A real shocker appeared on a Facebook feed yesterday. It began, “Well, due to financially tough times…” Over the past few years, I have subscribed, as have many, to the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP), Kelby Training, and, the most recent generation and configuration, KelbyOne. As I continued to read, the author, Phil Collins one of the Photoshop Guys, along with a myriad of others, had been sacked, terminated, sent packing, let go, services no longer needed. The first thing in my mind was what the hell is going on at Kelby? Some of the stable personalities at KelbyOne had been let go. “Let-go” seems such an innocuous term though. For those involved, and those who have been through similar circumstances, paint the circumstance with and other word you want, it remains the same: Fired. Kelby has been gutted — the major personalities and staples, gone.
I have had a love/hate relationship with KelbyOne. I will admit, Scott Kelby has, perhaps, done more to promote teaching people photography and it digital darkroom, than many others. He had amassed a star-studded assembly of some top names in the photo industry to teach classes — most of the classic and information saturated offerings compiled a few years ago.
My dissatisfaction, or shades of dissatisfaction, began a couple of years ago when NAPP was pulled into the Kelby training site, but retained a certain autonomy in that those offerings so assembled remained as they were on the date of reorganization and transfer — no new content. Considering efficiency, it made no sense to have two similar and somewhat competing sites, managed and created by the same folks, offer two pricing structures at disparity sites at two separate prices — if you wanted the “full-meal-deal” you were required to sign up and subscribe to both. At this point, the problems began with subscriptions, account history information, and reliability. Emails went unanswered — a lot of them. Finally able to connect with a “customer service representative” solved the problem, but after being told that it was my fault and I had selected different options, my frustrations began — and I don’t forget. Not so, I had the original order receipt — proof positive of what the actual subscription order was when placed. So for more than a year, the website displayed that they were “really sorry” that due to circumstances beyond their control, certain parts of the website were not working, but they were working diligently to resolve the issues. A promise was made to those who “remained true and faithful” that the cost of subscription would remain stable and not increase. One now has to wonder, since it no longer shows in one’s account history, will that promise remain or be broken. One is required to make purchase choices based on available information and the interaction of cost and benefit.
Deja Vu: enter KelbyOne website redo 2015. Promoted and advertised to be the best ever with more glitz and robust content, faster. Well, it didn’t occur as advertised. The system crashed, subscribers could not access their server, account history has never materialized. Again, the blame on circumstances beyond their control, but they are working not, stay tuned, they will get it fixed; the best is yet to come. Although many of the difficulties with the new site have been resolved, I find that I prefer previous graphics and browsing better than the current display — personally, I find the current page overbearing and dependent on graphical wizardry that adds nothing to the content of site. I don’t want to wade through pages of graphic bubbles of instructors or courses.
Is the recent gutting of talent a death nell for Kelby Media? I don’t know what the financial situation at the company it, it is privately held. But, on the outside looking in, one had to ask a couple of years ago when one of the staples of Kelby left for another company and into relative obscurity, was there trouble in Photoshop Nirvana? Others picked up the mantle and seemed to carry on without much of a hiccup. But, continual website difficulties that never seemed to be resolved, a less than robust offerings of training videos from less and less known names and resumes in the photography world seemed to indicate a less enticing draw of talent. The latest, and the appropriate amount of spinning was done, was the cessation of the printing of Photoshop User. The magazine is now 100% digital — less costly, no printing costs, but, in my opinion less of a magazine; it’s a digital file. Personally, I prefer a printed magazine, others do as well. The irony is that in a digital world where the hoarding of images, in a digital format only and are never printed, has been bemoaned and the digital age termed a photographically lost generation by those in the hallowed halls of Kelby — a photograph does not live until it is printed. Enter the demise of Photoshop User Magazine — the same thing has occurred, the magazine no longer lives, it is now a series of 1s and 0s. Another indication of financial pressures, perhaps so.
