-work the back end (WordAds 2.0) which is what we are now using all over WordPress.com.”
WordAds 2.0, unveiled in November 2015, integrated WordAds into WordPress.com’s main Settings interface with earnings reports and payout information. It also introduced a real time bidding environment where ad agencies and buyers can bid on global ad impressions.
In 2013, Automattic paid out around $1 million to WordAds publishers whose sites delivered 1 billion ad impressions per month. Published numbers are not yet available for 2015, but WordAds 2.0 has increased interest in the program, according to the announcement today. With the release of AdControl for self-hosted sites, the number of publishers available on the network has the potential to increase significantly.
Why Does AdControl Require Jetpack?
For years, the WordPress community has been waiting to see how Automattic will monetize Jetpack. In addition to giving self-hosted users access to many of WordPress.com’s features, Jetpack now serves as a gateway to Automattic’s advertising network for more than 1 million active installs.
I asked Springer why AdControl requires Jetpack and he cited the following reasons:
- We need the site’s unique ID (assigned to each Jetpack site) to track ad impressions in the back-end.
- We piggyback on Jetpack’s REST API connection to access some authenticated endpoints in the WP.com API.
- The payout/earning settings are all controlled via Calypso and we want a singular, unified experience.
WordAds is deeply tied into WordPress.com’s infrastructure and as such requires authentication for tracking and rewarding participating sites. Jetpack provides the connecting link and is now key to opening up the world of independently-hosted WordPress blogs to Automattic’s advertising network.