176 – Lifetime Deals v Subscriptions

Debate – Life Deals v Subscriptions

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Setting up the Debate

Today we are debating a suggestion from our friend David McCan in the WP Builds Facebook Group. It’s about whether we should make use of lifetime deals or be happy to pay a recurring subscription for our WordPress plugins.

We shall be mostly looking from the perspective of WordPress implementers. Folks like us who have clients who rely on us, who rely on developers to keep our site running smoothly… and to an extent move with the times.

So here are some of the reasons that we came up with and debate:

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For Life Deals

  • good for our businesses as we get more profitable after the initial expense
  • assuming you calculate correctly the real life there will be a saving
  • they are usually just for some start up expenses, so we are getting a great deal
  • when lifetime deals turn to subscription, clients can see what a fabulous deal they are getting
  • we should buy stable software that each does its own thing well – sometimes these plugins have communites of users who will often help, for example Genesis
  • more money is needed at the start of a plugin life to get it into a competitive state
  • why pay for support when we have communities and skills
  • with Lifetime Deals you know where you are – they can not drop renewal discounts on you like WooCommerce extensions – for example Pippins plugins and Elementor did
  • supporting startups

For Subscriptions

  • technology changes too fast to get the value out of a higher price life deal 
  • we need developers to stay on top of their game (particularly with the Gutenburg changes) for our sake – regular income will help with that
  • why not have the same relationship with suppliers as we do with care plan clients
  • subscriptions are a safer purchase: less money initially and less likely to cash in and run – look at one off payment via the Envato Marketplace
  • most plugins are built before going to market progressive enhancement is the way forward – spending according  to a more stable income and adjusting 
  • we are paying for support – surely that is going to be better, those providing it know it will need to inspire us to renew
  • many plugins do much more than they used to – Page Builders for example seem best suited to ongoing income
  • the model set the right expectation – it’s just more adult

As always there’s no ‘right’ answer, but that does not make the debate any less worth having. Please reach out to us in the comments if you have anything that you’d like to add, or join the discussion in the WP Builds Facebook Group.

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Transcript (if available)

These transcripts are created using software, so apologies if there are errors in them.

