As a twenty-something, confessing a love for YouTube can be compared to admitting that you joined a Justin Bieber fan club or cried at The Fault in Our Stars. Like baby-faced pop stars and John Green novels, the videos of Zoella, Tyler Oakley et al have been given an unspoken age limit. Why are older viewers becoming disillusioned with the content churned out by these online stars? The answer comes from an unlikely source.
To the uniniated, Guru Gossip could be the name of Guru Gobind Singh’s brother; the reality is a lot more salacious. An online forum where anything YouTube related can be freely discussed, the site’s members sometimes cross the line between constructive criticism and character assassination. Its popularity may seem baffling, with nearly 50,000 members signed up and many more lurkers keeping track of threads. But when you delve between the fat-shaming and the snobbery, the reasons why some content creators are losing their audience become apparent.
One of the explanations for Guru Gossip’s huge following is that members can share thoughts that may otherwise have been censored, had they been posted on a YouTuber’s own comments section. Let’s take a controversial British beauty vlogger, whose thread is one of the site’s fastest-growing, as an example. Although her videos frequently earn a high number of thumbs-down, the comments beneath consist solely of declarations of love and glowing praise for this web celebrity. Fed up with their remarks being deleted, many viewers now head to the forum instead to spill their true feelings. Another popular British vlogger, famed for taking umbrage at any comment that isn’t pure admiration, has a prominent thread thanks to his love of censorship. Any social media faux pas that he or his girlfriend makes is screenshotted and scorned.
Many YouTubers are aware of Guru Gossip and some have even made accounts in order to contribute to their own threads. Some have adopted an anonymous approach, masquerading as an enthusiastic fan while they eulogise their own videos and defend themselves against snide remarks. Others have come straight out with their true identity and confronted posters directly. Emma Blackery is one of those who has taken to the forums asking for advice on how to improve her content.
Emma’s pluck is to be admired, but is it a tactic that other YouTubers should adopt? Judging by the response to her thread, the answer is probably no. But a quiet read every once in a while could benefit those creators curious as to why their subscriber numbers are flagging. Be warned: you’ll need a thick skin.