WordPress.com now offering premium themes

If you’re using WordPress.com, meaning your blog is hosted by Automattic / WordPress, then you have two new theme choices as of today. These two new premium themes will set you back around $50-70.

If you’re on your WP.com account, head over to Appearance -> Themes and you’ll see choice one is  “Headlines” by WooThemes.

It’s probably suited for for newspaper/magazines with a very clean layout with two columns, choice of 15 duo-tone color schemes, featured post, and previous posts and thumbnails. This one will set you back $45 for a life-time license.

The second one is “Shelf” by Theme Foundry. This one looks beautiful – it’s designed for posting your latest photo, music track, and thoughts.

This one is price interestingly at $68 – close to $70. We’d be curious to see how many takers there would be at that relatively higher price point. I think this is definitely a test to see what the upper end of consumer appetite (or tolerance) is for a cool looking theme. Consider that self hosted WordPress themes range any where from $20 to $80 or more.

It’d be interesting to be a fly on the wall to listen to the royalty negotiations between Automattic and the theme publishers.  The varying price and starting with only two themes right now indicates that it’s experiment and Matt Mullenweg himself confirms the experimental status thought in a blog posting at Themeshaper. TechCrunch estimates that Automattic brings in around $1 million dollars a month – most of it from premium service so we’re guessing this new theme model may become an important revenue stream in the long run.

In that posting, Matt also says this “premium theme” project was a long time in the making with code licensing compliance issues being worked out by the major theme studios. He also reveals that an internal team at Automattic worked to bring 29 new/redesigned themes to WP.com last year. He ends with a note that 2011 should bring a “significant number” of new themes – both free and premium.

More: Official WordPress.com Post | TechCrunch