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Nathan Wrigley: [00:00:00] Welcome to the WP Builds podcast, bringing you the latest news from the WordPress community. Welcome your host, David WP Waumsley and Nathan Wrigley.
Hello there, and welcome to the WP Builds podcast. This is episode number 176 entitled lifetime deals versus subscriptions. It was published on Thursday the 23rd of April, 2020 my name's Nathan Wrigley and I'd like to welcome you properly to the WP Builds podcast. We're a network which produces absolutely tons of content, largely about WordPress.
We have a website [email protected] and there you're going to find all of the content we produce. If you notice right at the top, there's a link on the website, which is entitled archives, and if you click on that, you'll be able to find it. All the content that we produced all neatly archived by date.
For example, you're listening to the WP Builds podcast and there's a podcast archive also. Every Monday at 7:00 AM UK time, we produce a WP Builds weekly WordPress news where we sum up the news of WordPress from the previous week. Well that's in the news archive page, and there's all sorts of other archives as well.
So for example, we have a live version of the podcast that we do. We sum up the weekly WordPress news that I've just mentioned, a 2:00 PM UK time every Monday afternoon, and I'm joined on the video by a couple, maybe three notable WordPress guests. We push it out live and said there's an archive for that as well.
So. Plenty of content that we're producing. If you'd like to stay in touch with the stuff that we produce, WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe is the best page for that. Over there, you'll find a form which will allow you to subscribe to our content, but also another form. It's a blue one, and that one will enable you to keep alerted about any WordPress deals that we hear about.
So, for example, if we hear that a particular plugin has received a bit of a discount, we'll let you know all about that. On that page as well. WP Builds.com forward slash subscribe. There's ways to subscribe to us on your favorite podcast player could be on Apple or Google or Spotify, something like that.
And there's also a link to our Facebook group of over 2,500 word pressers, and I have to say it's a very polite and friendly group too. Another page worth mentioning is WP Builds.com forward slash deals. That page is a permanent list of searchable, filterable deals with coupon codes off. They never go away.
So if you're looking for something this week, go and check that page out. WP Builds.com forward slash deals you never know. You might be able to save yourself a few pennies. And lastly, WP Builds.com forward slash advertise if you would like to have a product or service of your own, put in front of a WordPress specific audience.
We can surely do that for you. Anyway, let's get on with today's topic. Today is a debate between David warms and I. We've been enjoying this format, this slightly more adversarial format lately in which one of us takes a position and the other one takes the opposite position and we debate it. So this week it's all about lifetime deals versus subscriptions.
I'm sure you know what this debate largely centers around. It's the idea that, well, quite a lot of products that are available online offer these lifetime deals. A very small fee up front and you can access to the platform. So is that a good idea? Or maybe we should be using a subscription model. So we should be paying each month, possibly each year in order to access the service.
What are the benefits, the pros and the cons of each side? Interestingly, there's a surprisingly large amount on both sides. It's not all good for subscriptions, and it's not all good for lifetime deals. So join us as David WP Waumsley and I debate this today. I hope that you enjoy it. Hello.
David Waumsley: [00:04:05] Today we are debating a suggestion that comes from our good friend David McCann on WordPress plugins. So were talking about whether life deals versus subscriptions are the thing that we should be looking at. So I think. Probably Nathan, we should set up the debate. We are talking, I'll be from our perspective. So it's kind of WordPress implementers.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:26] Yes. Yeah. I think that's right. So I think we'll also stray off the off the predefined path of a WordPress as well.
Cause I think a lot of this will involve SaaS apps, as much as it does WordPress plugins and themes. And so on.
David Waumsley: [00:04:39] Yes, indeed. And we'll probably stop talking about what plugin owners should do as well, which is not a remit. But anyway, so we've decided I haven't with your taking. No, I'm taking life deals.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:51] Yup. You're to, you're going to be market life deals. Yeah. And I'm going to.
David Waumsley: [00:04:56] Yeah. Oh, subs.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:04:56] Okay. So it's going to kick us off. Well, all right. I'll take the first bit if you like. So just if you haven't heard this type of thing before, we decided a few weeks ago that we would have these slightly more adversarial, although they're quite a
Just to describe them as adversarial is mocking the word adversarial. Leverage, gentle. But the point is, we take a contrary position to each other about a particular subject, and we debate it through. and so, yeah, so the subscription model, let's just define what a lifetime deal is. I mean, you've probably been to a website before and you've seen that they're offering many tiers to their pricing, one of which might be lifetime.
And the idea is that you purchase it once, usually for a significantly higher fee. But the intention is that you're locked in with certain restrictions based upon what it is that they're offering for forever, ostensibly, literally forever, or until the platform goes away. And I'm no longer existing.
Whereas a subscription model where usually taking the idea that it's an annual or possibly a monthly, although that's quite unusual in the WordPress space, it's a subscription fee where you pay and if you cease to pay. Then your, your entitlement to that service is taken away. Now that might be slightly different in WordPress cause the entitlement usually isn't for the product itself is more often for support and updates.
But we'll, we'll leave that argument for another day. So I'm thinking from the point of view of subscriptions. I know we wrote a list of things out, or David wrote a list of things for both sides of this argument, which is very kind of him, and I'm just going to start in reverse order, actually, if you, if that's all right.
I'm going to say my first kind of gambit is it's sort of just the right thing to do. And what I mean by that is that. You know, I need to eat, you need to eat. We all need income, and if we're just paying people and expecting them to give us something for life, then that's, that's not a, an equitable relationship, which can sustain the person on the other end of that.
