Paying For Ad Free

Not only has Michael Torbert taken some heat with the commercial version of All In One SEO Pro but I’ve also taken some myself thanks to the podcast advertisement and the banner in the sidebar. The biggest argument I hear from everyone is that it does exactly the same thing the free version does except it has no ads. So where is the value? Why is it worth paying for? The answer is easy. To remove the ads and donate link, the support is only part of the package. But I’ve been thinking, what is the difference between software that is ad-supported which provides an option to pay to have the ads removed and AIOSEP Pro? I did this with FeedDemon and the program is exactly the same before I paid to have the ads removed. I don’t see anyone lining up with pitchforks to go after them. If what FeedDemon does is acceptable, why is a WordPress plugin so different?

I think that the switch from being free to commercial is what has people in a fit but that’s just the nature of plugins this year. It’s his choice to make as it is for all plugin authors. There are two easy ways of solving this problem. Pay to have the ads removed or use the ad-supported version.

The other complaint I’ve heard is that the $39.00 (sale price) is a monthly fee. I can not verify if this is true but if it is, I would complain as well. I think that has to do with the system has setup and hopefully, they build in a way for plugin authors to be more flexible with the types of models/payments that can be received.


15 responses to “Paying For Ad Free”

  1. Well, there’s a slight difference, in that, with FeedDemon, you see ads (albeit, small ads) on the front end when using the program. Now, I use AISEO on my blog (we use one of the similar plugins at Mashable but not AISEO), but because I compose my blog entries in Mars Edit, I’m not sure if the ads are only on the AISEO settings page or if they are also on posts. If it’s just on the settings page — well, eh, it’s honestly not a huge thing to ignore. So paying $39 to simply remove that and also get higher level support doesn’t necessarily add-up in terms of the value equation.

    Also, actually, the pitchforks were quite strongly aimed at NewsGator, both when they went free the first time (two years ago) and non-ad supported (which pissed people who had just paid for the software off — I was pissed as I had JUST paid $35 or whatever it was for NetNewsWire and then they went free like literally 4 days later, and I had to wait two months for a refund or something) and when they moved back to having the pay to remove ad options (and you had people mad at both ends — the people who didn’t like having to pay to remove the ads and the people who were pissed that buying the program before it went free and ad-free still meant that they had to buy it again to get rid of ads — even if they had paid for like multi-years in the past). In my experience, people will ALWAYS bitch about any change or option to a premium model. Always.

    In AISEO’s case, Michael isn’t doing a good job to a) clarify the payment terms (is it monthly, yearly, optional, what) or to create more perceived value above and beyond ads in the dashboard. I think if he did that, the criticisms would be fewer and the confusion would be much, much lower.

    Regardless, people will always bitch about something have a free ad-supported and a non-ad free version. It’s just how it is.

  2. What is good about Michael Torbet’s approach is that it precisely targets the people to whom it is worth $39 to appear more professional to their clients (who might be alarmed to see ads in the dashboard of a website they’ve paid thousands for), without crippling the plugin for users who cannot afford to pay, including the many WordPress users in the developing world who often get forgotten when Americans discuss what is and is not affordable – talking about something being the same price as “a few coffees in Starbucks”, which seems to be the new American currency, is perverse when your userbase includes people in the communities that pick the coffee, getting paid LESS than the price of a Starbucks coffee for a hard day’s labor.

    If a Web Designer in Cupertino is using WP as a CMS for his corporate clients, paying $39 is a no-brainer. If, on the other hand, a teacher in Tanzania is running the website for his school, having to look at ads in the dashboard is fine, he will need that $39 for far more important things. I absolutely thank Michael for deciding to take this inclusive approach and I hope that more paid plugin authors will consider adopting it too.

    What really sucks, however, is that Michael has decided to throw in his lot with a deeply deceptive marketplace that, quite deliberately, does not make it clear that the listed price buys you only ONE download. Nowhere in their plugin listings is this made clear and customers will, of course, presume that updates are included in the price, because that is the way that more honest paid plugin companies such as GravityForms and AjaxEditComments do it.

