February, 3. Was a special and somewhat unusual day for all WordPress.com users, for they could read the following on the news page:
“Stand out from the Crowd with a Premium Theme”
Apparently, Automattic network and one of its brands – WordPress decided to offer premium WordPress themes to a community that got used to the idea of not seeing the “$” sign anywhere when choosing themes for blogs. Naturally, everybody got excited and didn’t know what to expect from this unique offer. All sorts of reactions were to be expected after this had been announced, and there were (a few positive and some negative), but if you want to understand how and why this happened, you’ve got to do a little bit of digging.
WooThemes and Automattic – Friendship
If you’ve already heard about Automattic and WordPress, then you’ve probably heard about WooThemes, a company that develops premium WordPress themes. This isn’t the first time these two do business together. The first time it happened was when WooThemes developers made the WooNav, which is a custom navigation menu for their WordPress platform. It was so intelligently designed that Automattic decided to implement it as one of the core features in its new 3.0 version of WordPress.
This was considered as something that would bring the world of WordPress pillars and world of independent WordPress developers closer together, and it really was. Everyone could see that hours spent in developing WordPress were valued and appreciated by the official WordPress body. But this wasn’t just a friendly exchange of knowledge (which rarely is, in a business world). There was something more going on and soon enough these two companies along with the ThemeFoundry gathered for a premium theme joint venture.
Premium Themes on WordPress.com
At the moment, there are two premium themes to choose from – Headlines from WooThemes and TheThemeFoundry’s Shelf. They are going to set you back $45 or $68 ,respectively, and can also be purchased via their makers’ websites where they cost exactly the same. Sure, you’re entitled to a private customer support forum on WordPress.com, but how’s that any different or better than support you get directly from WooThemes or TheThemeFoundry. Further more, they stated that these are not “per user” prices but “per blog”, which means that the themes can be used on a single site only and there are no plans for multiple licenses at this time. Basically they are not giving you the choice of moving your theme if, for some reason you’d want to someday, and you cannot use it on more than one blog if you have multiple blogs running. It seems Automattic hasn’t spent too much time figuring this one out.
As for raising bars on creating premium themes goes, I don’t think so. This means nothing more than – “Hey, Automattic, WooThemes and ThemeFoundry are about to make some extra money by joining forces!”, and to show gratitude and excitement over this business deal, Automattic wrote the following:
“…and, thank you to our WordPress.com community for helping the Automattic network reach the mark of 500 million unique visitors per month. We couldn’t do it without you!”
And why wouldn’t they be thanking you. After all, the value your content brings to the community is in fact on a domain that belongs to Automattic, so all the juice is theirs, and –
Who do you think premium themes you’re about to buy will belong to?