‘Native Sponsored Posts’? – it’s time to leave WordPress

So…Wordpress is ramping up its long term plan of monetising our content. First it was those shitty ads taking up valuable real estate on everyone’s blog page, now we’ll be hosting full length infomercials in place of our own blog posts:

‘WordPress.com has begun testing Sponsored Posts on free WordPress.com sites. These sponsored posts promote WordPress.com content, other Automattic products, and brands for the purpose of driving traffic and sales for users and advertisers.
For now, you may see these Sponsored Posts running on your sites as we expand testing. To remove Sponsored Posts from your site, upgrade to any paid WordPress.com plan which comes with many more benefits including the ability to use your own custom domain!
In the longer term, we hope to offer Sponsored Posts to our users as a way to help drive traffic and promote content discovery.

https://wordpress.com/support/native-sponsored-posts/#example

How it will be done is hidden behind opaque words like ‘testing’. Will our blog posts be replaced once a day? Once a week? At random so we never know when to post important marketing posts of our own?

And what happens when we want to post something new?

Will our new posts replace the obnoxious shit placed there by Automatic? Or will we have to wait for the cuckoo to run its course before we can post again?

And what of the content? Once WordPress start offering this new ‘service’ to paying customers, we could find ourselves hosting absolutely anything on our blogs.

Remember when paid ads first started appearing on our sites? I found a delightful adv. for some kind of porn site on my blog. This is the pic that went with it:

https://acflory.wordpress.com/2018/02/14/wordpress-do-you-know-what-your-blog-really-looks-like-to-visitors/

But at least that advert had no naked bits, and people knew it was a paid commercial. Once our actual posts are replaced by someone else’s paid content, I could wake up to find that Meeka’s Mind has hosted an infomercial for a porn site complete with full on visuals!

Automatic says I can complain and ‘ask’ for objectionable content to be taken off, but the damage will already have been done. Not only will that kind of awful content be on my blog, notifications about it will have been sent to all my followers, exactly as if I had posted a new article. Exactly as if I’d sponsored that content.

That scares me most of all. I’ve put nine years of my life into this blog. To have it, and my reputation, abused like that would be unbearable.

Yes, I could probably scrape together a monthly fee to be saved from this blatant ditigal blackmail, but as more and more of us pay to escape having our blogs hijacked, the price will go up. That’s how this marketplace works; corporations charge whatever the market will allow – i.e. whatever us poor saps are prepared to pay.

I simply can’t afford to pay that kind of protection money to Automatic out of my pension.

There’s also something else. WordPress would be nothing without our content. It’s like a digital shopping mall that offers us somewhere to create and display our ‘goods’. Take those goods away and you’re left with a great big empty building. Or maybe it won’t be empty. Maybe your blog will be surrounded by porn sites and 2 dollar shops. I’m moving mine before that happens and I waste more of my life on WordPress.

If I must pay to retain control of my blog, my brand and my content, then I’d rather pay a company with some integrity. And if that company abuses my trust, I’ll move on again. It’s called ‘churning’, and it’s the commercial equivalent of voting with your wallet. It is a lot of work, but it’s the only way we consumers have of forcing corporations to actually compete for our business. Given that these corporations are big enough to buy and sell small countries, I feel no guilt at punishing them when they abuse my trust.

I’ve been blogging with WordPress.com for nine years, but I won’t be here for the tenth. The price of free has become too high.

Meeks

About acflory

I am the kind of person who always has to know why things are the way they are so my interests range from genetics and biology to politics and what makes people tick. For fun I play online mmorpgs, read, listen to a music, dance when I get the chance and landscape my rather large block. Work is writing. When a story I am working on is going well I'm on cloud nine. On bad days I go out and dig big holes... View all posts by acflory

71 responses to “‘Native Sponsored Posts’? – it’s time to leave WordPress

  • roughwighting

    You are right to protest and thank you for saying what many of us feel. That said, I gave up several years ago and paid so that my site on WordPress does not show ads and now it won’t show this other awful stuff that you tell us about here. I guess they call this capitalism? I call it a big fat shame.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      lol – welcome? I have a feeling WordPress is edging towards doing away with free altogether, but I’m not sure what the company’s rationale is. Apparently the actual software is open source. That’s why if you self host using wordpress.org, it’s completely free and is often provided as the default by the hosting company. So who is Automatic? How come they can monetise open source software? Or are they simply charging for hosting as WordPress.com is a cloud based platform?
      These are some of the things I’ve been finding out, but they just seem to lead to more questions. :/

      Liked by 1 person

  • cedar51

    wordpress – decided I wanted a “new banner” which in a way is funny because the current banner was one of their generic ones – which I adopted when I deleted most of the posts back to 2011 when I first began…
    I’ll stay with them until, I can take it no more…not that my blog is actually VIP it’s just snippets of my life and living in New Zealand.

