There’s been a common argument that sponsored themes are higher quality because they were paid for and removing them from the theme directory will make it suck. While I find this argument insulting to the designers who have put their work out there without sponsorship, and having personally looked at hundreds of them I had a general feeling that most sponsored themes were junk, I didn’t really have any data.
Well I ran a few queries against the theme viewer DB a few minutes ago and found out some interesting stats:
- We’ve removed 2,107 themes so far, or a bit under 60%. Those themes had 2,243,735 downloads total, or about 1,064 downloads per theme.
- There are 1,737 themes still in the directory and those had 3,480,244 downloads, or about 2,003 downloads per theme.
(There may be some spam themes still left in the 1,737 number, but I think we’ve gotten most of them. The reports have slowed to a trickle.)
So if you assume downloads are a measure of the public interest in a theme, then non-sponsored themes are about twice as popular as sponsored ones.
Of course you might not accept that assumption, and the data is fuzzy, and there are certainly a handful of sponsored themes that are very high quality, but overall the indications are that they were a net drain on the site. Rather than making one-off exceptions to the no-sponsored-themes policy and being accused of favoritism or of having ulterior motives* I’d rather spend time doing things to reward and encourage the people who are making high-quality themes without embedded advertising.
* Which we get enough of already.