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How Do You Feel About Sponsored Themes?

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Sponsored ThemesLike the title says, I want to know how you feel about sponsored WordPress themes. If you don’t know what a sponsored theme is, basically – it’s a theme with one or more “paid links” included, usually located in the footer.

One of the most authoritative sources for WordPress theme releases, Weblog Tools Collection, will not allow sponsored themes to be featured on their main blog. WordPress’ official theme viewer dumped sponsored themes near the same time, about a year ago.

On one hand, sponsored themes sort of defeat the purpose of the free and open WordPress community spirit. On the other hand, theme authors need to pay the bills – and sponsoring themes is an easy way to help do that.

In the comments, I’d like to know what you think of them – sponsored themes that is. Would you use a sponsored theme? What if the links were too “spammy” in your eyes?


Leland Fiegel was the original founder of ThemeLab. He is a web developer who loves WordPress and blogging.

  • Matt

    they usually seem kinda spammy to me

  • Andrea

    I don’t mind a couple of small links. Seriously, with all the ads over most people’s blogs, a couple links in a footer are relatively minor.

    I think I’d rather strip them out though – if I had a choice of leaving sponsored links or sending a donation, I might send a donation. But most people are lazy. this way the designer gets to pay bills.

  • randy

    Personally I wouldn’t use one, but I can understand it.

    honestly if the sponsor had 100×32 or smaller it would be ok. If there willing to sponsor a theme than they should be willing to create a variety of badges that the users can choose from and include it in the admin.

  • Leland

    @Matt: Sometimes they are, but what if it’s a non-spammy site? Although, this would probably be up to the theme user to decide.

    @Andrea: Yes, usually the average blog visitor doesn’t even notice these links with them being in the footer, as they’re relatively unobtrusive.

    @Randy: That’s an interesting idea. I was actually thinking about text links when I wrote this post, although you bring up an interesting point about graphical ads.

    Appreciate the comments everyone!

  • Kay

    I don’t mind one footer link if it goes to a non-spammy site, but I don’t like several links.

  • Simon North

    As a web designer I used to do quite a few sponsored themes, the incentive in producing a free theme is that you get some money for the time you have spent on the theme. You can’t get something for nothing in this world and if people are spending their time on making free themes, it is only fair that they get something in return.

    I got out of this field a while back because themes weren’t making enough because everybody was selling sponsored links that it prices dropped dramatically and nowadays I wouldn’t bother with sponsored links in my templates, if I produce a free template then I link back to my template site where I sell my premium themes because this is basically the design by link.

    Most bloggers don’t really care as long as the theme looks good and works the way they want it, links at the bottom aren’t really a problem.

  • Kyle Eslick

    I think premium themes spawned to replace sponsored themes.

    I have no problem with it as many authors wouldn’t bother to make themes if they had to be free. As it stands now, people can get great free themes or really great themes for a price and everyone is happy.

  • OlleP

    Hi Leland.

    Yea, I probably would consider sponsored theme.

    But someone need to convince me that I get advantage over free themes, what can the sponsored theme do that the free once can not.

    I hate commercials, on Aussie television (as to my experience US is no difference) it’s so abundant and annoying that I virtually abandon television.

    On the internet I believe we grown use to “reading between the ads” somehow, thus stationary ads would be OK as a ‘theme sponsor link’ I believe. However Pop-Ups, Pop-Overs and too much animation in ads are annoying and frustrating.

    Thanks for an excellent site Leland, you are welcome to make a million in ad profits on this one.


  • Pete

    Absolutely nothing wrong with sponsored links if that what’s you want. This is your site and your rules, and at the end of the day your supporters/subscribers will have to make a choice to accept this or decide to move on and find another source of themes.

    My view is that as soon as sponsored links are in place the themes are no longer free, end of story.

    At the end of the day it’s your site, your rules and your choice… it’s also your responsibility to accept what becomes of your site in the long term when/if you do have sponsored links.

    Decisions, decisions



  • IndieLab

    Hi Leland,

    I would agree with OlleP specifically. I have a background in advertising and like OlleP I cannot stand most commercials because of the deceitful nature. However, some are very informative and helpful.

    That being said, I feel the same about sponsored themes and the links they contain. If it’s spammy or leads to a sales pitch page (the ones with lots of yellow highlighting), then forget it! But, if a theme were to be sponsored by a legitimate website looking to gain some traffic and exposure, and one that is helpful or provides a decent service, then hell yes, gimmie some sponsored links.

    Then the question is…how do you weed through the paying sponsors to make sure their legit, I don’t know.

  • Dan Butcher

    I wouldn’t use a theme with sponsored links, and truthfully, I think twice before I use a free theme that requires me to keep a link back to the creator. I think it’s reasonable for a theme creator to want a link back and get some credit, but the theme has to be pretty exceptional for me to be willing to put a link that goes somewhere not of my choosing on my site.

    For me, a link on my site implies my endorsement, and I’m selective about who or what I would endorse to my readers.

    I would rather pay a small fee ($5 or $10) for the right to use a theme free of links than to have sponsored links. Otherwise, I’m going to go ahead an fork over the money for a premium theme that provides support from the creator, etc.