Posted July 22, 2009 9:11 am by with 9 comments

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Ning Logo 2With all of the talk regarding social media it seems that the inordinate amount of the attention goes to the big 2; Facebook and Twitter. While they do tend to generate significant drama and even some real news there is more to the social media space. In fact, there are those who see the social media universe fragmenting into very specific verticals so those of like mind can gather online without having to see that your friend just had a great breath of air. There’s got to be more right?

One of the biggest ‘sideline’ players in this space is Ning. They are doing very well despite some recent decline in numbers. They are doing so well that they picked up some more VC investment. The amount of the investment is not the focus, however, as pointed out over at AllThingsD. It’s the valuation that the investment is based on, which is a hefty $750 million. Not bad for getting just a small percentage of the attention that social media gets in the online press. For the uninitiated here is an overview of the company

Ning is working in a different corner of the social media space than the others

Ning is a platform aimed at offering customizable tools that lets users create their social networks about their interests, such as for fans of the movie “Twilight.”

Ning puts online ads on the sites, using Google (GOOG), and is also working on its own advertising platform. It also offers an array of other services and is planning more soon, such as a virtual gift offering.

Founded in early 2007, it currently has 29.3 million registered users, using 1.3 million social networks, and it adding one million registered users every 15 days, said the company.

Despite the positive news of investment interestTechCrunch reports

In the U.S., unique visitors actually declined 10 percent from May, 2009 to June, 2009, according to comScore. Ning had 5.1 million visitors in the U.S. in June (its worldwide audience is about three times as large).

The company attributes the decline to “some downtime in June as we expand and optimize our infrastructure to support the growth that we are expecting in the next 12 months.” Ning says it is adding 4,000 new Ning Networks every day and one million registered users every 15 days.

Ning lands this relatively small investment while it wasn’t even seeking more. Having Lightspeed Venture Partners on board, however, makes the roster of investors more impressive as the folks at Ning continue to grow their business. that can carry some value later on when they may actually look for money intentionally.

What is your experience with Ning? Do you have any experience at all with the service? What place does a service like Ning truly have? Ning CEO Gina Bianchini says that “We want to be the social network for interests and passions online.” Are there ways one can express passions online without such a service? Give us your passionate thoughts on the subject.

  • Ning is interesting, but there’s more to a person than just the things they like or appreciate. I think that’s why facebook and the others are more popular – they allow you to express more of your true self

    Robert’s last blog post..Free Software

  • Ning is definitely under-covered in social media reporting.

    It *owns* the community groups space. Facebook, Twitter, and blogs definitely allow for community building but Ning allows for massive amounts of content to live on the network, as opposed to just linking to it.

    I’ve started up several Ning networks and they are easy to build, have good templates and customization options, are easy to brand, and easy to join. Right now, the best alternatives to Ning are either to find a custom Community option for a blog or to use a full CMS system like Drupal or a .Net community starter site. These options require a developer because of the high learning curve and implementation requirements.

    Ning’s biggest drawback is that it is not a hosted solution and is difficult to fold into an existing mature site.

    But, when it comes to community building, Ning is king.

  • This article points to the emerging trend of micro-communities in social media. Makes a lot of sense, come to think of it. very often, the comments on the larger social media sites tend to become a medley of information, which may be coherent to the versatile, but gibberish to others.

    Micro-communities hold a lot of promise in the fact that they tend to get like minded people together and are a haven for niche marketers. Which is why the VC’s are finding them hot, and not just because they are a ‘slice of the social media market’

  • I’m not sure, without some kind of advertising or lots of word-of-mouth recommendations, whether Ning will take off as much as Facebook and Twitter, or how Myspace once did. I’m not saying this because Ning isn’t a great idea, it is, however…

    Facebook and Twitter allow us, primarily, to talk about ourselves. And then do the social thing as a part of that. We do love to talk about ourselves, express ourselves and generally shout to the world “We Are Here”, however from my look into Ning, I couldn’t find anything that would quickly allow me to do that – sign up and start my own network, yes it does, but join one all my friends and acquaintances and People I Met Once, easily, it does not.

    I’ll happily eat my hat, of course, if Ning becomes The Next Big Thing!

  • From the perspective of a being a network owner, the worrying thing about ning is that you don’t seem to own the content that is generated by your network. I think the terms and conditions are clear on this matter

    If you run your ning network as a business, then this is very concerning – what if you ever decide to move your netowrk to another provider or if you want to transfer your members? You can’t

    For that reason only, I moved away from ning and to socialgo – they do exactly the same thing as ning, but with better terms and conditions for the owner of the business

    With socialgo, you (the person who puts all the hard work in to create the netowrk) own all the content and you can export your member database. You even get tools to export the data easily, should you ever wish to

  • Liz

    Actually, I don’t know a lot about Ning, but if it’s a platform for people to establish their own network, I think there’s space for a further development. Becuase it’s a personalized era, everyone wants some differences rather than completely same as others.

    What’s more, as a character of social media, people are always interested in sharing themselves and have the desire to get noticed, as Bob Garfield in his book ( “we, as a group, are interested in us.” Maybe except seeking for VC, the most important thing for Ning now is a clearer strategy and business model to stand out.

  • I’ve joined a few Ning networks and I’ve even thought about starting one but just haven’t gotten around to it. I really need to look into it deeper.

    Rebecca’s last blog post..Wine and Your Health

  • mrking

    Had many problems w/ ning. Sloooww & spent much time skrolling!!!

    Everybudy & their Mama can make a statement. Led to mutiples of same that got lost in myriad of pgs. Hard 2 find stuff once several days had past.

    search thing suckt!!!

    Made my own ning thing 2 practice downloading pics & adding discussions-worked pretty fair. Would be good for families especially. ONLY if they all agree on how to post discussions.

  • I Love Ning.
    After searching around for a good home for my family to connect, I recently set up a group there. We have a facebook group, but it’s uses are limited for ongoing communication. We have upwards of 200 family members regularly touching base. So after two failed attempts elsewhere, Ning was a unanimous hit.

    The feedback so far: It was easy to sign up (the older generation had big problems with this in other places), it’s easy to navigate, and simple to use. As the administrator, I found it easy to set up, get started with invitations, and fairly easy to customise.

    For special interests, I haven’t found a site that does what Ning does.

    Renee Khan’s last blog post..Powerpoint isn’t an ugly word. Part 1