of that. So a good example would be, it would be food. Let's say, for example, that seems breeze, which is a supermarket in the UK offered an annual, sorry, SaaS a subscription service for food, which they do. You can, you know, you can subscribe and get various things, but they, they would never offer, the, the ability to have something for life, to continually restock your fridge each month forever based upon some sort of.
Fee that you paid in the past. And the reason they can't do this because there's actual physical products and everybody understands that that can be done now in the digital space, that's not quite the same. You know, if you've written the code, putting out to 1000 people is the same as putting out to one person or 10,000 people.
You're not, you're not doing any more work. So it is sustainable, but I just kind of think it's the, it's the wrong thing to do from the point of view of. Morality. I guess there is a little bit of that creeping in and it seems that if, if you want your product to be sustained and you want the developer on the other end of that product to, to have a fruitful life and to be able to plow more time into it, then paying just seems like the right thing to do.
So I'm, I'm coming at you with a moral position, David, which is gonna be difficult to speak for you to come back with others.
David Waumsley: [00:08:11] well, okay, let's go with the Marvel perspective then. So WordPress is an open source. Communities started with people volunteering their time to. Build something that was great and build businesses on that.
And some of that maybe has been lost along the way. So if you are creating these things, you are contributing to this open source project in some ways with not necessarily the expectation of making. Money from it. That kind of comes out to the Goodwill that you get. So from a model perspective, I'm not so sure if you go in straight away with the idea that you should expect to be paid with it being open source, thatshould come as an afterthought.
So yeah. I'm getting stuck already, how I can argue against this one. But you know, we're not really talking about the not making money. I think, okay, my life deal while OG, you've for one, that seems a really good model of it, and that was the first commercial WordPress theme, and that was Genesis something they use that.
As still has retained this lifetime deal and there's profited from it and has been very popular and become one of the most used themes in WordPress, I think as a result of being a cut of lifetime deal, or at least coming out of that philosophy of sticking to open source, they were big defenders of keeping everything open source and not looking too much to the profit.
So from the model side, it could look at it a slightly different way.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:09:39] Yeah. It's interesting because I'm about to reveal the, the glaring, the glaring error in my argument here because I have a ton of lifetime deals. So, you know, it's kind of a bit of a moot point, but, the, I suppose something like Genesis is a really, is a really interesting example because.
It was significantly priced, wasn't it? It wasn't a deal where you could just open it. A little bit of handy change in your pocket was, was going to be, what you're going to spend. I remember spending, I don't even remember what the Genesis deal was called, but I bought the full Monte, whatever that was.
You got absolutely everything. And I remember at the time. Having to really think about that because it was, it was a significant amount of money. I believe it started with 400 and something dollars. It might even have been more, but it allowed me to access everything. Anyway, the point that I'm making is if you are a behemoth, a Leviathan, then.
Then you can do this. Two words, meaning big, just, then you can, you can do this if I think your pricing is very high. So in the case of Genesis, I think it was the GoTo thing. For many people it was hands down one of maybe. Two or three things which were being offered at that time, which everybody could universally say, actually, that's pretty darn good.
And so it, I imagine there was a lot of action in their checkout every single day of the week for many years, allied to the fact that it was expensive. It wasn't. Terribly cheap meant that that was probably very profitable in the, you know, in the, in the short term, over a two, three, four year period. I think where I'm coming from a little bit more is the, the much more affordable deals, the sort of $49 deals, and they're not going to have that traction.
So they may have a handful of people signing up out their discounted super duper cheap lifetime deal pricing. But they're then settled with them for ages and they haven't made the inroads that somebody like Genesis did. So those people then become a support burden. And there was a really interesting example of this, actually, Elliot Condon, who runs ACF has very recently.
Literally within the last few weeks moved from his lifetime pricing, which was, it fits perfectly into what I'm saying, because it was extraordinarily popular. You know? I would imagine that Elliot's into the many hundreds of thousands of of lifetime deal customers. And, and so that, that volume could keep him going because it was, although he was adding to, you know, a lifetime support burden, the, the, the checkout was probably ringing each and every day.
So basically he had a way, you just sustainable wage. However, he drew a chart, where he showed the amount of people who were coming onto his platform against the support burden. And the. It was, it was like an exponential curve. The number of people coming onto the platform was a pretty much a straight line, and it drifted up at a steady rate, hence why he could make some money.
But the, the support burden was exponentially just going up and it was almost approaching like a, you know, like a straight line, a straight vertical line. And this is the problem, right? You've got. All these people who've paid for life, and every time you've got somebody paid for life, they expect support for life.
So he moved away from that model for exactly this reason. So, so summarize my enormous long answer to that. I think it's going to work in certain cases. If you're really popular and you charge a decent amount of money, but I think if you're charging a small amount of money and you're not very popular.
It's, there's only one direction of travel there and it's support nightmares and the inability to progress the system because you're just dealing with the tiny amount of people who have got a huge amount of support requests.
David Waumsley: [00:13:32] well, now I've got to correct you and I've got to correct myself because I think I was wrong in saying that Genesis was the first commercial theme.
