I am wondering about the broader implications of Ning's recent feature release for videos. It should be a simple thing - feature ready / can now use - but in my experience it's more complicated than that. Let's see if the Ning Team can answer these concerns.
Why was the feature discontinued in the first place, and have those issues been adequately addressed?
- A Legal Question | Is Ning liable for the video content uploaded by their customers onto their servers?
- I guess yes, that was the story coming from management when they discontinued the service the first go round if I recall correctly. Some people wanted to upload content that might technically be considered porn, and Ning was chasing it's tail trying to establish and enforce their content rules within the terms of service. It was a major discussion here on Creators, and at the end of the day it sounded like Ning just gave up on the idea of a hosted video service when they considered just how little control they could effect, and how they might be directly held liable, or otherwise flagged as inappropriate / risk site in meta-crawlers and site rankers.
- I guess also there was a concern about copyrights suits - something that has since redefined how YouTube allows you to share anything recognizable as some other producer's movie or song - but just the notion that they as the platform provider might be held responsible for any such fees or class action suits or whatever. It's not hard to imagine how such a complicated legal issue hits council's desk, and their advice is to just drop hosted videos as a service.
- I guess there is also a pretty major prohibitive cost issue. Video uploads require a serious use of data storage, which in a logistics sense may become exponentially costly over time rather than achieving gains in efficiency through economies of scale. Well, I suppose you can pass through such expense per user per their data plan, something I believe has only been ambiguously addressed so far - but if you have a limit of 1GB or whatever at your lower tier customer plan, that capacity to upload 30 videos at a time might sound great until you find yourself escalated into the 10GB plan at a substantially higher rate. I'm not even keeping up to speed with Ning's new pricing concepts other than I don't want to mess around with them and don't want to find myself bothered by them until it's something I actually want. For instance, if I have a directly corresponding revenue stream for those users I allow to upload directly into my branded channel, then I can do the math and decide if it makes sense over a projection.
So, there are more issues other creators can pull into this conversation I am sure, but I think these were significant in Ning's decision to discontinue the feature in the first place, and I wonder if these were addressed... or the feature was just arbitrarily turned on without consideration to the known issues of the past or what can be reasonably expected from future developments.
What does this mean for someone using their site for recreational purposes - if things go wrong (again)?
- It probably means some fun times for you and your communities while things are going right - a great way to encourage engagement and growth. If and when it gets discontinued, a big collective "Aaaaawwwwwww" as people reflect on how it was fun while it lasted.
What does this mean for someone using their site for professional/ business purposes - if the hosted video service is shut down (again)?
So this probably means you have some opportunity to reinforce your brand and service's credibility - you've literally got a media company. If and when it gets discontinued though, your brand and service will take a major hit in terms of how your peers or customers see you. It will be you who they hold accountable for the fail and/or misleading value propositions. If you are monetizing somehow of this, you risk losing that revenue overnight, perhaps even being sued for damages - and it's not likely you can just fix the problem and get that business back overnight either.
What does it mean in a basic sense?
I agree with Mr. Biz there on the notion the features should incorporate better QA testing protocols prior to release. I have no problems with BETA releases or even as we have done in the past use of focus groups interested in getting their input included on feature designs. What are the basic protocols for releasing a feature? I am pretty sure Ning was standardizing this up to the point they were acquired by Mode, so those notes should be referred to if at all accessible. I might hit up the old community liason Eric, or some of the lead engineers/ developers who used to be involved, but it will suck to reinvent the wheel on this. What's the impact on my site? In the past, the worst for me - aside from all the early adopter bugs, glitches, interference across other features, and unscheduled system down time that resulted - was the disbelief I had when something I had taken months to master and perfect was suddenly changed and out of sorts. At the very least I hope we have established that any new system feature roll outs should be "opt-in" only - and by that I mean you choose to turn the feature on if you want, and only then turn it off if you don't. What I do not mean is that you find the feature installed, and then have the option to turn off - but I still feel I have to be explicit in that.
Along that note, as I covered this with Mode's GM, I also do not mean "opt-in" from a sense of take it or leave it, either you are choosing to be a customer and taking it - voting with your dollars so to speak - or moving on if you don't like it. That kind of thinking misses the whole point of a service where you can build your own custom social network, but Mode made it clear we were moving from social network to social publishing platform service - fancy blogs with the ability to collect fans and followers. Real interesting to see the new management suggesting the re-release of the video feature as a great way to grow social networks.
What does it mean in a strategic sense?
O.K. Can of worms here. There is a trend in digital strategy these days whereby all manner of companies are trying to produce proprietary media or "content" in order to demonstrate captive audiences... so if you have something like your own Tim Allen show with a bunch of do-it-yourself home remodeler contractors or homeowners as your niche audience, then your opportunities to partner with brands in terms of advertising and marketing projects are hot right now. You'd be right in there with tool companies, Home Depot, that kind of thing.
