Big Picture Classes has notified its customers that a huge transition is coming to the company soon, requiring some changes that have drawn the ire of its customer base.
The company had indicated when it announced that it had been sold to Studio Calico in August that a new website was in the works for its customers. On Friday, the company shared more information about the website in announcements via email and on their website – and shared for the first time that the new site will not include many of the company’s previous classes. A large number of classes, which were sold to students with the promise of “forever” access, will be retired from Big Picture’s web presence in February, after a transition period during which the company is promising to facilitate the downloading of class materials (both pdf and video content) for students.
To view the list of classes that will be carried over to the new website, click here.
In addition to the classes that will be “archived”, the current site’s message boards and galleries will not be carried over to the new site.
Several Big Picture instructors have opted to take back ownership of at least some of their classes that are being discontinued and host them on their own websites. A total of 16 classes from Tracey Clark, Ali Edwards, and Cathy Zielske will be made available to students through those instructors’ own websites. Former Scrapbook Update contributor May Flaum, one of Big Picture’s most prolific instructors, indicated when contacted for comment that her new class website craftwithmay.com will not be able to take over hosting of her Big Picture classes materials, but that she will have an announcement coming soon related to the matter.
Many in the Big Picture community have reacted with rage at the impending loss of access to many of their catalog of purchased classes. Members have taken to the Facebook and the Studio Calico message board to vent their anger at the company, and voice a loss of trust in the relationship.
The outrage prompted an unusually open – even for her – blog entry from co-founder Stacy Julian explaining the back story of what lead to the sale of Big Picture, and to the decision to discontinue classes. It hints at a company whose leadership was in over its head, and that was in worse shape than was generally recognized at the time of its sale.
Ultimately, “forever” content is ending at Big Picture for the same reason that unlimited bandwidth ended on iPhones (remember those days?). Promises were made that as technology and the business grew became untenable. As more and more content became part of the Big Picture ecosystem in the past 8 years, the costs for storing, serving and maintaining it had to grow and grow and grow. As a website owner I can attest this isn’t an incremental expense – as a site and its databases gets bigger it becomes infinitely more and more complex. Even on a site the size of Scrapbook Update it is necessary to delete old content periodically to keep the databases stable. Maintaining a site the size of Big Picture without deleting anything? Monstrous.
From a business standpoint, the challenge is that content is paid for once by customers and then it racks up expenses for long term storage and maintenance while not reaping any more (or very little) income for the company. As more and more of this content that is being supported but not currently earning piles up, the site becomes something of a (legal) pyramid scheme, where income from current classes must support the maintenance of not just the current customers’ needs but the ongoing needs of past customers as well – not a sustainable or profitable business model. This – along with the enormous costs of transferring content to a new platform – is why companies like Big Picture choose to prune content, especially when redesigning.
Bottom line: Although it sometimes seems like it, there really is no forever on the internet. Big Picture’s mistake was in promising the impossible, and not realizing that it was impossible until very long down the road. It’s now time for them to pay the piper on that mistake and it’s not going to be pleasant for them. But in the end it is a necessary step for the company’s survival. As Stacy put it herself in her blog entry “all of the challenges involved in that decision is still far better than the alternative.”
- The list of classes transitioning to the new website in February 2015 has been updated to include 16 more classes. All workshops which were launched in 2014 are now on the list and will transition to the new site.
- Classes which transfer to the new website are promised to be available for a minimum of at least 3 years (possibly longer).
- Big Picture is creating a sort of ghost website containing a duplicate archive of all of the material being retired on which members will be able to access their content for an additional 6 months before it is retired (through 7/31/2015). This website will contain all content – class materials, galleries, and forums – but will not be maintained or have customer support so the company is urging people with issues in that area to address them before the January 31st deadline.