I think it was by the same person, Brian Gardner. I think it was the revolutionary thing, but also I have to correct you on the cost. as well because the basic Genesis framework, the you, you bought the whole package for life and the themes that were built for it, the child themes for it, the actual, the thing itself, when I bought it was very cheap.
I think it was probably under $50 so, okay. Very small cost and it was the pro. The license I think. Do you know what, it's interesting cause you also, you mentioned that we didn't expect to go here, but you mentioned ACF and that's another plugin author who's very much behind the open source project. That is WordPress and, and it's kind of foundation.
And. I remember, you know, really when Gutenberg came into place, you know where WordPress went. He was going to follow. I really love that about these kind of early authors who did these lifetime deals. I think they K it's the, it's the time, and I think, you know what? WordPress was a smaller community there where people did feel they were part of a contributing to this core.
A product where I think things have changed so much, particularly over these sort of years. Recently we've got page builders and it's introduced in a lot of different people to do. We're doing a lot more with WordPress than they could previously do, and you know, it's reaching different people for different uses.
So I think maybe some of this life and subscriptions is going to change over time. If we go back to the early days, I don't think anybody would have expected. To or put somebody on subs for these things. It just didn't seem right for an open source community to do that.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:15:18] Yeah. It's interesting actually, because I spoke to Elliot behind ACF on episode 169 you could search for that one if you're interested in ACF, and we did get into, we did talk about this and we talked about the fact that when he began his lifetime pricing model, it was a real dilemma for him to price it at all.
You know, he really struggled to sort of come up with any pricing because up until that point, it was just a sort of pet project and he was doing it for the, for the sake of, of doing it. so he was right at the Vanguard, you know, when, when commercial stuff was really new in WordPress. but obviously over time he's kind of become popular and, and reeducated himself and made the difficult decision, as I said, recently, to, to amend his pricing.
So, yeah. Interesting. His, like I say, his pricing. Just just came out of jail. He more or less made it up. You thought, what's an anecdotal figure? Which sounds about right, and it was thinking he wanted something like $50 so he rounded it down to what was 49 and just went with that and has never changed it since.
In that same space of time, quite a lot of people have adopted a completely different model, but there was. Basically no subscription model. I don't think at all. When he started up, it was just a one off payment and who knew that it was going to be as successfully as it was and and become his career. So it was time to have a bit of a rethink. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:16:38] Yeah. I did know. I think probably, I mean, it's interesting to see some of these authors change over time. So I the the life deal, I think. It has a lot of merit in where they were probably thinking. So somebody like Brian Gardner was very adamant at the time, although he seemed to change his binders.
He left Genesis that you wish you had put it to subs, but at the time he was very much, no, because this is the core, people can contribute to this. They can add to it. We're going to keep it pretty much the same. So there wasn't the same ongoing costs and that would free up the time and we'd have all the Q dos.
And the attention to putting out a lifetime deal that everybody could use in a community could build around it in the same way that they could with WordPress itself. It's still meant that he still had the ability to earn money through something else because if he was charging subs and it was less popular and less used, would he be so well known as to be able to do other things?
And I think that's what's happened with a lot of people. They may have used the lifetime deals here to get that community around their product. That product itself, make it affordable to more people like WordPress's itself.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:17:45] I suppose the, going back to those, those early debates, you know, Elliot and Brian, ACS and Genesis, in both of these cases, they're both early starters in a time where the, where the, there was probably no expectation.
Not realistically anyway, that WordPress would become so dominant and it would occupy 30 something percent of the internet. Just no real thoughts about that. And, and I, I suspect that both Brian and Elliot were kind of in this for a bit of fun, a hope that it would make some money, but, but really no expectation that it would be a, a six figure.
Yeah, a user base, so you know, a hundred plus thousand users and that this could be a real actual business supporting multiple people and you know, a team of support operatives and what have you. And the realization that in the end, this is what we have got. We've got this giant platform, we've got many, many, many, many things.
Thousands of users and we've got support them. It kind of makes you have a bit of a rethink. So what I'm trying to argue is that at the beginning it was, it was just common sense to do a lifetime pricing. But now if you're launching something, it kind of isn't common sense because as we've seen with a variety of plugins, even over the last year or so, some of these plugins that have launched in the last year have gone through the roof, you know, and have hit those hundred thousand user marks.
And you can't really expect to do that going forward. You can't really bank on being able to support those people going forwards. if you're going to have growth like that.
David Waumsley: [00:19:12] But also there's the other side of the lifetime deals. W we're arguing, I guess, as implementers for whether we should be in, which we should be focusing on.
And I think there's a good argument for looking out for lifetime deals on new products because they're often used them, but successfully use to get the promotion that they need. There's such a buzz around being able to buy some new product and just this one off payment and use it for life that. Yeah.
When those people feel they have got a great deal, they talk about it. They go to all of the groups and tell people what they use, and when those lifetime deals need to close, which is the case with the ACF and they need to go to subscription, they've really, the lifetime deal is help them to build and get that audience for it. Yeah. And I get ready to get the feedback from it.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:19:59] On a slightly more cynical note, I just wonder if, if, if subscriptions are a bit safer, and what I mean by that is the, the, the model is of a subscription, obviously, is you're buying into some sort of continual support. So the, the . It might be that your, you're actually buying not really the code as such, but you're buying the ability to update that code and the ability to have support.