With that said, if you subscribe to a platform as a service like Ning where you can upload and host your own branded media, you've essentially got the minimum viable tools you need to run that kind of channel like a real media company - although as I mentioned in another post this week, I would not depend on Ning as a platform to build your business from right now as they simply have a long way to go before their product/ service is even back up to "par". The fact is, they might not even know what they are doing.
Well, Glam Media was a collection of market verticals trying to sell organically curated niche audiences to advertisers and featuring special relationships with content producers and special "algorithm" type intelligent placement of ads for their advertising customers ... and this was not working out too well for them. When they shifted over to Mode Media, the intention was to offer a more universal mix of market verticals - so Glam was more cosmetics type advertising verticals and they decided to rebrand in order to offer channels for men - or let's say even more nuanced like gamers and foodies. I guess this was not working out too well for them either.
I feel it's important to discuss what the parent company strategy is and how the things they do within those mandates can effect you and your strategy. Mode Media decided, in a last ditch effort to upsell the value of their company for possible IPO or acquisition, to become more of an on demand media company. What I mean by that is the recent promulgation of addictive media programming - the kind of stuff that releases a pilot / entire season and either catches on virally or not. If not, you go back and come up with another program without much lost, if it does take off then you've got something easy to monetize and sell.
It's a real phenomena you can see being employed by the likes of Netflix, Amazon, etc. Since just about everybody has now had a chance to wake up after a three day binge surrounded by empty 2 liters and Doritos bags - including those affluent investor types - I'm pretty sure Mode was thinking they could pivot right into that and become a hot commodity. Was it really such a surprise then to see them discontinue the hosted video services with NC branded players about this time? Some of us mentioned it at the time, but it wasn't too surprising for us at that point to see the feature removed from our services suddenly appear repackaged as part of Mode Media's suit of media platform services for big name brands.
What's in it for us, really?
Ultimately, yeah, an all inclusive video hosting service with branded players and such could represent an incredible tool for network creators looking at leveraging the platform for business purposes, it's just right now hard to see it as "all that". While I appreciate novice users coming on with some excitement about the release, and it is refreshing to see the Ning Team jump back into product development projects neglected or cannibalized by Mode, if you are looking at your network as part of a business strategy, I advise caution and patience. Let's see how this plays out.
What's the purpose of this customer community anyway? Who says? Do they represent the interests of most users, or are those people mostly silent? Why would they be so silent?
I think the general utility of the feature is a great topic in itself and well suited to a customer community, although I would prefer to see that kind of interaction set aside in a specific area. It's really something Ning should be the pros on already, but if their intentions are sincere, then I guess we can go through this whole feedback and testing thing again. The same, in my mind, for the coding tips and tricks - fits within a do-it-yourself or do-it-together platform concept, but for a platform where it's all built in and intuitive enough for just about anyone to use, I would think not really front page material.
What's this all worth to you? What value do I get for all the years I have invested in? Is it worth it for us to wait while the platform comes back online to a serviceable level? When can we get past that and onto taking Ning to the next level?
Just a quick slant on that, but it would probably cost them substantially to hire developer pros who could get this done right and the first time out - and it will cost to train up whoever they have brought on board which should be worth it in the long run - but these delays in production, service delivery, and such, do end up hitting the bottom line for business users like myself. I for one have been BETA testing my Ning project actively since I started in 2008. The video I just embedded above is something like 2012 when I finally felt the smoke was clearing on all the turmoil and platform problems - but I was feeling like my project was just about minimally viable and market ready. Here it is 2017 and you are welcome to ask, but I will tell you straight up I still don't think Ning is up to that standard yet, so my Ning project continues to wait.
There was a time when Ning was being mentioned right along side the likes of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter - for real. In fact, the notion was that it should be superior to all those. If we were really going after that kind of level, then we'd be getting a lot more from this company than bare minimums to be thankful for, the front page so to speak would be very different, and the engagement of creators would transcend feature topics and coding tricks - IMHO.
What would I like to see as an end-user, what do I think we need as business users?
What I would really love is to see Ning really take an interest in people who have great dreams, visions, and passions for their projects - for fun, by all means, but especially for those who are trying more ambitious and serious business or organizational concepts - you know, take our Ning projects just as seriously as they are taking their Ning project. That's what I would call front page type material for our customer community.
Whatever happened to Mode Media's video platform projects anyway? Do you still have the market studies, the platform insights, the industry connections, the production equipment, etc? Would it be possible to put that to use directly for Ning Creators themselves for instance - perhaps some who would like to use their Ning as a media company startup? For those people who invest in a platform like Ning as a part of their business project, they really ought to be celebrated like the start up culture you see in Silicon Valley or any of these regions trying to cultivate economy through innovation.
Pretty much every (business) idea I have seen Ning Creators come up with over the years represents a potential seed deserving of a look if not some investment, because any one of them - with the proper support - could stand to take off in a big way. After all, if Ning was all it could be, you've supposedly got everything you could need to go viral, convert visitors, impress guests, engage through the point of transaction, and to continue building on those relationships.
I am one such customer who feels they have such an idea, Ning, why not engage me and others like me on our terms and concerns. We could do so much better.