The postings of two very intelligent guys was disturbing and opened a fairly recent wound. I have been through the same — reorganization due to financial pressures. I had much the same feeling as Mr. Collins and Mr, Barker, being layoff as a force reduction handled with sensitivity and class. I admit I was treated well, but I had seen the writing on the wall for some time. As with many at Kelby, I’m sure, I saw \the inevitability and hoped against hope of the coming reality. Regardless, on the chosen day, a Friday, the final verdict was uttered, “I have to let you go.” I guess misery loves company and I was in the company of hundreds of people receiving the same message. But, looking at the Kelby world and drawing similarities during the same period, left me wondering – grand plans of better-than-ever offerings, construction, or buildout, of new and expanded office space, increased travel, less substance, less presence of principle individuals lead to questions of financial viability. Postings from yesterday confirmed there may in fact be a financial hurricane in Florida.
The Kelby site includes an offering “Backstagepass.” This is a short video put together by Mia McCormick within the bowels of the Kelby Headquarters. Ironically, the most recent episode is aired on the same day that the two above named individuals, and the moderator, Ms, McCormick, met their demise at Kelby. all were joking and having a good time for the camera — the ultimate comedy/tragedy, Kabuki Theatre. Interestingly, Mr. Kelby was interviewed as well. At the end of the interview of Kelby by Ms. McCormick, it appeared that he could not get away from her fast enough. I’m sure the sacking of so many was well known by principles of the company at the time of episode filming and all those who appeared, seemingly so happy in their jobs, were sent packing on the very same day — a cruel dichotomous juxtaposition. Following the FB feed postings, one of those released found out just prior to making a very long trip, it seems most likely to a training site, which involved about 20 hours of flight. Additionally, those who had been employed for as long as 15 years and directed graphic design for the company had met their demise as well.
Scanning the internet for additional information revealed nothing. I assume that in the coming days, some substance may appear. Reorganization is nothing new in business. But, watching from the outside at the seeming change in product association, life-style changes and other non-tangible indicators pointed to wonder if Kelby was financially viable and would continue. Reorganization does not salve the impact to personal lives and the lives of their families — hopes, dreams and security dashed. There are many detractors of Kelby and there are many the sing praises of the co-counder Scott and the company. As I was recently told, “we will certainly entertain bringing you back on a contract basis,” so, apparently were those terminated at Kelby told. Beware of this rather hollow and easily uttered promise. After termination, there are no promises. So, the question remains, will Kelby survive, and if so, in what manner and configuration. It will be interesting to see what transpires; the next 30 to 60 days should be telling.
I wish those who received word and endured a fusillade to their lives and security yesterday well. There are, in circumstances like this, endless platitudes offered. While well intentioned, they do little to provide the security of a paycheck and provide basic needs: food, shelter, security and an accustomed way of life built on the reliance of those for whom one works. I have never met any of the folks involved other than to see them on a screen. I have no first-hand knowledge of circumstances other than what has been forward by those directly involved and their rather rare emotion. There are many who, in the heat of emotion, make comments and indications of impending action regarding subscriptions and associations. I will watch what occurs at Kelby, and make my own decisions according to future offerings and value. This is just my opinion, I could be wrong. Have a good weekend.
Well said Dave. As you say I know these people only through watching video, but the videos are intimate and I feel I know these guys. I was surprised when Matt K walked by me at a Photoshop World and didn’t recognize me. The comments at Glassdoor.com were quite enlightening.
There are many many venues available for photoshop and photography training. I joined almost 8 years ago attracted by the one ingredient none of the others offered, the interaction between the “cast members”. Scott referred to his “photoshop guys” as friends and buds and they truly pulled it off, at least in the public space of the internet. I liked the friendly banter, the “free spirit” kind of work atmosphere and the “fun”. Thinks started to change for me when they consolidated into Kelbyone. The sense of “community” vanished overnight. I found myself going back to the old photoshopuser.com website to interact with other photographers, share images, and try to recapture that community feeling. It wasn’t too long before I realized that Kelby intended to simply let that old site die and the community slowly but surely ebbed away. More recently there were posts by Kelbyone that they were going to bring the community usergroups to kebyone… haven’t seen it materialize. On the video side of the house I really have enjoyed The Grid, but they let other fun things slip, especially the photoshop guys… sad.
