Larry BraunerThis is not the first Ning Social Network Controversy and probably not the last one either.

In Ning’s Bubble Bursts: No More Free Networks, Cuts 40% Of Staff on TechCrunch, Jason Rosenthal, the new CEO of Ning, revealed that his company will let go of staff and discontinue hosting free social networking sites –  both in an attempt to bolster Ning’s bottom line.

Ning Social NetworkIn an update on Ning Creators, Mr. Rosenthal wrote that Ning will cater to users of its premium services who “represent over 75% of our traffic,” and that he would announce the details of the changes on May 4.

To address the mounting concerns of Ning’s free site creators, he also wrote,  “We recognize that there are many active Ning Networks for teachers, small non-profits, and individuals, and it’s our goal to have a set of product and pricing options that will make sense for all of them.”

My Take on Ning

I personally have been unhappy and hurt by many changes to the Ning social network in the past half-year or so. Nevertheless, I want to make it clear that I completely support whatever Ning decides to do with its business.

After all, Ning exists to generate a profit and return on investment. If Ning believes that changes — no matter how radical they may be — are required to improve its service and increase its likelihood of success, Ning must effect those changes.

Many Ning social networking sites will close down rather than upgrade. I’ll be sorry to see some of them go.  However, there will inevitably be more broken links than broken hearts, since most free sites with active members will upgrade and pay.

I’ll close some of my own Ning networks that are providing little benefit and open other Ning sites.

Alternatives to Ning

A few good free alternatives exist for Ning site creators who prefer not to upgrade:

  • SocialGo - Says on their website that their free social networking sites are “free forever.” It will take effort to get your network started again, but this looks like the best choice as of now.
  • Facebook - A Facebook group isn’t a bad alternative. You’ll need to change your networking paradigm, but in the end, you may be able to attract far more members from within Facebook.
  • LinkedIn - If your network is business oriented, a group on LinkedIn could make sense too.
  • Ning - Start a group within a premium Ning social network. You already understand the Ning platform. If you can find the right home for your group, it will benefit both you and the creator of that Ning site, a win-win situation for both of you.

Let’s all wait until after May 4 to decide upon a course of action.

Have any thoughts about Ning or a good alternative to Ning you’d like to share? Please leave a comment below.

In any case, please subscribe to my blog and join my Facebook page. :-)

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16 Responses to “Ning Social Network Announcement Ruffles Some Feathers”

  1. Stephen G. Barr, Group Publisher on April 19th, 2010 3:29 am

    At one point I had 10 social networks on Ning but also have been less than thrilled with them. I’ve got to wonder what happened to the 40M capital infusion they got last year.

  2. David Alexander on April 19th, 2010 6:22 am

    Good suggestions, Larry, as usual.

  3. Laura on April 19th, 2010 6:57 am

    I’ve already been invited to SocialGo which looks a lot like Ning and is easy to navigate and learn. Spruz is another one I found.

  4. Chris Boyer on April 19th, 2010 7:10 am

    Another good post, Larry. The retiring of free sites will definitely affect my Ning site - www.hospitalonlinemarketing.com, since my site is informational only and doesn’t exist to make a profit.

    However, I hold no grudges. I understand what Ning is trying to do and support their ability to make a profit. It might be interesting for you to do a post in the future on how to effectively shift your blogging to Facebook…

  5. Dawn Lawson on April 19th, 2010 9:07 am

    Hey Larry,

    My Ning group is of Virtual Assistants who live in Illinois. We meet up bi-monthly so I am thinking a good alternative for us might be Meetup.com. For others, Yahoo groups may be feasible.

    I really think that someone will come along and take advantage of this opportunity (Ning’s decision to go paid) and mimic their free version. From what I’ve read, Ning made an enormous profit off their ads. I can definitely see someone swooping in to get a piece of that!

  6. Larry Brauner on April 19th, 2010 2:01 pm

    @Stephen Jason Rosenthal wrote that advertising revenue from free Ning sites has been inadequate. With a big staff spending money isn’t too difficult.

    @Dave Thanks. ;-)

    @Laura Spruz is offering some amount of network migration for Ning site creators. Don’t know how much data will be retained after the conversion. Mashable published Ning: Failures, Lessons and Six Alternatives by Jolie O’Dell. Spruz is included among their alternatives as is SocialGo. Go have a read. :-)

    @Chris Facebook Notes is the closest thing on Facebook to a blog post. While in some cases notes will spread virally, I still recommend blogging on a self-hosted Wordpress blog and using social networking sites for special interest groups, discussions and online social networking.

    @Dawn Meetup seems like a good choice. Yahoo Groups are too limiting for people who like to network and bookmark.

    Ning claims that the profit from their ads isn’t as enormous as they had hoped it would be.

  7. Zack on April 19th, 2010 2:53 pm

    Crazy that all these folks are left with the option to pay or leave. I noticed there are some free options out there. [I’m promoting Zerista, which] is one that is a free and lets you take your group to your mobile phone.

  8. Warren Contreras on April 19th, 2010 5:20 pm

    Since I do this stuff as a hobby, I started looking at Google Groups when I heard this and I think it’s going to do most of what I want. They have an upgraded version that looks promising.

  9. Larry Brauner on April 19th, 2010 5:37 pm

    Warren,

    Google Groups looks interesting, but I wonder whether members who are accustomed to social networking sites will find the Google Groups format satisfying.

  10. The Social Web Analyst on April 19th, 2010 6:27 pm

    So Ning is in a sling, heh? Well, I never really liked Ning to begin with, so it’s no great loss to me. They’re just too restrictive. There are others out there. I recommend SocialGo.com as a nice alternative replacement to Ning. It’s too bad too.. If they weren’t so restrictive, then I’m sure they would have more visitors, and bring in more revenue.

  11. Larry Brauner on April 19th, 2010 9:43 pm

    Restrictive is a good adjective for Ning, even though it doesn’t rhyme with Ning at all.

  12. Dave Lucas on April 21st, 2010 8:26 am

    I’m on a LOT of social networks, but the only ones I’m currently active on are Facebook and LinkedIn.

  13. Chuck Bartok on April 21st, 2010 12:15 pm

    Fair and balanced discussion, as always Larry.

    I appreciate your candor.

  14. Jim Baran on May 5th, 2010 4:25 pm

    I see evolution vs. death. Does free always deliver the best value?

    We host a private, premium community on Ning. We’ve never had an issue with service or support.

    I’m sad for the disruption to the many free and valuable communities on Ning. I participate on several free sites. One in particular is health related and have discovered much information that doctors never told me.

    I just wanted to say that beyond the issue of free vs. paid, I never want to lose touch with the many passionate social networking folks I have met and shared with over the last few years. Best to all in finding the appropriate solution that meets your needs.

    Best,

    Jim Baran

  15. Oliver on May 7th, 2010 6:00 am

    Another free alternative is our mixxt.com, offering functionality very similar to Ning but with some additions.

    Some of the advantages are:

    - Strong Community Management features (e.g., newsletter system, access control)
    - Powerful sub-groups
    - Full collaboration features including wikis, image albums, file systems, event-management and CMS
    - Advanced customization

    Our philosophy is different from Ning’s; it is based on White Labeled solutions for large institutions and enterprises, as well as Freemium services.

    mixxt networks are especially popular among education, work-related and event networks.

    Users wanting to import their Ning network to mixxt find a useful tool in our Ning importer.

    Give your own mixxt network a try for free.

  16. Adrian on July 28th, 2011 11:28 pm

    More than a year on and Ning is still going strong as a paid network. I guess they made the right decision. Great article. cheers

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