Bluprint CEO John Levisay sent out a survey to instructors yesterday with questions intended to learn more about their impressions of the company and goals for working together in the future. The survey was accompanied by a letter from Levisay that acknowledged the company’s shortcomings in instructor communication over the past year, as well as the drop in revenue many instructors have experienced since the move to a subscription model and the NBCUniversal buyout.
“One of our core tenants (sic) since we started Craftsy has been that instructors are the lifeblood of the company,” Levisay wrote. “We provide a conduit through our production resources, technology platform, and marketing acumen and investment to help our instructors reach new customers, but fully recognize that it is ultimately the domain knowledge that our instructors have that drives the business. We know that the exposure and income are meaningful to our instructor family and I do not take this lightly.”
Last week Craftsy became Blueprint.
The instructor survey asks questions such as, “How likely are you to recommend Bluprint as a place to work to other instructors?” and “How do we compare to other brands/businesses you partner with?” The survey questions also hint at programs and products Bluprint is considering implementing in the future. One question asks instructors how interested they might be in hosting offline events with Bluprint members. Another asks if they might be interested in attending an Instructor Summit, an event Craftsy held in January 2016 that was well-received by instructors but hasn’t been held since. Another question gauges interest in hosting online events with Bluprint.
Award-winning quilter Jacquie Gering, who has three classes on Bluprint, reacted this way when the survey arrived in her inbox: “The survey seemed to be hinting that they want teachers to work with them, but trust is so low that many of us, me included, are wary or done with Bluprint. I keep getting asked to support and promote a company that doesn’t support me.”
The erosion of trust Gehring is referring to stems partly from a steep drop in revenue many instructors have experienced over the past year. When we reported on this in August NBCUniversal gave us the following statement, “We knew that moving from an a la carte model to a membership model would necessitate a transition period in the short term, but remain confident that it is what is best for our customers, and eventually will be a great situation for our instructors. We ask for patience during this transition.”
Now, five months later, the company is asking for patience again. In yesterday’s instructor email Levisay said of the subscription mode, “…this decision will ultimately create a better, more sustainable, and more profitable model for both the company and our instructors.” Ann Steeves, whose Bluprint class is Sewing Knits Without a Serger, is dubious of this claim. “I attended a meeting late last year where another Craftsy/Bluprint instructor was the speaker, and she came right out in the meeting and said, ‘I can’t recommend Craftsy classes any more since they cut instructors’ earnings drastically.’ I nearly stood up and cheered,” Steeves recalled. “She, along with many other instructors (myself included), has created classes using other platforms like Teachable.”
There’s also been a breakdown in communication between Bluprint and instructors since the NBCUniversal buyout. In January of last year, for example, Craftsy ceased having a moderator for the instructor Facebook group, a place where many instructors turned to get answers to their questions. “We’re happy to provide you a space with this Facebook page to communicate with one and other. Please note, since this space is intended for you to interact with other instructors, our support team is not actively monitoring this page,” the notice at that time said.
In yesterday’s email Levisay said he’s now taking steps to improve communication. “We know we can do better with regard to our instructor communication. We are investing in our teams in 2019 to support this, providing better and clearer information on affiliate programs and tools, and re-focusing on making sure our instructors, both new and old, feel appreciated and heard,” he wrote.
Instructor Kate Colleran says while she’s grateful that Levisay is reaching out, it may not be enough and he may have waited too long. “I appreciate that they sent the survey out to ask us how things are going,” she says. “I think for many instructors, it was a little too late. They went from making the instructors feel like an integral part of the company with lots of interaction to nothing. And now, not a conversation with instructors, but a survey. Impersonal.”
Colleran says she struggled with the survey. “I found it hard to answer some of the questions. Especially the questions about do I want to do more with them in 2019. I want to do more with the old Craftsy but am not sure about the new Bluprint,” she says. “I would need to hear more before saying yes as I don’t understand what they want, or what direction they are heading in and how I might fit in.