Social network host Ning announced this past week that they will be ending their free level of service and transitioning to paid-only offerings.
Ning is a platform which allows users to create social networks in a way similar to services like Blogger & Typepad host blogs. Up until now, the company has offered a free level of service along with paid upgrades for additional services and service levels. On May 4th, Ning says it will be announcing a new fee structure that will not have a free option. Users of the free service level will be given 10 weeks to transition off of Ning to a different provider or upgrade their service.
The free level of service at Ning has been a popular host for small scrapbook hobby groups to utilize to congregate online. (A search of the term “scrapbook” on Ning yields 114 results, although not all those results are craft-related.) The majority of these groups have fewer than 50 members, and many of them have less than 20 users. Even a small charge will displace many of these boards off of Ning to other services, according to many of their owners.
Shawn Lahr, who owns the Nuts About Sketches board, summed up the situation of many of the free Ning network users:
I’ve had the board I believe 6-7 monhths. [sic] I think it has 30 or 40 members. It’s a board for my sketch site. I can not afford to pay for a message board, so they’ll have to delete it.
Several scrapbook companies also use Ning to host social networks. Among these are Pink Paislee, Unity Stamp Company, Graphic 45, and Reminisce. These companies, however, typically are already paying for some level of premium service from Ning, and so will not be as affected by the new fee structure.
As Pink Paislee’s Rebecca Cross told Scrapbook Update:
We use this community to interact directly with our consumers while providing them with a place to share their Pink Paislee projects and we are convinced this is an integral part of our marketing efforts. We were one of the first manufacturers in this industry to launch this type of community and we will continue to support this portion of our website for our fans.
One complaint of both the free and premium users of Ning has been having their boards overrun by spammers, a concern voiced to Scrapbook Update by Graphic 45’s Candy Rosenberg. The fee structure changes may be the last straw to push those users to go elsewhere.
So where else is there for displaced Ning users to go that offers similar services for free? The following options are among the ones that Scrapbook Update has found being discussed in various places as replacements for Ning’s free service level:
At least one scrapbook group with 1500 members, Jennifer Bliss Community, has already begun the migration to the Spruz platform. [Note that the above are not recommendations of Scrapbook Update but just sharing suggestions made in other resources.]