2.5 weeks since WP.com’s price revision

WordPress.com squandered the trust of bloggers it had accrued for almost a decade (approx. since the advent of their Calypso editor) with the decision to introduce the Pro plan the way it did. There were many proclamations – direct and indirect – in between, chiefly by Automattic CEO Matt Maullenweg, about how this trust was important to the company. Now I’ve got to think that the Pro plan rollout was a true reflection of how WordPress.com perceived the trust, and wonder how WordPress.com will treat hobby bloggers in future.

The most popular request in responses to WordPress.com’s post on its blog and CEO Dave Martin’s post in the forums is that WordPress.com needs to bring back its old plans (which the Pro plan replaced) quite simply because none of the users found them confusing. I tend to agree. Both Martin and Mullenweg have said that WordPress.com created the Pro plan because the old plans were confusing – but considering I’m yet to come across a WordPress.com blogger who feels the same way, I suspect this is something WordPress.com wanted to do to “score the investors a higher multiple”, but which “seems like a move that is incongruent with the mission statement and the strengths of the existing brand” (source). And once they made this decision, they retconned it by claiming that it was what bloggers wanted. I’m glad all the bloggers in the post comments and on the forum spoke up.

Third, there are some WordPress.com staff members who are periodically encouraging WordPress.com users to keep sharing their feedback as responses on the forum. The WordPress.com blog post also said that they’re listening to users’ feedback, implying that users should keep it coming. I found this heartening at first but now, almost three weeks since the abrupt price change, these calls seem disingenuous. How much feedback does WordPress.com really need to understand the extent to which it screwed up? If it’s a lot, then it would mean the company screwed up big time. (I think this might be a valid concern based on this line in Martin’s forum post {emphasis added}: “We plan to test adding monthly pricing back in, but we don’t have a specific date for this just yet.”) Surely it’s the responsibility of the top management to obviate such a tremendous need for feedback by anticipating what it is that its users want. This also makes me doubt the short surveys that used to appear on the WordPress.com dashboard and what the people running it took away from the responses.

It’s annoying that WordPress.com staff constantly ask for feedback to be given right now, instead of in the many, many years in which bloggers were happily publishing on the platform. This is exacerbated by the fact that none of the staff members are able to provide a deadline for changes to the Pro plan, which I can only take to mean that the company didn’t anticipate any of these changes.