Newsletter Glue closes free plugin at WordPress.org – WP Tavern
The creators of Newsletter Glue have pulled their free plugin from WordPress.org in favor of the commercial version. The plugin streamlines the publishing workflow for newsletter authors who also publish on their WordPress sites. It includes blocks and templates for email templates and subscriber forms. Five months ago, the plugin’s authors warned users that they would shut down the free version and no longer update it from May 1, but the removal process has been delayed until today.
Co-founder Lesley Sim announcement closing the plugin on Twitter and shared some valuable lessons for WordPress product companies looking to use WordPress.org as their primary distribution channel.
“We made a bunch of noob mistakes in how we set up free vs. paid,” Sim said. “Which made the client upgrade flow a little weird. I think it could have worked. We just didn’t configure it properly, and it just doesn’t make sense to fix it.
At the time of closing, the free Newsletter Glue plugin had around 200 active installs, which seems low for a growing commercial plugin. This is because the free version was uninstalled when a user upgraded to the pro version. So it was never a good representation of how many people were using the product. Sim said that Newsletter Glue was not growing the free user base and “it was just sitting there like a dead tree stump”. The company hadn’t updated it in over a year.
“We foolishly set it up such that when a user upgrades, they install the pro version and the free version automatically uninstalls,” Sim said. “So we lost free active users as a ‘reward’ for new conversions.”
This architectural choice meant that WordPress.org did not bring a large flow of traffic and potential updates to the product.
“A year ago, we just didn’t have enough features to make good decisions about what to put in free versus pro,” Sim said. “So we moved from all of our integrations on the free plugin to some integrations instead. I think it was a bad decision and our install count instantly stagnated. It could have been reversed, so I don’t think that’s a key reason. But that was a reason to start considering removing the plugin from the repository since it was no longer bringing us traffic or installs.
Although WordPress.org isn’t a good source of traffic for the product, Sim said the decision to shut down wasn’t easy.
“Here are some things we lost:” Sim said. “1) Largest distribution channel for WP. 2) Easy way for reviewers to check out the plugin for free without having to contact me. 3) Source of credibility (reviews).
Current users can still use the free plugin, but it will no longer receive updates. Instead of a free plugin, Newsletter Glue offers a test option where users can try it out on a demo site before purchasing. The company has taken a unique path to become a completely independently distributed commercial plugin.
“I hate the free-to-pay user experience on the WP Directory with a passion,” Sim said. “We had a full standalone pro plugin, so the upgrade flow was really clunky. on my site.’ What’s wrong?’ I’ve also had great customers who upgraded and then continued to use the free version for over a year, not even realizing they were on the free version.
By focusing exclusively on promoting the commercial product, the Newsletter Glue team is now freed from the burden of helping customers upgrade from the free version. The compromise lacks visibility on WordPress.org. It’s an approach that works for the company at this point, but may not be suitable for other new products without strong marketing in place.
“Unless you already have experience marketing a plugin from scratch AND you have a good go-to-market plan, I think the default should be to be on the [WordPress] deposit,” Sim said. “Just make sure you configure the commercial part of your plugin correctly so that it makes sense.”