Two media reports recently highlighted one of my concerns about Social Media. Namely the long term viability of “free” Social Media sites. Especially ones that allow you to upload and maintain your own content that could be seen as a form of off site preservation.
Firstly this story about Bebo hit cyber space last week.
Bye Bye Bebo.
Social-networking site Bebo, which has about 630,000 members in New Zealand, is set to be sold or shut down.
Parent company AOL has announced it will not provide new funding to Bebo to compete with rivals, and may sell or shut down the site.
“Bebo, unfortunately, is a business that has been declining and, as a result, would require significant investment in order to compete in the competitive social-networking space,” a company statement said.
The site has lost members to Facebook, MySpace and Twitter.
Kaila Colbin, of Christchurch social media consultant Missing Link, compared Bebo to a party that people wanted to leave.
“You go to a party, everyone’s having a good time, but suddenly the momentum changes and someone says, `Let’s go to the pub’,” Colbin said. “And people start flowing out. And when people flow out, there is no way to recover that energy.
“The more you try, the more desperate you look and the more people want to leave.”
Colbin said Facebook was the most popular social-networking site in New Zealand.
Now this one about the social networking site Ning came across my desk.
Ning, a brainchild of Netscape bazillionaire Marc Andreessen that was designed to let anyone make a social network about anything for free, won’t do it anymore. Each of the service’s 2.3 million networks’ users will disappear unless its creator either pays Ning or migrate the network to another platform.
So much for “free” as the future of business — as far as Ning goes, anyway. The company accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from investors, and they apparently want more of a return than Ning is able to provide as a free service.
“Our premium Ning networks like Friends or Enemies, Linkin Park, Shred or Die, Pickens Plan, and tens of thousands of others … drive 75 percent of our monthly U.S. traffic, and those network creators need and will pay for many more services and features from us,” wrote Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal in an e-mail to his 40-percent-reduced employees this week:: “We are going to change our strategy to devote 100 percent 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”
What will this mean to Social Networking? Where can the networks go? We will watch this space with interest.