I remember sending a message to Kelby telling him that the ONE THING that made his business stand apart from the others was the sense of camaraderie, family, and fun. Also the approachability of the trainers during workshops and other events. I also stated that the shift to a more impersonal site would, for me at least, eliminate much of my reasons for staying loyal to Kelby and seek out less expensive or free alternatives. Never received a response (not that I expected to).
Then I noticed something a bit more….. bothersome. I don’t find success to be offensive in the least. However, flaunting ones success CONTINUOUSLY, is tasteless. How many new guitars have we listened to Scott brag about? How many vacations to exotic spots? And if you go to websites such as Glass Door you’ll find that at least some employees found it obsessive and insulting as well. Especially when they wonder who was going to get that ax next while the CEO and his wife are living large. I sent that message to Mr. Kelby as well. I’m a nobody in his world. Don’t know anyone there (other then meeting them at paid functions as a student) but as a customer I feel it appropriate to point out that I’m spending good money for a product that seems to be dwindling in value while the owner is publicly boasting about his good fortune.
I think Kelby is in for a huge shock as subscriptions come up for renewal. I think he’s going to find there are a lot of like minded people who stayed loyal because of the talent he just let go. It’s sad.
Thanks Gary and Glen for your comments. Glen outlined some issues that have been noticed by many others, I sure. I too have read the posts on Glassdoor and find them distressing. The entire Kelby, et al. experience became a cultural wave. I applaud those who are successful and are able to live an elevated life, but not when done on the backs of employees who look toward that person for some degree of security in employment. I think Kelby may have difficulty in the future attracting the same level of talent as that which was just terminated.
I agree with previous comments that posts on Glassdoor are eerily accurate. Having some inside knowledge, I can tell you that this company’s management is nonexistent and that the owners do not listen to anyone trying to point the company in a positive direction. They are far too busy traveling and, as you say, shooting football games and such to actually do work and/or apparently care much about their customers. They have been fading for several years, letting key people go (half of the staff in the past year alone) while piling all of the work onto the few shoulders that remain. I cannot imagine them lasting much longer. Too bad, as they were once a vital and creative force.
Mick, Not sure how you found this thread and opinion, but thank you for your comments and insight. It is interesting to note, that life with certain individuals at Kelby seems to go on unfazed by recent events and lives and aspirations ruined in the aftermath. Your comments regarding activities have been, I think to those who notice, glaring and have been cause for concern regarding the state of the organization. I suspect that as offerings roll out and those presentations already in the can are expended, things will look very different. In the last issue of Photoshop User, which, to my dismay is only digital, the majority of articles and substance was from two of the individuals terminated. I have noticed that the magazine has seemed to struggle to find its way and place over the last couple of years — much of the substance and great contributors gone leaving the load, as you say, to a few. Time will tell and may not be pretty…
I have been a member of NAPP (as it was called) for probably eight years. I looked forward to the almost monthly magazine (and also subscribed to the now defunct “Layers” magazine) and liked the member forums and such that were featured on the old site. I renewed my membership shortly before the change to the all Kelby One and the announcement that there would no longer be a Photoshop User magazine hard copy and had I known this was the case, I never would have renewed my membership. Most of the things I liked about NAPP are gone, and without the hardcopy of Photoshop User Magazine that I can flip through and dog-ear the tutorials I want to try, it has no attraction for me. I, for one, won’t be renewing when my membership expires
It was a bad sign when all the tours except Scott’s just disappeared.
The website’s a disaster, customer service is non-existent-I’ve never received a response to any inquiry.
Re: Backstage Pass – I’d like to see an episode showing all the brand-new vacant offices. I assumed they were doing pretty well when they built the new shiny headquarters. Probably a big mistake.