Ning has me torn.
I was all set to pen a post with plaudits for Ning’s decision to discontinue its free service, demanding the social networks hosted on its platform move to one of the company’s premium offerings or relocate. Here was a Web 2.0 company that was finally getting hip to the realities of maintaining a financially viable organization.
About a year ago on this blog I pleaded with Facebook and Twitter to charge users for access to its service as a means of establishing multiple streams of revenue. I argued that an advertising supported model alone would not ensure the long-term economic viability of either of these companies.
Plus, it was important to disabuse consumers of the notion that they are entitled to free and unfettered access to nearly everything on the Web – information, infrastructure and other resources. Our capitalistic society is based on a simple concept: you pay for what you consume.
However, a well crafted and thoughtful post about Ning from Shel Holz got me thinking. My previously stated view about Web 2.0 and capitalism stands up in this situation except for one glaring factor – Ning made a promise of free to its users.
In fact, as Holz correctly points out, free access was at the very core of Ning’s value proposition.
Ning now has a big-time trust issue. Yes, the community managers who have to cough up a monthly fee or deal with the hassle of moving to another platform will certainly be bitter. They were the free-loaders and of limited value to Ning.
More worrisome is the trust gap that may now form between the company and its paying customers, its employees and its partners. Anyone who does business with Ning would be well served by maintaining a level of suspicion about the policies and decisions that come from the company’s management.
Monday, April 19, 2010
Ning has me torn.