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      Meh…the frustrations mount up. This is my second go at leaving WordPress, but I’m going to make it stick this time because the thought of having my /posts/ hijacked is just too much. It’s the straw that broke the camel’s back type thing.

      Liked by 2 people

  • Widdershins

    Well, well … WordPress fucking with things again … who’d’a thunk! 😦 … am looking forward to your take on alternatives. You are our ‘Angel who goes where happiness engineers fear to tread’! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  • marianallen

    I guess I’d better take down my old weblahg. No telling what’s going on there that I don’t know about. Or I might upgrade. My current blog is self-hosted on MMD Hosting, so I don’t have to worry about that. Wherever you go, I’ll be there!

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Yeah, I hate being so dependent on something I don’t control, but it’s always been the community aspect of WordPress that was its biggest asset. I’m not going to make a snap decision this time though. Stay tuned. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • marianallen

        I popped over and upgraded at $48/year to remove the ads. I guess they have to make money one way or the other. Hard to stomach; I remember when the community cry was, “The internet wants to be free!”

        Liked by 1 person

        • acflory

          Hah…yeah. I guess we should all have remembered that there are no free lunches. I guess it would have felt ‘better’ if there had been ads right from the start. What I can’t work out is why they bother with ads at all. I mean…people either block them up front or completely ignore them when they are visible. They don’t work. Then again, I guess that’s why they think they have to spy on us via the ad networks – if they show us what we’re looking for, the ads are more likely to work. Or not. :/

          Liked by 1 person

          • marianallen

            And they can blackmail us by telling us we can’t see the content unless we unblock the ads.

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            lol – that would cut their noses off to spite their faces! That’s my issue with medium – they make readers pay to see the so called ‘best’ content’. On the other hand, the writers who produce that ‘best’ content are actually paid a small amount when their articles are read/viewed, not sure which. I honestly don’t know how you strike an equitable balance.

            Liked by 1 person

  • MELewis

    Sorry to hear you’re considering leaving WP, Meeks. I have no stake in this game other than enjoying your blog and continuing to like the platform in which I’ve also invested for many years. To be fair, I do have a paid site (as a freelance writer it’s a reasonable business expense…). That said, my experience with Automattic has generally been quite positive. Although they are a business, whose goal is obviously to make $$, they are one of the few platforms that hasn’t made the algorithm impossibly sneaky so I can still see my own posts and those of others I enjoy in the Reader, based on chronological order. Also in terms of support they are very good. No other blogging site that I’m aware of is nearly as good. I dislike Medium as I find it snooty. Blogger and many of the others seem second rate. I find that people often throw out the baby with the bathwater. Friends are now fleeing WhatsApp for fear of having their data ‘sold’ to Facebook. But the the fact is that our social platforms are big businesses run for profit. Until we have non-profit alternative in the spirit of which the WWW was first created (which I for one would support!), we will be doomed to deal with these money-making ‘innovations’.

    Liked by 3 people

    • acflory

      You’re right, Mel, but it seems as if the tech giants have become so greedy, they want their cake, and our cake, and they want to eat it all. What I mean is that they ALL mine us for data, whether we pay or not. Just read the privacy statement of every large commercial site online and you’ll see exactly how they ignore our rights. Then they sell off that data to the ad networks. So they’re ‘double dipping’.
      As for WordPress, they’re not sneaky, they’ve become blatant, so sure are they that they have the upper hand.
      I don’t know how the WWW will ever become the platform it was meant to be unless we demand it. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  • DawnGillDesigns

    I have to say that I’ve never had any ads pop up on any of the blogs I read using WP reader within my browser (that’s pretty much how I access all the blogs I follow) I don’t know if that’s a location thing, or something else. Because I work from home, and rarely have any downtime waiting outside of home, I don’t use my mobile for blogs, as I don’t have enough time to kill away from my laptop.
    I don’t pay WP anything at all. I do, however have a WiX site, which I pay for, so I can have a shop outside of Etsy, and I didn’t find it as straightforward to operate as WP, nor very transparent. I’ve had to add extra bits to what I thought was supposed to be a complete package.

    Liked by 1 person

    • acflory

      Hmm…you started me thinking there so I went and checked some blogs just now and I couldn’t find any ads either, not in the Reader and not when you ‘visit’ the site either. I wonder what the heck they’ve done with them?
      I came across WiX last time I was looking for a new home so I might check it out again. Don’t want to run a shop but it might be something I’d consider somewhere down the track. Will pick your brains a bit later, if that’s ok?

