If you’re one of the hundreds of thousands or even millions of people running an online community on Ning, it’s time to pull out your credit card or look for new digs.

The company announced earlier this week that the free model is going away. TechCrunch published the memo issued by Ning CEO Jason Rosenthal and I encourage you to read it. You may recall that I interviewed Mr. Rosenthal back in November when he was Chief Operating Officer of Ning and he had nothing but great things to say about the company’s growth.

At any rate, here is an excerpt from the memo announcing the changes:

…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. We will judge ourselves by our ability to enable and power Premium Ning Networks at huge scale. And all of our product development capability will be devoted to making paying Network Creators extremely happy.

So there you have it. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy decision but I can assure  you that many, many online communities are soon to bite the dust. The free model and low barrier to entry is what brought so many people to Ning.

The technologically challenged network owners probably have no idea where to look to even begin a transition. Their transition will likely be extinction, and as a community advocate I find that extremely sad.

Do you run a network on Ning? If so, what’s your plan? I’m sure that others will be happy to listen and learn.