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Transparency Reports

Transparency Report of May 2021

PMB 3 Released to WordPress.org, a temporary 50% discount is available, Lots more Documentation, and plans to present at WPCampus with a Competitor

This is the 26th monthly report for Print My Blog (PMB) WordPress plugin.

What Happened This Month

Biggest spike yet thanks to the big release at the end of May.
Growth slowed a bit with the big release. Not as bad as I had feared though.

Business Stats

  • Hours:
    • 101.25 (+2) support
    • 141.25 (+15) marketing
    • 367 (+15) development
    • 62 (+0.5) management
  • Expenses (Opportunity Cost): $25,008.25 (+$1,085)
  • Expenses (Out-of-pocket) $90(+$15)
  • Income: $1,635.53 USD (+0)

Plugin Stats

Overview of What’s New

The Details

PMB 3 Fully Released on WordPress.org!

The update page seen by users when they update from PMB 2.9.9 (or lower) to PMB 3.3.0, mentioning that “Print Now” was renamed to “Quick Print” (but is otherwise the same), the print buttons are unchanged, and there’s a new “Pro Print” tool.

I can now say Print My Blog 3 is fully released (which is kinda the same as PMB Pro, except I ended up making a lot of it free), even on WordPress.org.

So that means all 4,000 active installs of PMB (the free version) can update from their WordPress admin dashboard, and they’ll get access to the new features I’ve been working on for over a year.

PMB is now fully integrated with Freemius so users can upgrade to PMB Pro directly from their WordPress admin dashboard (or pricing page on my website.)

This is a really big milestone for me. I began recruiting founding members in April 2020 and began coding and working with founding members in June 2020. It kept getting pushed back while I kept having more ideas for features and kept wanting to pretty everything up. I know there’s a lot more prettying-up to be done, more documentation needed, improved sales pages, and certainly more features (especially producing ePubs) but I now have something people can buy and I no longer need to keep promising “PMB Pro will be released soon…” Now it’s released. If it does what you want, please buy it. If it doesn’t, feel free to tell me what you need it to do and I’ll try my best to make it do that. So I’m feeling very satisfied to have made it to this point.

I’d also like to thank all the founding members for their participation. Their input was invaluable, and while I haven’t yet been able to apply all of it, and some of them were understandably unable to keep up participating for a full year, I’m glad to have worked with you all. Please let me know what new books and documents you create with Print My Blog Pro, or what you’d like to create. 🙌 Stay in touch!

50% Lifetime Promotion until June 18th

Along with the release of PMB 3 to WordPress.org, I also added a temporary promotion. It’s at the top of all pages of printmy.blog, it’s mentioned on the plugin’s update splash page (when users first update to PMB 3), and it’s mentioned on the Print Page in the plugin.

The Print Page while using Pro Print, showing the promotion.

Cheaper Hobbyist Plans

Some of the feedback on my release to founding members was that plans were too expensive. While I maintain they’re comparable to similar products in this niche (compare to PressBooks, Designr, or pagination.com) they’re more than some WordPress themes.

I don’t want to just reduce prices to make it appear the original discount to Founding Members was a sham (or have founding members feel bad for buying at higher prices like Mark Maunder points out.)

I also noticed services like blurb always add their logo somewhere inside the product.

So I combined these ideas and introduced a new plan for $5.99/month (when billed annually; $19.99/month when billed monthly) which adds a “Made with Print My Blog and WordPress” to the bottom of the first page. Users of the existing “Hobby” license will continue exactly as before (no attribution in the footer.)

There have not been any sales of the new cheaper plan since it was introduced mid-May 2021. I think the heart of the issue isn’t so much price as usefulness (I don’t think users yet see the application or understand the usefulness of the plugin yet.) So getting the word out, and showing why PMB Pro is great, is my next priority, not so much reducing prices.

Clarifying what’s Free and What Isn’t

One final feature I added to PMB on WordPress.org was some clarification around what features are free and what features require payment. I added little hover icons that explain something better is available with payment.

On hovering over this icon, I explain that “Quick Print” just prints posts or pages; whereas “Pro Print” also supports Custom Post Types, as well as combining post types.

I think these hover icons were pretty non-obtrusive and I hope are genuinely helpful (after a week nobody mentioned them) as they explained commonly-requested features.

As a matter of clarification too: in compliance with WordPress.org plugin guidelines, the free version of PMB doesn’t “contain functionality that is restricted or locked, only to be made available by payment or upgrade”. That was made easier thanks to Freemius’ integration library. PMB can be used with nothing more than your WordPress website and a browser.

However, PMB also integrates with my “Pro Print Service” (“Software as a Service”), which uses Prince to convert your project’s HTML into PDF. Prince supports a lot of features of CSS that browsers like Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox don’t (eg page references, footnotes, and controlling page margin content). So when you buy “PMB Pro”, the main thing you get is the right to use my “Pro Print Service”, which is outside the jurisdiction of WordPress.org’s plugin guidelines.

Lots of Documentation “How-Tos” Added

The PMB Pro User Guide is getting pretty complete. Here’s the latest additions:

I have yet to document making custom designs and send copies of the user guide to paying users, but those are up soon!

Applying to Present at WPCampus

I’m aware that PMB is in a very niche market. Most site owners (and plugin and theme developers) don’t give any thought to what their content looks like when printed, nor want to make books and documents for sharing offline using WordPress. And although there’s actually quite a few plugins and services for doing this, it still feels like a “new” market (so it’s in the NPNM quadrant). So another way to grow my customer list is to grow the niche itself.

In an effort to do that, and knowing that academic folks are some of the big users of Anthologize (they funded it) and PressBooks (the only users I’ve seen of that are academic), I thought trying to do a presentation at the upcoming WPCampus made sense.