And my fear, I think, and I think there's a bit of truth in this, is that. You know, you've got an MVP, you've got an idea for a product, let's say, and you can, you can build something fairly quickly and you, you build it, you've got this idea for a plugin or a SAS app or what have you, but you're not really sure what the market is for that.
If that's not your area of expertise, and you certainly don't have a budget for it, so you just whack it out there, build something fairly quick, it's kind of usable, but it's not where it ought to be and you just launch it. And you stick a price of let's say $99 $49 whatever on it, and you see how many you sell.
If it's a, if it's a home run and loads of people use it, great. This thing will keep me going. This is what I need to do for the foreseeable future. I'll invest a significant amount of my time. But the flip side of that, of course, and I'm sure that many of us have been stung by this, is actually, do you know what?
We only sold a couple of dozen licenses or a hundred or 200 whatever the metric is for it being profitable. Let's just stop work on it now. Shall we? Cause cause we're better off launching something else. So what I mean by safety is exactly that your, you're ensuring that people can continue to develop it as opposed to dropping it like a rock.
The minute it's not profitable. Okay. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:21:40] Well, definitely when you know lifetime deals, where you see that happen in quite a lot in WordPress is with theme forest and the bell. Lots of functionality in there, but you know what? This is kind of maybe not so much whether life deals are a good thing for the plugins or firs to buy into, but more really the individual plugin.
Authors. I would perhaps argue that the same may be true with subscription models. It doesn't go hand in hand that the model means that you're going to get good service, so you decide that it's going to be a subscription, but you still don't really do very good updates or the support gets poorer over the time.
And maybe another argument for lifetime deals is that very often, and depending on the users, we are WordPress implementers. So most of the time we should be able to figure out stuff for ourselves. So arguing from our side of things, are we the type of people given that you, you know, if it's open source, the only thing that you can really charge for is the convenience of the updates and mainly the support. Do we require that much support.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:22:44] Yeah. So
David Waumsley: [00:22:45] like is the lifetime deals perhaps, you know, closer to, the, the right kind of deal for us in effect, you know, we've given this code, we work on it, we give them something for the work that they've done already on it and we carry on working. And it's only perhaps the amateurs, not people in the business, not the implementers like us who should have the subscriptions because they need help on other stuff, which isn't necessarily related to their product.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:23:09] It's an interesting point. Yeah. Well, mate, I think there's probably a bit of a bit of validity in that, in that we are, we are probably not going to be requiring the support going forward, but nevertheless, they, you know, you've probably had a plugin lying around for a little while and you've never really used it or you've never had any problem with it.
And then two years after you bought it on a lifetime deal that you've suddenly needed to make use of it. And, you know, lo and behold. you know, the plugin support is really poor because that was the model that they launched on. Yeah. I think I could flip both ways on that one. My, my feeling around that though, is that.
There is a greater chance. Now, obviously we can't possibly work out what the morals are or the, the, the finances are of all of these different things. But you would hope that if somebody had a recurring revenue stream within their business, they would allocate some of that to the, the things which made it likely for the subscribers to keep subscribing.
In other words, support and updates. You know, if you've got a plugin and you are. Subscribing to it and you don't receive support and updates. Well, that plugin is not going to be in your arsenal for very long, and that's, that is a good point. It brings the developer closer, I suppose, to the, to the purchases of it, in that there's, there is a kind of an ongoing relationship, you know, they will be.
Requiring support, there'll be expecting support, and in return, the developer will be expected to deliver those things where I'm not sure that's the case with a, with a lifetime deal. And you know, you've just explained why that might be good. But also I think there's a, there's a flip side to that. Why, why it might not be so good.
David Waumsley: [00:24:45] There is a flip side to all of these, and I never even thought about this before. It's not one of our points, but in some ways, when you do have a subscription and not everybody who buys on subscription realizes that they're doing that. The, there is then a built in expectation to keep add into a product and not always is it a good thing that you add to this product?
It might have been better if you kept the core simple and you produce another plugin that would add functionality to that one plugin. Now, this isn't what we see, but design, I mean, there's an argument. For lifetime deals. Why not take a more Genesis route where you just say, well, actually this is the core.
Everybody can add what they like to it. They can add what they like. They can add some more child films and sell those at a greater cost. But basically the same thing that you bought remains roughly the same. Obviously it needs to update a little bit to WordPress, but. You know, it keeps the, it keeps product simple.
Could, I'm arguing here that subscriptions could encourage people to bloat out software?
Nathan Wrigley: [00:25:46] Oh, no. We all love a roadmap. David. Everybody needs to regularly see the roadmap. No, I take your point, that it might be doing that, but I honestly, I can't remember the last time I looked at a piece of software and thought, well, that's finished.
That's it. That's, that's got absolutely everything I could ever wish for. There's always the, there's always the temptation and. And, another thing with that in terms of it doesn't necessarily need to be updating with features. It could just be updating because the platform is updating. So a good example would be, you know, we flip over to WordPress five, for example, and the new editor, and all of a sudden a bunch of our plugins have a, it would be enormously helpful for a lot of people if they became Gutenberg.
