Big news. After Gina Bianchini left Ning about a month ago there were already some speculations why. Mike Arrington assumed that it is some kind of a Davos curse because three CxOs he interviewed at the last summit left they jobs afterwards. Others already pointed out that the company might have some issues etc.
Today Jason Rosenthal, the new CEO announced that Ning is discontinuing its free offer. Admins who run a free network can either upgrade to a paid version or, well, b*gger off.
Ning was one of the lighthouses of the Freemium model and seeing it abandon the idea in favor of a strictly profit driven business is really a bomb. Although we can only speculate about all the different reasons why that change is coming, the fact that besides this move Ning will cut off 40 employees sounds like stories we heard from MySpace and others recently. You can read the email of Jason Rosenthal in the TechCrunch blog post linked at the end of this post.
Now on to the educational world. Ning has become a very popular tool for educators to build up networks. Classroom 2.0 is of course the biggest one (and also the one which always paid for the Ning service), then we have the EduPLN, Lancelot School, Virtual Round Table Conference, Myngle and so on.
There is of course a lot of tweeting going on right now (will Twitter be the next to charge?). I can understand that there is a certain “We don’t give a sh*t” attitude in the Ning announcement and of course, it could have been handled better but on the other side why does everyone panic and looking for a Plan B?
I got one for you: If you want to keep your network, pay for it. Easy. And if you don’t want / cannot pay for it, let your users pay. If they really like what you are doing someone or maybe a couple eventually will pay for the others to use the network for free. Wait a second, isn’t that…
That’s one thing what this story is all about. Do you care enough for the service to pay for it? An interesting question for Ning. And on the other hand, do your members care enough about your network to pay for it? Interesting question for you. And then of course: do you care enough about your network to pay for them, so they can use the network you set up?
Honestly, I think freemium will be dead and gone by the end of the year in most markets. And that is actually a good thing because it brings back realism and maybe people will start to appreciate services again and not just open a free account everywhere they come across. By the way, do you know supermarkets where the people who buy in the gourmet section pay for all the others who then get frozen food for free?
And who knows, maybe eduBlogs is already taking some notes.