Ning Things: when free is not always free

As a technology explorer (I have a badge! naw), I run a few Ning social netw0rk sites. I have a few within the National Writing Project, I have a few within the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, and one for the techies at my school. I’ve liked Ning networks because they are easy to set up and are pretty simple for even beginners to wrap their head around (although the difference between a blog post and a forum post can be tricky).  Like many, I got my Ning start over at Classroom 2.0 and used it as a model for my own Ning sites.

And I have liked that Ning networks are free. But of course, they are not free and never have been. Ning has always run advertising on the free sites. Now, I never see the ads because I use an ad-blocker. For a few of the Ning sites I manage, we have paid to remove advertising for periods of time because of worries about ads. (I remember reading an article about how we should all remove our ad-blocking programs so that companies like Ning can make their money. But I can’t make that shift, even though I realize I want it both ways — a service that I value that someone else pays for.)

Yesterday, I caught a press release from Ning that says they are about to move towards the removal of all free sites in its network and push folks to either upgrade to a premium version or tell them to move their virtual homes elsewhere. This comes because the Ning company is losing money. Lots of money. It is laying off staff. And it is a company after all.

Here are  a few items of interest:

So, what does this mean for folks like me? Not sure yet. One of the complaints within the NWP Tech Liaison community about the Ning sites is that there is no easy way to migrate your data away from Ning and into another platform. For example, if I am tired of Edublogs, I can migrate my blog somewhere else. It’s a few steps and I get a file of my data. I find a new host and upload my data and keep going (with some tweaks, of course). There is no system in place in a Ning (yet?) to do that, other than copying and pasting things, and can you imagine the hassle of that?

So, I’ll be waiting to hear what kind of premium options they are talking about. We do fund a few sites without advertising, so maybe those ones will make the cut. But I don’t see the value of upgrading for a site that only has a handful of people. (The cost to remove ads is $25 a month).

Peace (in the network),

  1. I’m not that involved with Ning myself but do belong to a few Ning communities. I wonder if they considered placing carefully selected advertisements on their sites. For instance, I love the fact that you can now easily put a safety lock on for YouTube. I wouldn’t mind having ads that are only about the subject area of the site, ie education, tech, writing.
    When I read the blogs I subscribed to, they are often full of advertisements in at least one of the sidebars. It would be great if they were missing but I know how much time and effort the blogger has put into their site, it may in fact be their livelihood, and therefore they should be getting something back. Wonder if it’s too late. I also realize that the Ning sidebars are already LOADED so the whole look would need to change if ads were initiated!

  2. I’m going to be using buddypress on my own site. It’s based on wordpress and it can be exporting/imported.

    You can export members from the ning but not easily export content.

    • I have Buddypress on my list. My issue would be hosting. I like having someone else host, so I don’t have to do upgrades, mess with spammers, etc. Again, I acknowledge that I want the world and my cake, too. A cherry on top, and free, would also be something to make me happy.

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