Capable, you know, there was a block for that plugin and then it could output itself in various different new ways that the block editor, enables things like that. Although it's not really, it's not really a massive feature request. It's just kind of keeping up with the technology. And obviously.
Security is a huge part of this as well. You know, the exploits discovered all the time, and we all know, because we have a, a good example here would be my, my main WP install cough, lifetime deal, cough. the . They're in there. They've got this abandoned plugins section where they deliberately highlight plugins, which haven't been updated for a period of time.
And in most cases in the ones that I'm using their free ones, you know, I'm not paying anything for them, but the, the principle is that we, we want to alert you to the fact that some of these things are just not being updated. And I would imagine that if you've got a subscriber base and you've got profitability, that's going to be really high on your list.
He's just keeping up with the updates, keeping up with the features that WordPress requires and so on.
David Waumsley: [00:27:31] Yeah, I think that was a good point. And, I'm going to try and squeeze in the two of the points that I thought were in my favor of the lifetime deals. One of them is that from the buyer's point of view,
Yeah, I, you know, I like subs as well, so I'm arguing against what I generally would argue for. But there is that side where we see it a lot recently where you know, at least you know where you are, you've paid for something, you've got it for life, for the life of that product. You don't know how long that's going to be, but you know what you paid for when you do get into the subs.
People do have a habit of changing the terms on you. So they dropped the renewal discount on you as has happened with woo commerce extensions. And sometimes, you know, they even just entirely changed the deal and just decide they're going to increase the press. You're not going to grandfather you into your old deal.
So this is always a bit of a risk when you're buying plugins, as somebody who's, you know, you've got your. You've set up your deals with your customers. When a plugin developer on subs decides to change the deal, you have to pass that on, and that might not be something that you'd want to do.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:28:37] Do you know, it's really interesting. I've noticed in quite a few Facebook groups that they are, obviously, I don't know what the correct term for this is, but they're obviously people who are like serial purchasers of lifetime deals who've clearly been stolen and they take screenshots of everything. You know, they take screenshots of all the terms and conditions.
They take screenshots of like what the offer page looked like and all of this. Just so, and they've obviously stashing those away somewhere in the expectation that at some point in the future they're going to be burned by the platform or the plugin or whatever it might be. And these, these screenshots, I mean, maybe they are using the Wayback machine, but I don't think they are because in some cases it's even things like emails and, and so on.
And, you know, obviously things that have been communicated on our blog posts, which has been deleted, that kind of thing. and they whip them out, you know, just like, no, but look, it said, it said we'd get 30 of this or 12 of this, or whatever it might be. And, and, and then it kind of enforces the lifetime deal.
and that's, yeah. So that's another, another interesting problem with the lifetime deal is that those boundaries do change. You know, the, these companies unscrupulously they do, they do check, move the goalpost in exactly the same way that you've just described as subscription. So the subscription. you know, the, the, the capability for the, for the developer to mess about with the terms and conditions.
I think that's equally true on both subscription and lifetime deal. You'd hope that they do the honorable thing and lock in the lifetime deal and keep those. But history shows that they just don't, and people have whipped out these screenshots to prove it. And, and in some cases, you know, really bashed the developers over the head who've had to, who've had to with some contrition, re-introduce what they've taken away.
David Waumsley: [00:30:15] Yeah. Some people now are those who follow the lifetime deals. Definitely look out to find out whether they're getting all up and come in. Features are going to be added to what they bought. Yes. That's good. That's usually the way around it. Okay. I've probably got one last point, so I might as well make it.
The could be an argument here that the lifetime deals could make for better software because it's a way of. with the new starter companies, passionate about, you know, WordPress plugins that they don't need to rely on investors or something like that, which kind of takes you a little bit away from the open source side of it, that you can get that initial injection of cash.
And also that early feedback because the expectations are not so high on the subs of it being perfect and make a better product in the first place.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:31:02] Do you know what? I'm going to concede that one. because I think that's absolutely true, and what I mean by that is I think that you're going to be able to generate far more interest in your new plug.
Let's say you've got a shiny new plugin, which does something spectacular. I think the chances of you in the morass, the sea of other plugins. finding an audience quickly in order to turn your plugging into a profitable plugin. I think that's really difficult. you know, it's just hard. You've got to have some expert marketing strategy or somebody who's, you know, real dynamo who can figure all that stuff out.
But I think a way to short circuit that is to offer a lifetime deal because you have a clamoring mob of people who are literally salivating for the latest lifetime deal. And. Th th literally you just stick lifetime deal on the end of it, and suddenly you've got an audience of tens of thousands, possibly more of people who are just looking because it's a lifetime deal.
Whereas if you weren't going lifetime, they absolutely would never, you'd never get on their radar. So I think you're right. And I think maybe this is where this whole debate is going. I can concede that in the beginning. The, it's a great idea, but if, if then it doesn't turn into something profitable with a subscription, that's where I think maybe the problems arise.
So possibly a great way of introducing yourself to the world and grabbing an audience and making yourself of interest and making yourself publicly, an, you know, so that you're on the, the end of everybody's tongue. But only that. That's where it, that's where it should end. After that point, you need to flip over and become profitable in a subscription way.
