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WordPress.com’s Recurring Payments solution isn’t very good

One of the main reasons blogging giant WordPress.com is as big as they are, is their ease of use. Once you sign up for a blog, you don’t have to worry much. Hosting is taken care off, security is a non-issue and you can simply focus on your website.

WordPress.com also keeps adding new features for both paying and free users. But unfortunately, sometimes they create solutions that don’t quite solve your problem, because everything has to be oversimplified.

In case the title didn’t give it away, we are ranting about their “Recurring Payments” option. This new feature, which falls under their “Earn” model, promises to earn you money as it’ll allow you to create subscriptions for your content.

WP.com has approached this new feature like every other feature: to make it as simple as possible. As a result, the solution they came up with isn’t very good.

As a paying WordPress.com user, you can setup subscrriptions. Setting them up is fairly simple, but also incredibly lacking. You only need to provide a price and a description for the plan, and indicate whether it’s a yearly or annual plan.

And that’s exactly where the problems start. There’s no more detail to the plans, which means you can’t even add a description for your potential subscribers to explain to them what the plan is for.

If you use the “Recurring payments” Gutenburg block, this immediately becomes a problem. The block only allows you to set the color and text of a button, which then leads to a pop-up where users can subscribe. But what are they describing to? The pop-up doesn’t explain, because there’s no room for finesse or complexity in this feature. Just register already and we’ll worry about the details later!

What are subscribers signing up for, anyway? Another new block is the Premium Content block which is a block that does one of two things:

  • It tells users to subscribe
  • It shows the users the “Premium Content”

Below, you can see the Premium Content block in action. By all means, please don’t subscribe yet as we don’t see the added value of the feature.

Subscribe to get access

Premium members get access to all Premium content and get access to member-only features such as a mail list, free tech support and other things I am making up on the spot so you’d subscribe.

Simple in execution. Sort of.

By using the Premium Content block, you can add content to a post that only subscribed users can see. Which is as “simple” as adding blocks to the Premium Content block. Personally, I struggled with figuring out what content does or doesn’t belong to the “Premium” Content blog. We can thank Gutenberg for that, which only indicates where the block starts but not where it ends.

When editing content, you have no ide whether you are adding content to the existing block or not. You’ll only find out by clicking the Premium Content block and then look for the thin blue border. But you’ll have to find the Premium Content block first, because when it’s not highlighted you’ll need to find the first block inside and click that instead. Which makes for a fun, but unneccessary game of “block hunting”.

Paying for the privilege to get paid

We already mentioned that Premium Content and Recurring Payments are a, well… Premium Feature, which means that you need to pay for them to unlock them. It seems like WordPress has gotten a taste for charging people to make money. After all, you also need to have a paid plan to put advertisements on your website. Advertisements for which they get the majority of the pay-out. How very generous of them.

If you thought the price of the subscription would have you covered, you would be mistaken. You’ll still need to pay fixed fees to Automattic, for whatever unholy reason. This means that up to 8% of your heard earned money will go to WordPress.com instead of yourself.

“Aha,” you might be thinking. “Those are payment processor fees, you need to pay those anyway.”

Wrong.

These fees are to be paid on top of Stripe’s payment processor fees, which are 2,9% and $0,30 per transaction. It’s that grand? Let’s assume that you are using a WordPress Personal plan, and you are charging $10 per year to your consumers. How much of that money would you actually be pocketing yourself?

  • User pays $10 per year
  • 8% WordPress fee: €0.8 goes to WordPress.com
  • 2,9% of your $10 go to Stripe: That’s another €0,3 down the drain
  • Finally, you’re paying €0,3 to Stripe no matter the fee

You’d end up losing $1,4 or a whopping 14% to fees alone. And don’t forget that you are already paying WordPress.com in order to unlock the privilege to pay that 8% fee to them. If you feel like that’s not a lot when compared to other platforms, keep in mind what you are getting for that money. A Gutenberg block and a simple list of subscribers that subscribed to your blog, which you can’t underact with in any shape or form. Just amazing.

Categories: Various Articles