Can a YouTube influencer keep their income if they apologize very well?

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: lawrence@krubner.com

This bit of melodrama reveals a lot about how to keep an online audience even after one is caught up in a scandal, as well as how to do this badly. The discussion in the comments is also interesting, regarding other people affected by the scandal, and how quickly they were able to regain their audience.

Still, the consequences hit hard and fast. Zamora and Dragun have bled subscribers since the incident; Dragun, alone, has lost at least 1,500, SocialBlade reports. But it’s Lee, the Los Angeles-via-Alabama beauty influencer, who has been hit the hardest. Since the discovery of her racist tweets, she’s lost over 200,000 YouTube subscribers. According to Polygon, that “equates to a loss of $70 a day—or, $25,000 a year.” Lee apologized the next day, on August 13, largely blaming her racist language as the result of her Southern childhood. It did not go over well.

And so, on Sunday, August 19, exactly one week since the original Twitter thread, Laura Lee did what many YouTubers before her have done when their controversies have long tail effects: She made an apology video.

…Lee’s video accentuates the failing of the format, underlining the ultimate goal of the apology video: to convince the viewer that the YouTuber is worthy of continued and absolute loyalty—not necessarily that they feel remorse. And if they do feel apologetic, it might be because they’ve done something that could result in you clicking away from their page, unsubscribing, losing interest—therefore hindering their source of income. It’s impossible to gauge what is genuine redemption and if they’ve actually learned from—let alone abandoned—their casually racist ways.

Lee’s apology video is the most recent in a now seemingly interminable history of Youtuber apologies. Star himself is familiar with the genre: In June 2017, videos of Star from the early 2000s, wherein he made racist and sexist remarks, resurfaced—including comments about wanting to lighten a black woman’s skin by throwing battery acid on her. He posted a 15-minute apology video with the clickbait title, “RACISM.” in response, but failed to address his more contemporary impropriety, such as his ugly feud with black BeauTuber MakeupShayla in 2016. (They had a back and forth, Star allegedly said he’d beat MakeupShayla up, that she needs lip fillers and that she looks more like a man than he does.)

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