'Mentally draining and harming': YouTube star Joey Graceffa on what it feels like when the platform's algorithm turns against you


Joey Graceffa

  • Internet star Joey Graceffa, who has been posting videos to YouTube for over 10 years, said in an interview with Business Insider that he’s struggled with staying relevant on YouTube. 
  • “It’s almost like getting the rug pulled out from underneath you,” said Graceffa, who also shared his frustrations with relying on YouTube for his career. 
  • Graceffa joined YouTube before it was owned by Google and ad supported. He said the platform has changed a lot since then, but has also changed a lot in the last year. 
  • Because of YouTube’s automated algorithm, and the constant platform evolution that comes with it, Graceffa said creators like himself often feel like they are the primary reason behind why the content that once did well suddenly doesn’t work anymore.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

For a YouTube creator who has been active online for over a decade, it can be challenging to stay relevant in a space they once dominated. 

Internet star Joey Graceffa, who has been posting videos to YouTube for over 10 years, said in an interview with Business Insider that he’s struggled with staying in the spotlight on YouTube. 

“It’s definitely super frustrating when you’re the creator because it’s almost like getting the rug pulled out from underneath you,” Graceffa told Business Insider. “You’re almost at risk of losing your job constantly because you don’t really know the rules to the game.”

By “rules to the game” Graceffa is referring to YouTube’s rapidly evolving automated algorithm. The algorithm determines which videos will be picked up and recommended to users, based on factors like a video’s watchtime and engagement rate. 

Graceffa shared why it can be a challenge for a creator to rely on YouTube and how the platform has contributed to “creator burnout.” 

The challenges that come with relying on YouTube

Graceffa has built a lucrative career online, gaining 9.3 million subscribers on YouTube and 5.6 million followers on Instagram. He is also a New York Times bestselling author and the driving force behind both the YouTube Originals show “Escape the Night,” and his jewelry and product line “Crystal Wolf,” all of which have been successful for him because of his initial YouTube fame.

Graceffa started posting on YouTube before it was owned by Google or ad supported. But though it launched his career, relying on a single platform for money, fame, and success can be fraught, he said.

“It’s definitely evolved into something that I think a lot of people see as an opportunity to make money,” he said of YouTube. “Which I think is incredible because it’s one of the greatest jobs ever, but it’s also a really difficult job to maintain.”

It’s difficult to maintain success on YouTube as a creator because the platform is constantly evolving, he said.

Graceffa, whose videos once pulled 1 million to 2 million average views a video, now struggles to find what elements make for a successful video in 2019. 

“It seems like this past year it’s been like a roller coaster, where there’s really no rhyme or reason to what makes a video successful,” he said. “Once you think you know the rules, the rules change. It’s frustrating in that sense, but at the same time, it does keep the job interesting, and it keeps it new and fresh.”

Graceffa said that it wouldn’t be interesting for himself, or his followers, if he kept creating the same types of videos again and again. But constant change can also be difficult mentally on the creator because it’s “easy for you to feel like it’s you that’s the problem,” when the content that once worked no longer does well for you, he said.

“It can be really mentally draining and harming to a lot of people, including myself,” he said. “You just feel really down on yourself, when suddenly your views drop and it feels like it happened overnight. It triggers you into the mode of, ‘oh my god, I have to do more crazy things in my videos. I need a title that’s better. I need to clickbait more.’ I don’t know, it’s a weird feeling.” 

Graceffa’s videos now range drastically in views, from 300,000 views to 5 million views, and he said it’s become hard to pinpoint why.

On YouTube, longevity can lead to burnout 

“The burnout isn’t just because we are making content,” Graceffa said. “It’s the fact that we are constantly uploading to this platform that changes so much, that it sometimes feels like you can never fully get a grasp on what you need to do.”

Graceffa said he constantly feels like his brain is on, thinking of what the next thing is. He struggles to separate work from life, and when most people get weekends off, Graceffa finds himself always working. 

“We are constantly stimulating our minds trying to figure out what it is that we have to do to stay afloat, as opposed to how to maintain the types of videos you want,” he said. “You almost feel like you have to keep upgrading constantly.” 

But Graceffa’s YouTube Originals show, “Escape the Night,” has been a positive experience for him on the platform, he said.

“It’s so different from other aspects of my business,” he said of the show, which is funded directly by YouTube. It’s different from the daily video grind of worrying about how many views a video will get.

But not all creators have the opportunity to create a high-production show with YouTube, which features some of the platform’s top creators, like Colleen Ballinger (aka Miranda Sings) and Liza Koshy, like Graceffa did with “Escape the Night.”

The pressure is on across social media 

Graceffa said that for multi-platform creators, the pressure doesn’t just come from YouTube, but also from social media.

“Social media is one of the things I hate the most,” he said. “When you think about it, there isn’t an end date to social media. You’re constantly posting and the pressure of, ‘this tweet needs to be perfect’ and ‘I can’t say the wrong thing,’ is more than it feels like there ever was.”

Graceffa said that it seems like a simple tweet about what you’re up to was once enough, but now there’s this added pressure on platforms like Twitter to be witty and relatable. 

Still, even with the added stress and pressure, Graceffa said it’s rewarding that YouTube creators are finally being taken seriously by the “outside world,” and are now sought after by traditional media companies and emerging platforms like Netflix.

For more on the business of being an influencer, and a breakdown of how YouTube creators make their money, check out these Business Insider Prime stories below:

The financial adviser to the world’s top-earning YouTube star shares the tips he gives clients to kick-start their businesses

A top talent manager breaks down the big trends in how YouTube stars are making money in 2019

YouTube star Shelby Church breaks down how much money a video with 1 million views makes her

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