Ning just dropped a deuce on the people who built free social networks on their service: If you want to stay, you have to pay.
After Ning Co-founder and CEO Gina Bianchini was ousted in March, new helmsman Jason Rosenthal has apparently been brought on board to cut the dead weight and steer the company in a more profitable direction. In an internal memo to employees, Rosenthal wrote:
“So, we are going to change our strategy to devote 100% of our resources to building the winning product to capture this big opportunity. We will phase out our free service. Existing free networks will have the opportunity to either convert to paying for premium services, or transition off of Ning. We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale. And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.”
Not only have they decided to shut down the free aspect of their service, the company will also be dumping about 70 employees.
“As a consequence of this change, I have also made the very tough decision to reduce the size of our team from 167 people to 98 people. As hard as this is to do, I am confident that this is the right decision for our company, our business, and our customers. Marc and I will work diligently with everyone affected by this to help them find great opportunities at other companies.”
It’s easy to figure out what’s going on in this situation – with about $120 million in funding and a company valuation of nearly $750 million, the free ride is over, both for the company and the free component of it’s services. They need to bump revenue in a big way and Rosenthal was brought on board to make that happen.
But there’s hope.
Do you have one of Ning’s free social networks? If so, you don’t need to loose all the work you did when Ning turns out the lights. Several companies are offering ways to export your data from them, including Posterous, who commits to building a Ning blog importer.
And whaddya know, members of the Buddypress team are also offering help with transitioning from Ning to the free self-hosted Buddypress platform: Helpful Resources for Ning Users.
Know of anyone else offering help for Ning social network owners? Let us know in the comments below!
(Props to Techcrunch for the quotes.)