This might get a bit controversial. I just read another discussion where I realized Ning has finally made the "Powered by Ning" footer mandatory on all new Ning Mini networks. Now I have an older Ning Mini, so apparently I'm not affected by this change. I had to think long and hard before I barely...and I mean just barely...decided to pay for the Mini. For those of you who do not know, When Gina Bianchini was the CEO of Ning it was a freemium- you had up to 10 free networks that were essentially fully loaded with things you now pay for such as groups, events, chat, etc. It was a different business model back then, and the trade-offs included forced ads and branding that you could pay to upgrade & remove.
Now there are about 4 primary elements of Ning branding that I have on my Ning Mini. There's the top-left 1) NING and 2) Create a Ning Network! There's also the 3) Create a Ning Network! underneath my site's About section. All these apparently are part of an incentive structure for me to upgrade. I understand they may also support marketing for the platform, and perhaps contribute to some kind of industry related metrics? Whatever. I always assumed the main reason was someone at Ning knew most creators would not like them- strongly prefer to go whitelabel- and would be compelled to upgrade. Forced branding and adserving are industry norms on freeware websites- actual strategic business models that are respected by venture capitalists and platform developers who view "people" as "end-users". Yeah, I think there's just a tad bit of disconnect there, but I've always viewed that as opportunity for someone like myself or one of my consulting clients to come in and do better.
Now 4) is the interesting one. That's the Powered by Ning footer that's apparently become mandatory. I won't check to see if I can still take it off and put it back on though. Last time I ran a check on one of my site's features, my Sign Up box and About box got switched around in some kind of glitch nightmare. Yeah I had thought my page was finally perfect and then this. Ning support just told me as a Mini user that I did not have access to change these around. I tried to tell them that's precisely why I was surprised it changed, that it must be some kind of system glitch, that I just wanted it back to the way it was for the previous 3 years... but, you know, blank stare, ostrich hiding head in a hole, ticket resolved, "__it happens" kind of thing. I just sat back in awe an have tried to get used to it.
Here I am someone who actually promotes Ning voluntarily by opting-in to this footer. You can't pay people for that kind of brand loyalty and advocation. I always wondered- why was it optional? I mean, did Ning realize there was a qualitative measure of "end-user" satisfaction there? That other thread suggested maybe this has become more of a numbers game, which would not be surprising given the recent Glam Media acquisition. I'm a student of modern business, so I scrutinizing it all to see how it plays out. Could be kinda cool actually. On the other hand, this little twist on what used to be an option for the footer "innie vs. outie" is not a good sign IMHO.
My business plan which is transparent and currently accessible to anyone on my site talks in depth about the Ning platform. I actually promote the indirect association with the brand. It's a matter of necessity to leverage the cost/ benefit. In other words, you can't beat them then join them! Since my site is yadayada domain.ning.com, I'm pulling a little Inspector Closseau, and making it seem as if "I meant to do that". I want people to wonder about it, for it to help them remember the address, to be somewhat intrigued by this social networking platform. Most people still do not recognize what "Ning" is. When they go to your site, they likely think YOU are Ning, lol! When they see your whitelabel site without the Ning branding, they probably think YOU designed it from scratch! That's one way to make a strong first impression...that is until Ning runs through a bad month-long stretych of e-mail serving. Then, maybe it's better to have someone you can point the finger at, lol!
In my business plan I make it clear that I'm not all that impressed Ning will be around 5 years from now. That's just the nature of the game in the Silicon Valley/ Bay Area tech culture- my niche BTW. I advise my clients to take ownership of their content and relationships- to keep in mind an exit strategy in case Ning or my own proprietary site have to shut down. I do suggest I'm satisfied "just" enough to proceed as is. I keep my site ultra-simple to mitigate the impacts of changes. I'm a brand fan and champion- why not! We as a Ning Creator community are actually pretty phenominal. Ning's made improvements along the way too, like having people such as Eric to come online and swim among us (whether we be minnows or sharks). Just maybe Ning is listening...just maybe they have more foresight than a bunch of tech geeks and advertising media investors.