    The irony is that, while lesser known plugin authors might feel they need the attention that a marketplace can bring, Michael has one of the most successful plugins of all time and could easily have handled sales from his own sites, using a more honest system that either includes updates or, at least, makes in clear that the customer will have to pay again and again.

    The owners of that dishonest marketplace have been extremely vocal about their right to sell plugins, whipping up 99% of the FUD that has been swirling about WordPress over the past year, but the reality is that they, themselves, with their deceptive approach, are doing more to undermine and sully the concept of paid plugins than anyone else.

  3. Jeff,

    The monthly fees and high prices of led me to create my own site for Ajax Edit Comments.

    When we thought of prices, we wanted something anybody could afford. It should be noted that most people who purchase the premium version of Ajax Edit Comments are outside the U.S.

    We got some flak for charging for what was once a free plugin, but then I point out that our prices are very reasonable ($10 a year and includes support and upgrades) and it usually shuts them up.

  4. I think Ronald’s approach is going to be more profitable in the longrun. The vast majority of WP users are never going to buy a paid plugin, at any price, but there is still a huge and growing market of people who will, if you do outstanding work and offer it at a reasonable price.

    With AjaxEditComments, Ronald is offering a genuinely useful plugin – making comments better increases the number of your users who will get into the habit of writing comments – at a very good price. Since purchasing a lifetime membership last month, I have been impressed with how active the development has been, with a feature I love hopefully making it into version 4.

    On the other end of the spectrum, the owner of Wpplugins has, as the owner for many years of a WPMU site selling expensive subscriptions mostly to universities and other large organizations, become accustomed to operating behind a very high pay-wall. The reasoning there was that most of the buyers were simply IT departments to whom price didn’t make any difference, it wasn’t coming out of their own pockets; sky-high pricing made a certain amount of sense in the WPMU world.

    In addressing the wider WordPress market with Wppplugins, however, he finds himself unable to charge high subscription fees in a straightforward, clearly stated manner – very few site owners would buy a plugin if they knew, in advance, that it was going to cost them almost a thousand dollars a year (remember, the $39 price for AIOSEO is a “special offer”, the actual monthly fee will be $69 per month, $828 per year!).

    So, in order to maintain the high profits they have become accustomed to, they have adopted the deceptive practise of not clearly stating that, unlike other paid plugins, their price does not include any updates. It’s pretty shabby but that’s what you’ve got to do if you want to truly ream your customers.

    Of course, the Wpplugins crew will no doubt turn up here, defending their pricing by saying that no-one is forcing customers to update, that they can simply buy the plugin once and keep using that version. The reality is that all plugins need occasional upgrades as security exploits are discovered and, in the case of a fast-moving arena such as SEO, features become redundant quite quickly and new considerations, such as canonical URLs emerge – just look at the release history of AIOSEO to see how regularly updates occur.

    The reason why the more honest approach adopted by Ronald at AjaxEditComments and the guys at GravityForms will ultimately be more successful, despite the fact that they are charging so much less and giving so much more, is that people simply don’t like the sort of shenanigans that Wpplugins are trying to pull. Their previous WPMU customers, mostly large organizations, may have been immune to high pricing, but at least they were told what they were getting into.

    Now, instead, with Wpplugins, you have a situation in which customers are slowly going to realize how little they got for the money they paid and, as they find themselves locked out of important upgrades, you’re going to start seeing a lot of resentment and anger expressed online. This price-gouging approach will probably earn them a lot of money in the short-term and, no doubt, it is easier to get major plugin authors to sign-up if you can dangle the carrot of hundreds of dollars per user per year in front of them, but the Internet hates con artists and you’re going to see a pretty big backlash once people realize what they are up to.

    That is why, quite rightly, the people behind Wpplugins are despised by the WordPress community but don’t make the mistake of confusing that with a hostility against paid plugins. Charging for plugins is, of course, a complex issue but we can all agree that there is a world of difference between trying to provide customers with a good service at a fair price and trying to hustle them.

    Companies such as AjaxEditComments and GravityForms are, through their honesty and hard work, making the case for paid plugins; shysters such as Wpplugins, despite all their propaganda, are destroying the market before it has even had a chance to establish itself. Advocates of paid plugins should have a long, hard think about what Wpplugins are doing.

