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What can we learn from Ning and Bebo?

Eyeball does not equate revenue and consumers get bored quick if your product does not provide meaningful experience.

Ning, a feature-rich social-networking site recently announced that they are phasing out free services.  The website actually has been well received by its user base, with 2.3 million user-created Ning Networks and more than 45 million registered users. According to the Guardian, despite the $120m venture capital backing, Ning does not appear to have made a profit.  Having engaged users is great, unfortunately it is not enough to sustain a business.  Companies need to invest early and enough in coming up with sustainable, if not, innovative monetisation strategy as well.

Bebo, on the other hand, is now facing up to the fate of either being sell-off or product closure.  One apparent reason of Bebo’s downfall is the lack of investment,

At one point, we had 40 engineers when Facebook had something like 2,000.

Bebo is also compounded by the threat that their target demographics (early teens) are notoriously fickle in curating their online brand experience.  4 years ago being on Bebo was hip, now, it’s possibly tacky, as Danad Boyd’s research with American teens on MySpace and Facebook perfectly captures this demographic’s ambivalent attitude towards social media,

Then, I met Kat, a white 14-year-old from a comfortable background.  We were talking about the social media practices of her classmates when I asked her why most of her friends were moving from MySpace to Facebook.  Kat grew noticeably uncomfortable.  She began simply, noting that “MySpace is just old now and it’s boring.”  But then she paused, looked down at the table, and continued.

 “It’s not really racist, but I guess you could say that.  I’m not really into racism, but I think that MySpace now is more like ghetto or whatever.” – Kat

Important lesson to learn for business is that the key to sustained business success is to keep your brand relevant to your target demographics.  Getting to the top is not easy, but staying at the top is even a bigger challenge.


  1. Ning should have worked out a way of using their viewers and users to generate advertising revenue. As it is, they will lose the majority of them, and their future is pretty bleak. The majority of the free sites will close rather than go through the schlepp of paying for dubious benefits. The bigger ones may pay, but that won’t support Ning for much longer.

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