      Liked by 1 person

      • DawnGillDesigns

        of course. email me or dm, whichever works for you. the ‘reviews/comments’ tab on my site is a premium app that I had to add on as – can you believe it- there is no review option available within WiX shops. Didn’t find that out til I’d paid for the full 3 years. The rest of the site is made from standard templates they have, with a small bit of embedded html or something for the link to make the WP blog work within the page – you can import all bog content just the once, and it doesn’t then update with new posts. There’s also a very spotty time lag when interacting with people. Feel free to use mine to test out how it would feel as a ‘member’ if you wanted to do that. x

        Liked by 1 person

        • acflory

          Thanks Dawn. Speaking of the member thing – I wasn’t quite sure what it entailed when I read some stuff yesterday. Also, when I go to your ‘site’ it’s on WiX with the WP blog kind of embedded in it?

          Liked by 1 person

          • DawnGillDesigns

            exactly. I bought a Wix package, and then after discovering the importing of the blog was a one off thing, I embedded this blog within a page on the Wix site. It automatically built a members area for me, but I don’t really want or need one, so I ‘hid’ all the member forum pages.

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            I actually need a new blogging platform so that wouldn’t be an issue for me. I am, however, intrigued by the idea that WiX provides the structure for a forum. Leaving comments on people’s blogs is much the same so now I’m wondering why they call it a forum? Do ‘members’ have to sign in each time they want to comment/chat?

            Liked by 1 person

          • DawnGillDesigns

            I don’t know about the signing in. I couldn’t face the thought of having to moderate something rather than spending the time with my file or blowtorch!!! I have lots of places I sign up to that would be ideal for this – so if I were doing a subscription box, or classes / tutorials it would be wonderful, but as I really just want a glorified shop at present, it’s not so useful for me – but I might grow into it; who knows!

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            Hmm…clearly I’m going to have to do my homework on this one, but tutorials could be right up my alley, so to speak. 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  • tidalscribe

    Yes this is scary and a good reminder that our lovingly prepared pristine blogs do not look like that to readers by the time ads are inserted.

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      Dawn commented about how she hadn’t seen any ads on sites she looks at via the Reader and I just checked as well – just a couple of people I follow at random: no ads. It could be that I simply tried two sites that were paid not free. Or it could be that something else is going on as I can’t imagine WP foisting foreign /posts/ on us while they leave us ad-free. 😦 Will investigate some more.

      Liked by 1 person

  • cagedunn

    Time to investigate the other options, I think, because I can’t pay those fees either, but I’d rather have nothing than the blast of inappropriate advertising that’s bigger than my headline/main page content.

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      I agree, Cage, but Dawn has brought something strange to my attention – she can’t see ads on any of the sites she visits. I just had a look at a couple myself and couldn’t see any ads either. Have you see any lately? This is a mystery I’d like to solve as it makes no sense.

      Liked by 2 people

      • cagedunn

        I see small ads when I go through the reader, I see different ads and sometimes none when I go through a (what are those things like Hootsuite called?), but when I go to read from the normal search platform, lots of ads. Usually. The paid sites, as in they don’t have wordpress as part of the URL, don’t seem to have ads.
        I also think it’s different for each country, but can’t provide any evidence for that hypothesis.

        Liked by 1 person

        • acflory

          I suspect it may change according to who has adblockers activated as well. I had a look at your site just now and couldn’t see any ads at all, but that was via Duckduckgo and Opera. Don’t have any other browsers so…-shrug- …it’s odd.

          Liked by 1 person

          • cagedunn

            It’s very odd, but I’m sure it’s an auto-run based on collected data – ‘display this when’ (if-then-else) type algorithms.

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            Hmm…that would make sense but I also know that Firefox has some kind of adblocker coz I’ve been asked by at least one site to turn it off. As I didn’t even know it was there, I have to assume it’s standard for the level of security I’ve set up on Firefox. I really don’t know, but better the devil I can see than the one I can’t see.

            Liked by 1 person

  • daleleelife101.blog

    Ah ’tis a shame… I wonder if it will be like youtube, the reader will have to view the advert content for x period before proceeding to the real thing. Sigh. I moved over to a paid plan, because I like the WordPress platform, have quite an attachment to my blog/community and was quite happy to exchange $ for that and no ads. For me it’s worth it.