I’m also aware that, unless you’re explicitly sponsoring an event, presentations just selling your product aren’t appropriate. So I didn’t want to just present on my plugin, but instead increase the entire market of “offline publishing with WordPress.” I thought that meant talking about alternatives to my plugin, too.

Then I had a novel idea: instead of just talking about other plugins and tools, why not present with the authors of some of those tools?

I got in touch with the developer of MPL Publisher, Ferran, and got to know him a little bit. I’ve looked over his plugin and his code, and think we really had simultaneous ideas, just different implementations, and admire his code and design. I asked him if he’d like to present with me. He was initially willing to come along on my crazy ride, but then realized he probably didn’t have the time to commit to preparing a proper presentation. I did, however, become an affiliate marketer for his plugin… Weird, I know, but I thought it would help me be a bit less biased against his solution if I also got a piece of the pie. So here’s my referral link for MPL Publisher: https://gumroad.com/a/961221747. It’s cheaper than PMB, and handles a few other formats, so I think it’s also a great tool.

Anyways, next I contacted the owner of PressBooks, Hugh McGuire. I knew it was a longshot as PressBooks is well-established with a team, and Hugh’s got an impressive CV. I contacted him just a day before the due date for submission though, and it passed.

I also contacted Boone Gorges, the lead developer of Anthologize, but didn’t hear back (it was probably a communication channel he doesn’t check often). A very fun tangent: a few years ago Boone and I made a video together for WordCamp Seattle 2018, without ever meeting in person. Check it out.

Anyways, back to WPCampus… I submitted the presentation proposal by myself. But then WPCampus folks decided to extend the due date, during which time Hugh from PressBooks did get back to me, and we were able to submit a proposal after all 🎉.

I hope (as of the beginning of June 2021) we’ll get accepted because I really am starting to realize we do have something valuable to share. I think providing a self-contained, offline version of your website’s content is a part of accessibility, and it seems totally overlooked by most of the WP community.

Thinking Out Loud

Sales from WordPress.org Release

During the “Founding Members” release stage, I made a bit less than $1000 from the 200-or-so folks on my mailing list. But I expected that once PMB 3 was on WordPress.org, which lets users buy directly from their sites, I’d have a major bump in sales. Plus, the 50% discount I thought would make a pretty big splash.

Well, about a week since release, and I’ve made a blog post, tweeted, shared on Facebook and LinkedIn, shared with fellow Freemius plugin authors, and generated a bit more awareness, but not a single sale.

Increased traffic on printmy.blog since release of PMB 3

Also a bit disappointing: no questions at all. Nobody’s asking about hardly anything in the forum (one user noticed an integration issue with Yoast SEO, but they didn’t ask about Pro Print at all.)

I see almost a third of the PMB users updated to PMB 3, which is over a thousand users. So I have to assume most of the 1000+ users area aware of Pro Print, but haven’t really tried it.

30.6% of PMB’s users updated to PMB 3 as of June 2nd 2021.

Sometimes plugins create a big stink when they release too big a change, or are too aggressive in their marketing. Thankfully that, at least, hasn’t been my problem. Also, I’m not trying to sell a ton, just get fairly compensated for my time. I think my problem is this: folks aren’t trying the new features, so naturally don’t want to pay for them.

Signups from Release to WordPress.org

One major bit of good news is that, thanks to Freemius’ opt-in feature, my email list has grown from about 200 to 300 in a week. That is at least encouraging, because it means my efforts to post tutorials and blog posts showing the potential of PMB Pro Print will be heard by someone. So that’s a good start to the marketing funnel. So that’s great news.

Offline Access is Part of Accessibility

I touched on this earlier, but I’m realizing that providing good offline access to your website’s content is part making it accessible.

Do you know anyone who reads a lo, but not from their computer or phone? I would argue your website’s content is not very accessible to them. They could benefit from a printed copy.

Do you know someone who doesn’t have unlimited access to the web everywhere they go? Eg maybe they don’t have a smart phone with unlimited data, or are sometimes out of good cell/WiFi reception? They could benefit from a PDF or ePub file that they could download and take with them.

Do you ever have to read a ton of content from a website? Like a user manual, a long story, or just a lot of pages from a website you like? That can be awkward on a website with no linear structure, pages that refresh back to the top on reload, have no way to add notes, or any of the other “features” a book or ebook have. Even then, making a book or eBook copy of the website’s content makes it more accessible and usable to you, too.

Accessibility isn’t just about folks who are unable to see or hear or use a mouse. It’s about making content usable by everyone, including people who just prefer to not read online, or don’t have unlimited bandwidth, or just want it in a format better-suited for a long read.

Web accessibility is the inclusive practice of ensuring there are no barriers that prevent interaction with, or access to, websites on the World Wide Web by people with physical disabilities, situational disabilities, and socio-economic restrictions on bandwidth and speed.

Wikipedia

I’m not saying putting content on websites reduces accessibility. They increase it dramatically beyond print and computing before the Internet Age. It allows people from anywhere in the world to read it and it enables screen readers etc. But it leaves some people behind or is sometimes not the best way to access the information. For those reasons, adding print and offline options increases a website’s accessibility.

What’s Next?

I’m pretty sure folks don’t yet see the usefulness of PMB Pro Print. I’m kinda wanting to take a “feature fast” and stop adding features for a little while and just focus on bringing awareness to PMB Pro Print’s uses, the value of writing for print in WordPress, and how offline and print access to a website’s content increases accessibility.

Oh also I’m going to finish up the user manual and send digital and print copies (using PMB Pro, naturally) to current users.

Thanks for reading! Comments welcome, I read and respond to them all.

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