In Defense of Ning

Techcrunch released an article today showcasing the next steps for Ning as a company. Needlessto say, the news is bad. Ning is laying off employees and moving to a pay model, shutting down its free services. For more here is the article by Jason Kincaid.

Ning has become an amazing resource for me as an educator. The ability to create a social network designed around my composition class has spoiled me quite a bit. I honestly think I would pay to use the service; it is that convenient.

All things considered though, Ning as a company would grow in remarkable ways if it stayed free and marketed itself more as an educational tool. Hell it should take a page from the Google play book and approach educational institutions directly and market itself from there. Many critics have attacked Ning’s business model based on its free nature, but I will happily say that the site has been a dream for me and my fellow instructors at Georgia Southern.

Mr. Rosenthal, you do not have to take this drastic a step because a while untapped market lays at your finger tips. You just haven’t noticed it. I will try to secure grant money to continue using your site, but if you move behind a pay wall, I will be much more inclined to try and make Google groups and Orkut supplement your past services. I really don’t want to blow up my gmail inbox like that, but I don’t make enough money to justify the subscription.

My university does, and has already paid Google handsomely for customized apps. Hell, if you don’t jump on this, Google will probably just buy your company and make the money you were too stupid to earn yourself.

Your company is quite good, but this move will potentially kill everything you have worked for. It is no skin off of my back either, cause someone like Google will just come along and offer something similar (if not better). Do the smart thing and explore the market you are most suited for.


6 Responses to “In Defense of Ning”

  1. Hi David – it is unfortunate what happened to Ning. But there are other tools out there that I think can fill the void.

    For instance, IGLOO Software offers free social networks. And if you check out the success stories page, i’m sure you’ll be happy to see other educational institutions have used the platform…from projects as diverse as the Global Youth Forum to PolicyNet (a global academic network spearheaded by Princeton).

    When you sign up for a free community, you can start from scratch or choose from a selection of preconfigured templates. One of which is an eLearning community which comes preset with areas for course materials, lesson plans, online discussions and resources.

    Each community is a 100% secure, branded solution that comes complete with document management and collaboration capabilities (wikis, blogs, forums, instant messaging & other Web 2.0 functionality). I hope you give it a try and see what others have experienced in the academic community.

  2. While you say:

    “All things considered though, Ning as a company would grow in remarkable ways if it stayed free and marketed itself more as an educational tool.”

    You fails to answer the question which has forced this decision – how can Ning actually make money to support its free services?

    Granted, giving the product away free gets traffic, but how do you monetize this? The service costs money to run, and from the looks of it more than can be subsidized by current paying users.

    • atmaweapon42 Says:

      It could monetize by selling the service in package format to universities. Just like Google did with its special apps. Not that hard I think.

  3. I think NING had a huge following and the potential to make he money from its ability to market from its site. Google has been a pro at this. Perhaps they will turn it around but more then likely someone new will fill the niche. Only problem is the vast set of assets sitting at NING as a network and as individuals work. NING has been a great product although my first disappointment was taking away search function. – Mike

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