  5. It would appear that wpplugins has a new pricing model. AIOSEOP costs $39 (special price; normally $69) to download, plus $3 per month for support and upgrades. That’s more reasonable than some of the numbers being speculated, and $3/month is pretty reasonable for support, but I still don’t agree with a monthly subscription for plugin updates.

    It also seems that over the weekend the free version of AIOSEOP hosted on finally got updated for feature/bugfix parity with the pro version. Prior to that, the version from December 2009 was still in the repository (including a critical, unfixed security vulnerability). If it hadn’t been updated, I would have started to question the conformance of the free version to the unwritten guidelines for free “upsell” plugins in the repository.

  6. @Chip

    Interesting, that is a very new development – I doubled checked while writing my comment and, at that time, just a few hours ago, they listed the “Download Price” as being $39, now they have changed it to “Plugin Price” and included entirely new support pricing.

    The numbers I quoted were not speculation, they were based on their listed prices and terms at the time; clearly, someone there sat down and figured out that the longterm viability of their marketplace and reputation would be damaged by the previous pricing bear-trap. Perhaps Jeff’s post made them realize which way the wind was blowing.

    So, now you have the basic purchase of plugins, at various prices, inclusive of 7 days access to upgrades and support, and a $3 per month for access after that, regardless of the price of the plugin. If you allow your subscription to lapse, you must purchase the plugin again at full price to regain access to upgrades and support.

    The $3 standard cost per plugin per month of upgrades and support causes some interesting anomalies – people will have to pay $36 per year to access upgrades for plugins that cost $1, $1.99, $2.99, $4.95, $5.99, $9.95 and $14.95.

    That oddness aside, however, this new pricing is clearly a lot better than what they were previously offering. The new structure is fair, clear and I would now consider buying plugins from them. I take back my comments about them being dishonest shysters, perhaps the previous $69 per month pricing was a mistake, oversight or miscalculation :)

    To deal with the anomaly of $3 per month support on $1 plugins and to encourage customers to purchase multiple plugins, it would be a good idea for them to introduce a “Prime” upgrades and support package for $79 per year, which would cover as many plugins as your wished to buy i.e. pay the $79 per year and you don’t have to pay $3 per month for each plugin.

    That idea is obviously inspired by the clever way in which Amazon Prime gets you to pay a lump sum of $79 per year for fast delivery on as many purchases as you want, naturally encouraging you to buy far more products at Amazon. That would make their marketplace really take off, as more customers would be persuaded to buy more plugins and, naturally, all this buying would encourage more plugin authors to place their plugins for sale there, making the set fee of $79 even better value and encouraging yet more sales, virtuous circle etc.

  7. Interestingly, Michael tweeted this about the price about 14 hrs ago:

    Get All in One SEO Pack – Pro Version + support for $3/mo while it’s cheap before the price goes up.

    I couldn’t find out what the price was going up to, or when, on the wpplugins site

    Also, I recall Michael talking about the available pricing options at wpplugins before, I think at weblogtoolscollection.

    As plugin developers, our hands are tied with the pricing structure. The way it’s set up, we set a price for exactly two things: 1) download price 2) download + subscription (for support and updates) price. I absolutely agree with you, I’m not a big fan of the current structure either, but for now that’s the way they have it.

    Interesting to see this come up again, and to see the radically different pricing at wpplugins

  8. @Chris

    I guess Michael, having already expressed his dissatisfaction with the old pricing structure, must have been one of the people pushing for this reform.

    I sure hope that the part that will be going back up in price isn’t the $3 monthly support, $69 per month would take their pricing right back into CloudCuckooLand.

  9. @donnacha – Actually, Miroslav mentioned the overall price as a problem earlier in the comments.

    I can’t see what the problem is though. Last I checked, it was very obvious from reading the listing that the cost was exorbitantly expensive and as Conorp said “If you don’t like the price, don’t buy it”.

    The pricing system is certainly obvious now:

    Plugin Price: $ 39.00 Support & Upgrades: $ 3.00 p/month


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