FYI, I also used to be a big champion for Microsoft Office Live Small Business etc. That is until they took their freemiums and started dissecting them out...MSN Groups-gone, Windows Live Spaces-poof!, MSN Soapbox...your videos will all be deleted, my free blog...we just exported that to WordPress for you, my free website...we're gonna have to charge you a small annual fee, my paid website and e-mail...we're actually going to have to charge you alot more, and you're going to have to manually transfer your domain, all your e-mail, oh yeah and sorry but you'll have to rebuild your website. Don't worry though! We've got all kinds of new features you don't want bundled into the price, and although we recommend you pay an expert to help you with the migration, you can download this step-by-step instruction manual as though you had the time and risk tolerance to handle it yourself.
Yeah...riiiiiiiiiiight...I ask for frickin sharks with lazer beams attached to them. Ning's done alright to get us to this point I have to give them credit. There's still plenty room to screw it all up. If I were you, I'd look real close into criticisms and complaints for opportunities to improve, get it right, and distinguish yourself from the competition through smarter service and responsiveness. We're kind of in the same boat together. Me powered by you. Ning Powered by Me. Together, we can make a more beautiful web!
I agree with most of what you say Patrick. The thing is I see my role as building a business networking organisation which happens to be on the ning platform. You know Starbucks doesn't own it's real estate, it uses other peoples platforms 'the rented shop' to insert what it does best - the coffee and build it's community around it's brand irrespective of who owns the bricks and mortar. However to keep the analogy going it doesn't have to display the builders name next to it's own sign.
Several years back, I used the exact same analogy, John. LOL Obviously the difference is Ning would be out of business if there were no branding at all. That's not saying they need to brand our networks at all. Were I running the company, I would much rather prefer to take out a few television ads. Yes, I am aware of the cost, but starting off with a small campaign would be worth the investment. There current model obviously isn't working well for Ning, which explains this sudden change of heart on their part. Perhaps a radical change in the way they advertise on the internet might work, and they won't have to advertise on television or radio.
Behemoth social sites like Myspace and Facebook are on their way out, and niche networks will soon have their day. When that day comes, it will no longer be necessary for Ning (or their competitors) to brand our networks.
Thursday's scheduled release of a combo "Powered by Ning/ Glam Social", if applicable to established Nings like mine, could change my mind.
I would not want to associate with the social connotations of Glam anything. Maybe 20 years ago when I was a Motley Crue fan circa "Shout at the Devil", they wore make-up and self-proclaimed as "glam rock".
These days people take that kind of branding more seriously, so we're talking getting ink done, and few people are likely to walk up to a person with a bunch of tats and ask them if they are into "glam social".
Kidding aside.... I'm hoping the new change is exclusively for new networks. If not it will feel too pushy, and that sense this may be desperation would make me start to feel less secure about the future.
LOL The good music went away with the makeup.
I don't have an opinion on the Glam Media/Ning thing though.
Yeah... looks like I still might have the option to remove the Powered by Ning (with Glam Social additive).
I'm not 100% I would go that far, I generally think through the pro's & con's of everything I do with my site for quite a while.
It would be kind of funny if I did though, cause I would pull a 180 and change the title of this discussion to "I lost the Power- Why my Ning is now an Innie".
...or maybe "bloodstain on the stage". Craziness!
powered by ning; powdered by glam
LOL @ Anthony and John!
I love the interwebs
Ha ha! Hammer pants!!
I've just been sitting here staring at it. When I take it off, I get the feeling I've lost some of the professional looking balance in the aesthetic... there's this big empty space with just my name. I start to consider some of my rebranding protocols that I've played around with in the past, longer names like such and such social media, but then that throws off other elements.
This perfectly reiterates something I asked Ning a long time ago, whatever you do don't do anything that makes a change on my site without my explicit consent- which as a paying client who considers this the face of my business ought to be a reasonable expectation.
I put it back on and I sit there thinking it might actually be the lesser of two evils, but it is a challenge to see it as a value ad. The only thing I like is they preserved my right to remove it. I get to thinking it boils down to zero-sum logic, and that to cut my losses while saving my sanity I should just accept any satisficing decision.
... so yeah, running in place and callin it dancin.
Lol! ...and thus the hollywood Glam genre came to be he he.
Nice job Home Sweet Potato! Now you got me talkin it up!
Great minds - I think it's pretty good analogy. Anyway from what I read above, the NINGing of your network is only applicable to 'mini' at £2.95 a month, blimey to carry on the analogy you can't even get a starbucks for that, let alone a fantastic social media site. So, I say fine let them put Ning on it, obviously at higher monthly amounts, ie £16.95 for the next level up then you should be able to take ning off.