Blogging was super hot in about 2005. Today, we’re in the post-blog era where everybody’s doing YouTube videos and podcasts. But I still maintain that if you have thoughts, ideas, or stories to tell, if you are working on a creative project or have one in mind, then you should start a blog to showcase your work and share it with the world. And I still recommend WordPress.com as the place to start your blog.
But I’m less excited about WordPress.com for new bloggers than I used to be, for two reasons. First, the free WordPress.com plan now drops pesky, low-quality ads all through your posts. Second, WordPress has evolved toward being a Web site builder, which has had the consequence of making it more complicated for a blogger to learn the tool.
A brand new blog with its low traffic sits at the very bottom of the barrel for targeted ads of the type WordPress.com shows. That blog’s tiny audience just won’t attract major advertisers, or even advertising that has anything to do with your blog’s topics. You get lousy ads like these:
Oh, for the grand days of the free Internet — free meaning both gratis and libre — gratis in that you could sign up for a free blog, and libre in that you could say anything you wanted on it. Libre is still with us, but only when you own the space you’re communicating in — and having your own WordPress site accomplishes that. The Internet has never truly been gratis, however. Servers and storage cost money. In the past, companies absorbed those costs, frequently causing them to operate at loss. That was never going to last. Internet companies had to figure out how to make money.
Advertising has been the main way most Internet companies have monetized their products. Still, I can’t imagine WordPress.com makes real money from ads on its free blogs. New blogs don’t attract large audiences, which leads to low-quality and low-paying ads. It takes time and work to build a blog audience. By the time you have a decent-sized audience and can attract better-paying advertisers, you’ve outgrown the free WordPress.com offering anyway.
I support WordPress’s other way of making money: paid plans that unlock ever greater functionality and storage. The least-expensive paid plan, Personal, costs $48 annually. It removes those weird ads, increases your storage space from 3 to 6 GB, and gives you access to WordPress.com support.
This blog is on the WordPress.com Business plan, which costs $300 each year. It lets me extensively customize my site, turning it into a full e-commerce destination if I want to. It also offers 200 GB of storage.
WordPress.com, stop showing ads on your free blogs. They’re intrusive, crappy ads that harm the reader’s experience and give both that blog and WordPress.com itself the appearance of being low value.
WordPress as Web site builder
WordPress was born during the days when blogging was new and fresh. It was a purpose-built blogging tool, and it offered flexibility and functionality that its competitors couldn’t match. This led WordPress to become the engine behind at least 25 percent of all Web sites.
To continue to grow as a business, WordPress has pivoted its business away from being only a blogging platform to being a Web site builder. They completely rebuilt the back end — the editor that bloggers use to write posts.
Before, creating a blog post was much like writing a document in a word processor like Microsoft Word. That made the learning curve fairly shallow for new bloggers.
That editor is gone. The editor that replaced it does not work like a word processor; rather, it has created a unique usage model for creating content. Personally, I love it. It offers a great deal more power and flexibility than the previous editor. However, I work in the software industry and am far more technical than the average person. I take to new software easily. I am not so sure that the average blogger will find it quite as easy to learn because they can’t easily transfer know-how they already have to be productive quickly.
WordPress would do well to allow the old editor to continue to function, and allow bloggers to switch to it if they want.