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Ning: A $500K Virtual Investment

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Ning is a new’ish company with some recently released technology that will skyrocket this company into the stratosphere. 

It’s the first company that I’m aware of that has created an easy to use, drag and drop, easy configuration site for users to create their own Social Networking site.  Literally within minutes you can have your own Social networking site with video & picture functionality, forums and a host of other features that allow the non-tech savvy out there to potentially get in on the Social networking action.

Business Model:
Ning’s business model is simple:
1)  They add ‘Adsense’ to the right hand column of every Social networking site so as people promote their new networking site, it should, in principle create a multiple effect Ning’s ad revenue
2)  People who want to get the benefit of the Adsense on their own site can pay a monthly fee, currently standing at $19.95.  They can obviously stratify that later so the more popular sites have a rev share and the less popular pay the fee or take Ning’s ads and just get on with running their site

Some Core Functionality:

  • Social Networking:  Invite, meet new people, privacy settings, address book importing
  • Full Customization of Theme or take existing template and configure.  Add your own logos, photos and branding
  • Photo sharing, video sharing, forums
  • …and the list goes on. Not bad for FREE! 

Likes:
There are a number of reasons why Ning will sing from an investment perspective:

The user interface is VERY easy to use and intuitive, I set up a social networking site in under five minutes and was…with a shy smile…relatively happy with how my very own social networking site looked (Check out the results:  http://amateurs.ning.com/)

With a couple of hours – it would be possible to make the site really work as some of the existing sites within Ning show.

As people promote their site, they promote Ning, this gives them the magic fairy dust needed for companies like this to go from 2, 200, 200K in months.  Their adsense revenue should be pretty obscene soon. 

I am starting to wonder if people are starting to mentally phase out adsense and these ads become a almost invisible to the human eye. What do you think?

As members of Ning can seach the different Social Networks there’s the potential to pick up stray but interested members…not bad!

Dislikes:
OK, so I used Ning and built my site based on a crazy little idea I had a while ago.  Thanks guys…I have finally seen my idea live. 

I know Ning has done one side of the hard work for me…the tech side, but I still have alot of the hard work ahead.  How to get people onboard, especially the first few users.  With these kinds of sites, you need a few active members so that the shy and reticent don’t worry about joining too.  The more people onboard the more valuable the system, so you really do need those first few.

That works if the Social networking site is in an area that already relates to a space with which I’m involved…so for me, Startups.  But what if I’ve set up a site because of an idea I’ve had but where I have few contacts?  That is a big stumbling block for this to go viral with all social networking sites created.

I would imagine that 10% of the users sites will hit the volume big time, 20% will do pretty well and the rest will perhaps exist but in name only.  Just a guess! But if the 80/20 rule works here…the majority of adsense revenue will come from the large volumed 20% and those will be the ones that convert to the $19.95 monthly fee. They would be mad not too and where does the revenue come from then?

Also, if I do create a site that really starts to rock and roll…iId like to port it to my own server and do it for myself.  Arguably if I did that then I couldn’t take advantange of Ning’s new functionality releases but it would still be mine.  Ning does not seem to have that on their roadmap.  If they don’t someone will come along who will offer that.

It would be good if Ning could figure out a business model to allow that to happen and keep some of the revenue. Perhaps a premium service would be to host the site under a separate URL but share the revenue or charge a higher monthly fee.

Last point – how long until the Social networking site market is completely saturated?  When the point arrives (if it hasn’t already) then this functionality becomes a glorified Yahoo Group type service.  I guess that still gives them the potential to be acquired by Yahoo or Google sometime ahead so another reason for a big virtual investment.

My Virtual Investment:
With my virtual $1M, I would stop inviting all my friends to http://amateurs.ning.com/ to invest $500K in Ning.

http://www.ning.com/

Andrew
Founder
http://www.AdvisorGarage.com