How do you make money by giving away free software? Automattic, the company that’s home to several key developers of the free open source blogging software WordPress (used by this blog and many more) has announced today a new service called the Automattic Support Network. It’s intended help large organizations and enterprise users leverage WordPress and the community around it. Automattic already offers hosted WordPress blogs and the great blog comment spam protection service Akismet.
Enterprise customers subscribing to the Automattic Support Network service will gain access to several people behind WordPress’s birth and their assistance in scaling, customization, implementation, performance and more. Team member Toni Schneider points out on his personal blog that WordPress is already used by companies like the New York Times, CNET, and About.com.
One of the best things about WordPress is its community of user developers. The new plugins and services developed by that community make WordPress a richer blogging system than any single company with closed source code could offer. Premium subscribers to the new service will get expert assistance in navigating this landscape of third party developers. I love WordPress and I think this is a solid idea.
The premium service’s price point of $5000 per year per contact person within the contracting company sounds like a good deal, presuming a satisfactory amount of support is provided. In depth customization will be offered at further cost. I’ll be interested to see how well this works for everyone involved. If it works well, it’ll be a great example of what I think is shaping up to be a key Web2.0 paradigm: build your reputation by giving away a high-quality service to consumers, then monetize support for enterprise customers.