Dear Fellow Photographers:
An important part of our idea in launching our live photography webinar series while sheltering in place (today is Day 50 since we’ve been locked down, by the way) is to help create photographic community. In the past, with my webinar recordings, we’ve given access to the recordings to folks who paid for the live webinar, and otherwise sold access to the recordings. In these difficult times, we decided to do it differently: In addition to charging a modest fee for some, but not all, of the live webinars ($19.95), we’d make the recordings available to all for free (with a time delay) on my YouTube channel.
It’s not clear that this is the world’s best business strategy, to put it mildly. Of course, we could make more money if we charged for the recordings as well as the live webinars—and, at some point in the future, we might decide to do so again.
Both Phyllis and I feel strongly that the right thing to do right now in these incredibly difficult times, when so many people are suffering financially and otherwise, is to build a sense of photographic community so we don’t all feel so isolated. We do need to charge something to defray all the costs involved, which are considerable, while we shelter in place. We want the live webinars to build community, and we don’t want anyone ultimately denied access to at least the recordings over money. Perhaps someone is isolated, or a first responder, and our webinar recordings help add a little creativity to their lives.
In this context, I find myself beyond shocked to have recently received this email: “I feel cheated and want my money back. I have paid 59.85 Dollars for three Webinars. I do not accept that I had to pay money for webinars that are now free on YouTube.”
Of course, we refunded the money (as we always will to anyone who doesn’t feel that they have got their money’s worth). But, if you think about the complaint, this person seems upset (beyond upset, “cheated”) that others might get “for free” something they paid for. It’s not entirely a fair complaint: a live webinar is not just a recording on YouTube watched solo. Among other things, a live webinar is a living attempt to create contact and community among the participants.
I think Phyllis put this very well in her response:
I am sorry you feel this way. This is, of course, your choice whether to attend live webinars or just watch a recording.
I have refunded your payments using PayPal which is the way you originally paid.
I know I probably won’t change your mind about this but, the pros and cons of the way we are doing webinars are as follows:
– You get to see what Harold is doing and ask questions in real time.
– You get to support a living artist who has 4 kids and bills to pay while we shelter in place (today is day 50 for us)
– Economic times are tough here in the US: We are putting the webinars up on YouTube in a reasonably timely way (depending on our schedule) for those who cannot afford to attend a paid webinar right now. We feel we are helping these people who are alone or cannot have access to creative content.
– You get to join a live community of photographers, instead of being alone watching a YouTube video
– You get to be one of the first to see these particular webinars
– You get to email us and ask questions.
– You see a recorded webinar (not live)
– You have to wait for us to get it up on YouTube when we can
– You don’t get to ask questions
– You are on your own. Bye bye photographic community.
Whatever. It’s your choice. You have been refunded. You could have been a bit nicer about the email you sent.
Times are tough, people are stressed. We’ll let it go.
I was perhaps a little terser:
[W]e have refunded your fee …. A polite request would have sufficed, without the idea that you are somehow being cheated.
Regarding your email, I strongly feel this is not a time to be selfish. The modest ($19.95) that we are asking per webinar helps us put them on, otherwise we would not be able to do so. Quite apart from our time, there are equipment costs, software licensing fees, and so on.
Our decision to offer the recordings for free on YouTube (rather than as in the past allowing access to paid viewers, then making some additional money by charging others for access) was based on the idea that in these times we wanted everyone to be able to have as much as access as possible without money being a barrier.
That said, there are potential benefits to paid viewers including timeliness (we get to posting recordings, which is time consuming, when we can), the ability to participate in a live event (think of it as a performance such as a concert), you can ask questions in real time, and in the webinars in the series coming up the opportunity for personal feedback and display of your work.
Your sense of feeling “cheated” is simply outrageous considering today’s world (what, because others might get to enjoy some of what you’ve had without paying a modest fee?). Please don’t bother replying, there is nothing you could say except “I’m sorry” that would interest me.
I bring this issue to your attention in detail rather than “letting sleeping dogs lie” because if one person feels this way about our posting the recordings for free, perhaps others do as well. So I wanted to clear the air, and explain why we are posting the recordings for free. As I’ve noted, this is our policy for now, it is not necessarily our policy for all times. We want to help right now as best we can, be as inclusive as we can, and build community. We truly believe that we are all in this together.
What do you think? Does our decision make sense?
That’s all for now, thanks!
Harold & Phyllis