    Liked by 5 people

    • acflory

      I love the WordPress community too, but money’s become progressively tighter and paying for something that only stops the ads is not something I can afford. I’d rather give a small donation once a year to Wikipedia and The Guardian. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  • CarolCooks2

    What is the world coming to? I moved to a paid plan a while ago now I need more storage etc and I liked what I get for what I pay however I will not be happy if I think I am being fleeced…I suppose nothing is really free in this world…I look forward to your findings, Meeks have a lovely week 🙂 x

    Liked by 4 people

    • tidalscribe

      I have been thinking for a good while of changing to the paid site – keep waiting till my brain feels up to it and wondering how easy/difficult it will be.

      Liked by 2 people

      • CarolCooks2

        I first moved to a self hosted site but I am not a techie minded person at all and it caused a lot of problems I just didn’t want to deal with so after about 9 months I opted for a WP paid site and I am much happier if I have any problems they deal with it immediately I never have waited more than 5 mins for a response…I pay for my own domain name and I can monetise if I wish but so far haven’t for me that was the best option…x

        Liked by 3 people

        • acflory

          So does that mean you’re with WordPress.org or WordPress.com? To be honest the actual differences between the two have always left me scratching my head.

          Like

          • CarolCooks2

            wordpress. com…. I think the wp. org refers to self hosted which I tried but worked out too expensive for me and I could see it escalating I also don’t have the technical knowledge you do and in honesty I don’t wish to if I was younger it would be different.. I just want to write trouble free… at a reasonable cost.. x

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            Ah okay. I’ve been doing some research today and the difference between the .org and .com versions is as confusing as all hell. Btw I know what you mean about self-hosted websites. I made one years ago and it was a /lot/ of work. All I’ve kept from it is the domain name and my email address!

            Like

          • CarolCooks2

            Yes… It can get confusing I am on the premium plan and at $8 a month I am happy with that.. Plus what I pay for my domain name which is very little just over a $1 broken down to a month… x

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            I was tempted once or twice in the past, when money was less tight, but as I already own and pay for two domain names [I’ve had them for over 10 years] none of the offerings really felt like value for money. Still don’t, to be honest. If they gave us something of real value, instead of the negative ‘don’t get ads’, I might have been a paying customer. Now, I’m too stubborn. 😀

            Like

          • CarolCooks2

            It will be interesting to see if any of the other platforms follow suit.. x

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            There aren’t that many straight blogging platforms around. That’s what I discovered when I went looking. Perhaps that’s why WP feels it can pull these tactics on us.

            Like

          • CarolCooks2

            Yes I think it has the edge on many for its ease of use and the fact it has a robust system and I suppose the way they look at it is how far and for how long can we expect free.. Its a pretty good free package when you weigh it up x

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            Yes, for a free package it’s been excellent. I guess we’re slowly finding out how much that free really costs.

            Like

    • acflory

      I think we have to accept that we’re being fleeced by the big tech companies all the time. The question is by how much. They are essentially unregulated, so they are doing pretty much what they please. I guess we all come to crunch time at our own pace. For me, this was the line in the sand. I’ll definitely let you all know what I find out. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  • Audrey Driscoll

    Ha! I knew those gross ads for fungal nail cures and almost-porny sites were intended to make the paid plan enticing. It worked; I paid. This new development will likely include a bigger bill for staying ad free. I’ll be interested in what you discover.

    Liked by 4 people

  • dumbestblogger

    Ugh. I don’t like that. I’ll be interested to hear what you decide to do.

    Liked by 2 people

    • acflory

      I guess your comment was inevitable given the tags I put in my post, but I really don’t want to look at your blog. It’s yours, you can do whatever you like with it, but that shouldn’t include being able to advertise on /my/ blog. And therein lies the problem. Freedom of speech or expression only refers to what you can say in your own space. It does not refer to what you can say or do in mine. That infringes on /my/ freedom of speech and expression.

      That said, thank you for highlighting the consequence that Automatic wants to ignore.

      Liked by 5 people

  • Bill Ziegler

    Thanks for the heads up, acflory. I am hoping that this is a trial balloon that drops from the sky instantly and lands with a thud. Some years ago, I converted to a paid site because the ads have only become more grating. Aargh!

    Liked by 3 people

    • acflory

      Hi Bill, and thanks for commenting. Automatic has consistently made changes that bloggers hate, and as they not-so-subtly pointed out, they can do with the free version of WordPress whatever they like. I just hope this is a step too far, even for them. 😦

      Liked by 1 person

  • Matthew Wright

    Ouch! I guess there is always a point where a corporate makes the transition from ‘lawful neutral’ to ‘evil’, and as they say – if it’s free, you’re the product. I’ve put up with adverts on my blog because I spend my online budget on supporting my website. I’ll definitely have to review that if they start hijacking my blog with content of their own. It had better be well-labelled – my good name is associated with my blog and they will need to be very careful to make sure to state their content is neither authorised nor controlled by me. I already have enough trouble with idiots putting words in my mouth through maliciously mis-reading my books. Sigh… I suppose I’ll have to move to the paid product, or give up blogging altogether.

