Last month I was surprised by a message that popped up when I posted an article: “You have no shares remaining – please upgrade your Jetpack plan”. Well that was… unexpected! Jetpack are now asking $10 a month for the privilege of lifting those limits, but that doesn’t get you every service they have to offer. For that, you’ll have to pay upwards of $50 LOL
It’s quite the story, let me tell you what I’ve found out!
Jetpack was always available as a free service, with the option for us to throw some cash at the company. While some of it will undoubtedly support WordPress, Jetpack has always had a commercial focus, supported by being allowed to track whatever you’re doing with WordPress. It’s the Google way really, and I’ve never had an issue with it. Jetpack makes running a blog very convenient for us users.
Last month they have started to impose limits on their free tier for sharing posts to connected social platforms, for the first time since this feature was introduced around 10 years ago. They did so without a heads up or any communication to us users, other than the “pay now” pop-up in the back end. I understand that it’s a service, and as such it’ll cost something to make it happen. It’s less about the price and more about the principle of telling your users about this change. Having been a decade long user, I would expect a bit of heads up on such developments.
To lift those limits, Jetpack want us to invest $10 a month for 1000 shares per site. If you run multiple blogs like I do, we’re looking at $10 per website. Tragically, this does not give us access to all Jetpack features, just the social service. That’s a terrible price tag, considering other services such as Buffer allow unlimited sharing for free with no strings attached.
While the free tier does come with “30 free shares” per month, it may need a little classification: one “share” is counted by external platform, not by blog post. So if you have 4 services connected, you can share about 7 posts in a month, or ditch some connections like the ones that never get any traffic (I’m looking at you, Tumblr and Facebook).
Furthermore, the sharing functionality has been split out into its own plugin, but again nobody mentioned this to any of their users. Even if you have Jetpack installed, the sharing option may simply appear removed until you add that gorforsaken plugin manually. What makes this worse is that I’m “over the free limit” on one of my sites, and that limit doesn’t seem to reset. Needless to say, the community isn’t exactly happy about this change.
Jetpack have a host of other services, like video hosting, backup and malware scanning, SEO optimisations and many others, each of which can be purchased monthly or annually individually, or as part of the “complete” package for a whopping $50 a month. This price tag is insane for most casual users.
Don’t get me wrong, websites are very important for independent content creators like me. You do not want to rely on “free services” like Medium or YouTube to host your content forever, as they could pull the plug on you at any time. Being in charge of where your content lives is vital to the freedom of the internet.
Also, websites can and do create cash, which is the reason for the myriads of trashy ads that litter most websites we surf, including mine. Ads actively destroy our content formatting, but they give us a bit of pocket money to offset the hosting bills. I can see Jetpack’s reasoning for saying “hey we need a chunk of that cash, as we make this possible”. I’m included to agree if (and only if) said website made $500 a month, then perhaps 10% isn’t such a bad deal to keep your site safe and secure. Most websites don’t make that much though, and that’s why I feel the price is too high.
Doesn’t that strategy remind you of sleazy “protection racket” tactics we hear so much about? A little bit like subtle blackmail perhaps? Or at least scaremongery, along the lines of “Can you afford NOT to subscribe, Buster?”
I’m on the fence here. Jetpack do deserve some cash for what they do, but the way they go about asking for it isn’t on, and neither is the price tag. They know how much traffic each website gets, and they can tell how much traffic is generated from social shares. I’d like to see this being taken into account for the price, so they can charge a percentage according to projected income instead. In my case, my social shares do not generate any traffic for any of my sites. They make it a little more convenient to notify people when I write a post, and then Google does the heavy lifting – not Jetpack.
Besides, Jetpack’s social sharing options are pretty much non-existent: I cannot specify a teaser thumbnail, let alone pick a different one per service I use. Buffer on the other hand can do this, and they’re not asking for cash – yet I’m prepared to pay them because they’re a great service, and I want to support that.
So for now, I’m OK with limits and may even ditch Jetpack altogether. It used to be an essential tool many years ago, but the world has changed over the last decade and we users – once again – do things a little differently in 2023. The tools we use for tasks need to evolve with our tasks, or we’ll find new tools. If Jetpack and/or WordPress doesn’t evolve with us, there are plenty of other fish in the sea that can help.