You know, and, and goodness, may, how many times have we seen this? How many times have you seen lifetime deals coming back again? So it's like the third time, the second time, the fourth time that it's been going on as a lifetime deal, that's suddenly really kind of does ring a few alarm bells for me because that's a
Well, maybe I'm wrong, but it feels like that's just a grab for money because times are hard and they haven't managed to to flip it into something profitable. So would you agree with that? Maybe it's good at the beginning, but better to go subscription after you've had your lifetime deal and you do it once.
David Waumsley: [00:33:19] Yeah. I think we're kind of closing up here, aren't we? To an idea. But you know what? There's, it's kind of baked into the way that we learn about PLA against these days in WordPress, because we absolutely dependent whatever we feel about people who are marketed. The plugins as a affiliate marketers on YouTube, et cetera, they do an important function to tell us about new stuff.
And it's, it's incentivized for them to talk about something that has a good one off price, and that's what you can charge with a lifetime deal rather than a subscription. So generally, I mean, it's almost the kind of marketing setup, the one that we like, because like, you know, I kind of watch all this stuff to find out.
you know, what's going on. I listened to other affiliate marketers and, and go from their links cause I rely on them to tell me what's going on. It's going to favor lifetime deals, isn't it? Yeah, most of the times. So I think, yeah, you're absolutely right.
But you know what. I'll be coming to the bit where we could be just honest about our positions.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:34:17] Well, yeah, just one. I'm just going to add in. one last thing he said suddenly forgetting what it was that he was going to add in. Oh, goodness. May it, you know, that's terrible. I hate it when that happens. so yes, forget that. Let's move to what you are going to say.
David Waumsley: [00:34:31] Yeah, because we have to balance it out really, because it's not easy to do a for and against because we use both, don't we?
And I think there are certain things which I've, you know, I look out for a deal, but I do feel like all the things that you say when it comes. Things I now expect to get regular updates, particularly with Gutenberg and they will need some new features like the page builders and that I just can't imagine being too happy with, buying into a lifetime deal if I didn't really already guess or know that those people were likely to go to subscriptions later.
Cause I'm so fearful of many of these lifetime deals now becoming the thing to make. Yeah. With a short lifetime. Yeah. Yeah. It's, it's too, too tempting, isn't it? To try and just do all the marketing and put out a product which you've no intention of looking after. Well, it's more than a few years.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:35:20] Tempting is the right word, I think, and I think it does tap into something where everybody likes a deal.
You know, if you could, if you can, if you can get 50% off something in a supermarket. It's a, it's a good deal, right? You feel, Oh, that's all right, I'll buy that. And so the temptation with this is, is that I think they're just tapping into a part of our, a part of our psyche, which says, Whoa, that's cheap.
Get it. But the fear of course, is making your business reliance upon it. And, you know, let's say for example, some of these plugins become a part of your, linchpin of your, your own ongoing client relationships or your care plans or something. that could be tricky. You know, some of these things. Fall over, go out of existence, stop being developed. That's going to be tricky for you down the road as well. Yeah,
David Waumsley: [00:36:05] absolutely. There's a lot of things though that we buy that we kind of rely on, but they, they might not alter the actual sites themselves. So something like image optimization, security, caching, things like these, these are things that you can easily swap out the plugin that's being used on the client site, and they won't be inconvenienced at all.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:36:24] Yeah. So, yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:36:25] So . They are more attractive as lifetime deals to me because you know, they can come and go,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:36:31] Oh, that's interesting. Okay, so let's have a bit of confession time. Let's, let's only mentioned the good ones because if we mentioned the ones that we've been burnt by, we might get ourselves in a bit bother.
what lifetime deals have you bought in the past where you've thought, actually, do you know what that, that was? That was really turned out to be a good one. Even if that's fairly recent, you've already made use of it and so on. Just rattle a few off and then I'll rattle a few off. Oh yeah, there's so many.
David Waumsley: [00:36:55] Actually, I'm short pixel. Absolutely love that. That's taken care of. All my image optimization for all my clients sites. Don't need to worry about that. Love it. I use, it's not really WordPress, but there's a plugin for it. Stensul use that a lot for building blog posts. Love that. Oh, you rattle out a few
Nathan Wrigley: [00:37:14] so I've got a few, some of them are WordPress, many of them are, SAS. But I'm just sticking to the WordPress ones. Ones that come to mind are, I bought generate press, which is a theme that I've used many times. And at the time when I bought it. It was incredibly, incredibly well-priced. Again, same as Elliot with ACF.
Tom from, generate pressors, gone to, a subscription model. again, not, not tremendously expensive, still very good value, but moved over to that. I have also bought short pixel, but I don't actually use that one. I actually use a rival one, but there are other ones. So for example, back in the day I bought.
Backup buddy, which I still am happy to use as my, as as a backup solution. I also bought a various caching plugins and a couple of security plugins. So for example, web ox was on AppSumo and I've deployed that firewall on quite a few sites. I theme security was on a lifetime at some point at the same time as backup buddy Wells.
So those have been deployed by me. There are also a few things in the Astro bundle. I've used convert pro point a lot. it's all like a pop up generator. I mean, it does more than that, but it does definitely have the capability to do, to do popups. and I think that's probably the ones which I'm using on a, on a pretty much daily basis in terms of SaaS.
Now obviously we're all different. We have different requirements, but one which I. Thoroughly happy with his is one called book, like a boss, which enables me to, to take bookings for the podcast. So when there's a guest on, we have to in some way agree a time where we're going to record. And I do all that with book like a boss.
