The rise of the WordPress content management system (CMS) has led to a thriving ecosystem of small businesses involved in plugin and theme development, specialty hosting and site maintenance services. But how do these businesses perform economically? To find out WP Engine, a premium WordPress hosting company looked specifically at the revenue generated from WordPress plugin and theme development and ranked the top revenue producing companies. They discovered that 5,500 themes generated $232 million on revenue and that 3,800 plug-ins produced $35 million since 2010. Note that this is only a fraction of the revenue generated from WordPress website design and hosting services.
The WordPress ecosystem of core software, plugins, themes, content development, hosting, security and maintenance have allowed many website design and development firms to build, deliver and maintain robust websites at affordable prices. This has led to a huge installed base of WordPress websites. One in four websites is now powered by the WordPress content management system (CMS), according to Automattic, the company behind WordPress. The two closest competitors, Joomla and Drupal, are currently powering nearly 5% of worldwide websites. Among CMS-based websites, according to web technology research firm W3Techs, WordPress holds a 58.8 market share. WordPress has an even more dominant position among CMS-based small business websites (SMB). Online security service CodeGuard estimates that 78.8% of CMS-based small business websites are built on WordPress.
WordPress Plugin and Theme Revenue
The WP Engine research data revealed that plugin and theme developers generated a total $267 million since 2010 with an average of $8,350 per plugin and $36,947 per theme. Overall the marketplace for plugins and themes has grown over 3,000% since 2010, according to WP Engine.
Plugin Revenue. The WP Engine research indicates that the total plugin sales since 2010 have been around $35 million. The top-3 revenue-generating plugin categories are Utilities ($7.7 million), Interface Elements ($7 million) and eCommerce ($4.5 million).
Themes Revenue. The market for themes is larger than the market for plugins – at least for now. WP Engine estimates the total theme sales since 2010 to be around $232 million. Among the top-3 theme categories themes for corporate websites is the clear winner with $75 million in revenue, followed by creative themes with $56.8 million in sales. Blog/Magazine themes generated $28.4 million in sales since 2010.
Top Plugins and Themes Producers
The largest theme provider, in terms of theme inventory, is ThemeForest. At the time of this study, according to WP Engine, their site listed over 6,300 WordPress themes available for purchase and download. With $4.1 million in revenue, German-based wpbakery has been the best-selling developer in the plugin marketplace, while Austria-based Kriesi leads in the theme market with $7.1 million in revenue.