Ning Partners With Pearson To Sponsor Free Network Access For Educators

When Ning shuttered its free service for creating social networks back in April, educators and schools who were using the platform expresses their concern at the company’s decision to include educations networks created by schools and colleges in this group. When Ning eventually rolled out its premium pricing structure in May, the company announced that it had partnered with an education company to sponsor networks for primary and secondary educators but didn’t reveal the name of the sponsor. Today, Ning is announcing that Pearson, a education-focused publishing company, is sponsoring network costs for Ning Mini platforms for educators come July. Ning says the partnership will extend for three years. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. currently hosts 6,500 K-12 and 2,100 Higher Ed social networks, and range from platforms for teachers, individual schools and classes to alumni groups. Pearson will now be assuming the costs for all of these groups to use a Ning Mini model, which have access to Ning’s core features including, blogs, photos, forums and video embeds, and the added ability to run custom advertising. The price for Ning Mini is $2.95 per month or $19.95 per year.

Any teacher or network creator can now apply to have a Pearson-sponsored network here, and will be able to freely use a Ning Mini network when approved. Of course, the network will have some Pearson branding on it. Where a network would show that it is a “Ning” hosted network, will now indicate that it is a “Ning hosted Network Sponsored By Pearson.” Clicking on this icon will take you to a Pearson network on Ning’s platform.

And these educational networks will be able to monetize through the same channels as other networks on Ning’s platform. Last week, Ning announced new revenue streams for network creators, including partnerships with branded product creator CafePress and social gaming startup Heyzap, to offer monetization options to Network Creators. Custom CafePress shops can now be integrated directly into Ning Networks, offering creators the opportunity to sell branded products, like mugs, t-shirts and more, to members and fans. With Heyzap, Ning creators can add Heyzap pay-to-play games onto their networks. Creators will earn 10% of all revenue from premium game purchases. Ning has also partnered with Chipin to allow non-profit creators to raise funds and collect donations from members.

Educational networks can also serve advertising on their sites, says CEO Jason Rosenthal. Ning offers a Run Your Own Ads option that allows creators to collect revenue from running display advertisements in their site.

The deal with Pearson is a win for Ning, which faced criticism from network creators following the elimination of the free model. The UK-based Pearson owns the world’s largest education publishing business as well as the Financial Times and Penguin books. And the publishing company has struck other partnerships with big-name technology companies, including Nokia.

For Ning, it’s clear that educators and their networks are a priority. Amidst financial turmoil and a redirection in strategy at the company, Rosenthal has been steadfast in his commitment to keeping Ning free for educators. In April, Ning told The New York Times that “the decision to exempt teachers from subscription fees was made after discussions with teachers about the barriers to getting even small amounts of money approved by school system.” It would be interesting to see of other non-profit groups that host networks on Ning ask for a similar deal. And perhaps these types of sponsorships with big name companies are a way for Ning to create a revenue stream.