And there's another one called a pics teller, which is a bit like your stensul. It allows me to create the images for the WP Builds thumbnail images, the featured image. and that's, you know, it's a simple. Online, version of something like WordPress within a very, very slimmed down set of features.
But it works really well. And I think that's probably the ones that I use all the time.
David Waumsley: [00:39:15] It's interesting how some appear. Just recently I've been needing smart slider three and I bought this some years back and never had need for it. I knew it was great. Got lifetime deal on that and I, and now I'm, I need it for something.
I so pleased it's there. It's brilliant.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:39:31] that is interesting that the insurance policy purchase. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:39:35] Yeah, I've got a load of those. And I mean a recent one, which is still out there, but it won't be probably by the time this goes out. But, there's wishlists, which I'm at, that's an insurance one. So that's a membership plugin.
So I'm hoping at some point somebody is gonna ask me for something and that's going to cover that slot. So,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:39:51] yeah. Yeah, that's a good point. I mean, obviously you don't want to go too silly cause you could insure yourself to the point of bankruptcy. But, yeah, that, that's so in the bounds of what's likely to come in the next few years.
If you're building WordPress websites for clients on a daily basis, it's incredibly unlikely that, or rather sorry, it's incredibly likely that at some point there'll be some permissions type of requirements. And you know, I would like only certain people who've paid a bit to get to this content. So I think that's for the cost of it, it was it $49 I think it was for the basic one.
Seems like a good one to stash away. Yeah.
David Waumsley: [00:40:28] Do you know what I do? I'm off to surprise cause I do. If there is a lifetime deal option as well as subs, I, I always thought everybody would go for the lifetime deal, but it doesn't seem that is the case actually. A lot of people do calculate and they, they start from the assumption that they're only going to get two or three years and they just calculate and go, no, I'll just go with the yearly.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:40:48] It's a good point because. You know, if you think about it, most of these companies have got an amount of money, which they're hoping to get out of every client. I can't remember what the acronym is, but you know, the, the sort of lifetime value of a particular customer, and it's probably in the two to three year era, isn't it?
You know, that they're going to, they're going to hope that you stick around for two to three years, but not really expect any more than that. And so it may be that, I don't know, it'd be interesting to look at that data, the plot, the life cycle of a WordPress plugin or a SaaS platform. Do, do they. Generally last more than five years or is there much more churn?
I don't know. So I can well see. Also, if you're buying something, in two years, it's quite likely that if that, if that is a profitable thing, it's quite, quite likely that somebody will have also figured out, ah, okay, they're doing quite well out of this. I think I'm going to build a rival. And then often that competitive rival comes along with something a bit, a bit different and maybe a bit more up to date.
So, you know, going for a couple of years instead of a, a full lifetime deal might. Force you not to lock in and give you that, give you that feeling that, well, I need to buy something this year anyway. Well I'll, I'll try the new one out as opposed to, well, I've got this one, I'm sticking with it. Even though it's gaining faults as the years go by, I'll stay with it cause I'd have to spend any money.
David Waumsley: [00:42:06] Yeah, just one of the final thought, and I think this, it actually tells me why I buy in a certain way. It's because I've been doing it for quite some time then because I started with things like Genesis and the early days Genesis, now I still got them on clients' sites and yeah. Some of these will be almost coming up for 10 years now.
So my expectations are really based in those early days of buying the first premium products that they're worth for WordPress. So I'm still seeing it as the client not needing to change their site for so many years.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:42:36] this is fascinating. I mean. There's just so many different ways you can look at this.
Oh, ultimately, I think even though we've had to take a contrary position, we probably do a bit of both. I've got loads on subscription. I've got loads on lifetime deals, and in many cases I'm happy with both. You know, I feel that I'm far less. I have had a period where I've bought a lot of lifetime.
Doesn't just literally never use them, but the ones that I've gotten subscription I use all the time. Because there's no way I'm going to pay you for something that I'm not using. So that's, that's quite interesting as well. You know, I probably should check back in with a lot of the things that I've got on lifetime deal just to, just to check whether, you know, they've been significantly updated or not, but, yeah, as always, there is no right answer.
Just do what works best
David Waumsley: [00:43:27] indeed.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:28] So we knock it on the hand. Yes,
David Waumsley: [00:43:30] indeed. Okay.
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:31] Alright. Bye. Bye for now.
David Waumsley: [00:43:33] Bye. Well,
Nathan Wrigley: [00:43:35] there you are. I hope that you enjoy that. It's always a pleasure chatting to David WP Waumsley and there's always so much to say. You look at it and you think, well, it's always going to be better to go for the lifetime deal.
I get a whole bunch of software and I only pay for a small fee upfront for the whole thing, for life. And then of course you think about it and there's other options as well. Anyway, a lovely debate and I'm sure that you enjoyed it. Please join us. We've got loads of content coming up this week, so for example, on Monday, 2:00 PM UK time, we'll have our WP Builds weekly WordPress news live session.
You can join that by going to WP Builds.com forward slash live. Or you could join us at 7:00 AM UK time on Monday when we'll be releasing the prerecorded version of the news where I just read out what it is that I found in the WordPress space during the last week. Okay. Hopefully we'll see you at some point between now and then, maybe in our Facebook group or maybe somewhere else.
Either way. Have a good week. Bye bye for now.

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Nathan Wrigley
Nathan Wrigley

Nathan writes posts and creates audio about WordPress on WP Builds and WP Tavern. He can also be found in the WP Builds Facebook group, and on Mastodon at wpbuilds.social. Feel free to donate to WP Builds to keep the lights on as well!

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