    Liked by 4 people

    • acflory

      WordPress may be the largest blogging platform at the moment, but it definitely isn’t the only one. I’ve already got a Medium publication [that I’ve neglected] so I may move all my content there, or I may investigate other, more traditional blogging platforms such as Wix. I know it’s pay-to-use, but as I said in my post, I’ve lost faith with WordPress so I’ll keep looking until I find a platform I can trust again.

      In the coming weeks I’ll post about what I find – cost, pros and most definitely cons.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Matthew Wright

        Thanks – will look forward to reading those posts! My issue is that I have thousands of followers & gain more daily via wordpress.com – I’d be throwing them away, and the convenience of freely commenting without having to log in every time – if I went elsewhere. I am sure Automattic are well aware of the point, of course, when planning how to monetise their users. On the other hand, the intrusion of foreign content inside one’s carefully crafted brand is, as we’ve been discussing, not to be taken lightly – starting again might be the best answer.

        Liked by 4 people

        • acflory

          Yes, access is /the/ big issue. I quite like Medium but when that company decided to monetise it brought in a membership system that works in tandem with payment for content providers. Providers that are part of the payment system have their content placed behind a kind of porous ‘firewall’. Paid ‘members’ can read as much of this content as they want. Non members only get 3 free articles per month. Of course there are a lot of content providers who aren’t part of the system, but /their/ content is less likely to be promoted therefore less likely to be seen.

          It’s a decent compromise in some ways, but I can’t expect my community to pay to read my stuff so I need a freely accessible blog as well. Plus I’m not sure whether my articles will still be found by the search engines once I ‘move’. At the moment I only get a tiny portion of my traffic from the WordPress Reader. Most comes from the search engines.
          I’m going to take my time until I find a solution that will be /better/ than what I have at the moment.

          Liked by 1 person

      • JCee

        i’m so glad to find this discussion. Thank you. I have just set up the clock on WP. I decided to use a nickname until I see how things are here. I am a children’s book author, with my Author site on Wix. I chose WP because I could set it up, using my iPad. You can easily blog from WIX, but the initial set up Hass to be done on a computer. WP has been very user-friendly with voiceover. however, this information is alarming. Hmm to be continued. I will have to look into this. Thank you so much for your post and conversation.☺️

        Liked by 1 person

        • acflory

          Welcome, JC and please! let me pick you brains. I’m still researching various blogging platforms but I keep coming back to WIX. I have no problem with setup but I wonder about reach – is the WIX blog easy for non WIX users to access?

          Liked by 1 person

          • JCee

            First… How do I edit my above post? I listened to it, before I hit reply… But somehow I did not catch the word clock instead of blog. 🙃
            I have not had any difficulty with Wix non-member engagement. Right now, my brain is stuck on the error in my post. 🥲Can you help with that?

            and… You can pick my brain all you’d like. I will be sure to use the keyboard to respond or put on my headset . Dictation works best when using an external mic.☺️

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            I’m afraid you can’t edit the actual comment JC. Once you send that’s it, it’s gone. What I tend to do is reply to my own comment with a correction. It doesn’t negate the original error but it shows that I’m aware of it. 🙂

            My question about WIX non-member engagement was prompted by my fear that existing WordPress friends would find it too hard to interact with me if/when I more.

            Like

          • JCee

            I have not used the chat on my blog. Although I am not an expert on this, I “think” that when a follower joins your blog, you are able to set up a live chat.

            WordPress responded to the inquiry about editing a post on someone’s blog. They recommended that I contact the owner, you, and ask if you would either make the change or delete the post. Have you ever tried to edit someone’s post? There could be +/-‘s for such abilities.

            Hope you are having a stressfree Sat. ☺️

            Liked by 1 person

          • acflory

            Oh…no, I’ve never edited anyone’s comment. To be honest I didn’t even know it was possible. I mean, block yes, delete yes, but I’d hate to think that someone could change what I’ve said into something else. The danger of misrepresenting the intent would be huge. Not sure I like that ability.

            And yes, thank you! I had a good night’s sleep and wrote over 1000 words this morning. It’s turning into a great Sunday [our timezone is ahead of yours]. 🙂

            Like

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