In a paper on “Moving From Personal to Organisational Use of the Social Web” (which I summarised in a blog post) I suggested that the early adopters of blogs hosted in the Cloud have established best practices which could be emulated by their peers: and, in this might involve providing professional blogs in the Cloud rather than on an institutional platform. After all, I suggested, in light of cuts, is it desirable to use in-house effort to install and maintain services when equivalent alternatives are freely available in the Cloud?
But can we put a price on the cost of such services? Looking at the prices charged by WordPress.com to implement additional facilities on an out-sourced blog might help to inform such discussions.
WordPress provide information on additional charges for use of its free service to:
Add a Domain: “The Domain Mapping Upgrade allows you to use a custom domain name, such as example.com, instead of a standard WordPress.com domain name—like example.wordpress.com—for your blog. Domain name registration plus domain mapping costs $17.00 ($12.00 for mapping, $5 for registration) per year, per domain.“
VideoPress: “The VideoPress upgrade allows you to host and play beautiful HD video right from your WordPress.com blog. VideoPress supports many filetypes and codecs. Your blog comes with 3 gigabytes of space. To get even more room to upload videos and other media, purchase the Space Upgrade.” The cost is $59.97 per year.
Custom CSS: “The CSS Upgrade allows you to use your own CSS code to customize the appearance of your blog. CSS allows you to change fonts, colors, borders, backgrounds, and even the layout of the blog.
With the CSS Upgrade, you’ll be able to take any of our 80+ themes and give it a little bit of style, or completely overhaul the design.” The cost is $14.97 per year.
Space Upgrades: “If you find yourself running out of space for your media files, it’s easy to add more storage to your blog. You can add 5, 15, 25, 50, or even 100 gigabytes to your blog, so you’ll have all the room you need to host tons of photos, docs, and music.” The cost ranges from $19.97 for 5 Gb through to $289.97 for 100 Gb per year.
No-ads: “We sometimes display discreet advertisements on your blog—this keeps free features free! The ad code tries very hard not to intrude on your design or show ads to logged-in readers, which means only a very small percentage of your page views will actually contain ads. To eliminate ads on your blog entirely this is the upgrade you want.” The cost is $29.97 per year.
Unlimited Private Users: “The Unlimited Private Users upgrade is available to all WordPress.com blogs that have been set to private by their owners or administrators. The maximum number of users that can be added to a private blog is 35. If you would like a larger private community, you can purchase the upgrade to add as many as you like!“. The cost is $29.97 per year.
Offsite redirect: “Do you want to move away from WordPress.com to your own self-hosted WordPress installation without losing SEO ranking and breaking links? This upgrade redirects your wordpress.com blog to your new blog by performing permanent (301) redirects for all of your content.” The cost is $12 per year.
These prices do seem very reasonable, especially when you consider what a WordPress.com user gets for free. For example no additional extras have had to be purchased for this blog. I have used 2.5 MB filespace for the 470 objects in the media library of the 3.0 GB free allowance. Although I have published over 840 posts I still have 98.9% of the free space allocation unused! So if you wish to argue that the costs might be extortionate if thousand of users have to pay them I would suggest that the free service is likely to be adequate for the majority of users.
A constraint of using WordPress.com is that you have no control over the plugins which are available. There are a whole host of WordPress plugins which can be used to extend the functionality and appearance of WordPress blogs. However since these would have to be installed by a WordPress administrator I can’t help but feel that the range of offerings might be constrained by institutional policies which will be influenced by resource implications, security issues, interoperability issues, need for testing, etc.
I can’t help but feel that whilst those who want the maximum flexibility will look to host and manage a blog on their own domain, for the majority of blog users a WordPress.com blog will provide a cost-effective and satisfactory solution. And will in-house blogs be sustainable if we see reduced levels of technical resources available in IT Service and Web Service departments? I’d be interested in hearing what people think.