I write today to express grave concerns about the unprofessionalism and absence of good judgment by the individual(s) managing E!’s social media accounts. My concern primarily stems from a tweet timestamped today that reads “Remember that time we gave a YouTube star their own TV show?” This quip is followed by a meme, heavily implying that the decision to give Grace Helbig her television show was some kind of charity case on E!’s part, that Ms. Helbig didn’t do anything to deserve a television show, but that E! was so benevolent as to bestow one upon her, a lowly digital content creator.
Now, there are two possibilities here. The first is that the person running the E! Online Twitter account is a rogue agent operating without oversight by dragging E! talent through the mud. In that case, I would hope human resources would swoop in with a pink slip and an apologies for Grace Helbig and the myriad of other new media creators who were offended with this simple statement. If this is the case, then E! still has a chance to reconstruct the last tatters of its relevance.
The second possibility is that this tweet is indicative of a larger feeling at E!, and that’s where we have a problem.
I neither know nor especially care why the individual behind this tweet felt the need to rake Ms. Helbig specifically, and YouTubers collectively, over the coals. Nevertheless, because they did, there are a few things I think it would be prudent for E! to consider before they take to social media to air their superiority complexes.
Let’s clear one thing up right quick: Grace Helbig has done nothing to deserve this kind of treatment. She has done nothing but work her fingers to the bone to churn out quality content on multiple platforms, to try to marry traditional and new media, to breathe fresh life into your network, and to pull in viewers that wouldn’t have turned on E! in a million years if not for her presence thereon. E! has only been helped by her presence. If you want to know what’s hurting E!, look to whoever typed this tweet. That’s who’s responsible for hurting your brand.
You didn’t “give” Grace Helbig a television show. Grace Helbig worked her ass off to earn that television show. You made the decision to pick it up. Deal with whatever buyer’s remorse you may have about that decision in private, because airing such temper tantrums in a public forum is a stain on your entire enterprise.
See, here’s the thing about this generation of consumers that you don’t seem to have picked up on yet: we value collaboration over competition. We build each other up, we don’t tear each other down. We learned this from new media and we exercise it outside of new media. Taking a jab at Grace Helbig doesn’t just alienate Grace’s two-and-a-half million subscribers. It also alienates Miranda Sings’ 4.7 million. And Connor Franta’s 4.8 million. And Lilly Singh’s 6.3 million. And Tyler Oakley’s 7.3 million. And Felix Kjellberg’s - kindly inform Seija Rankin that, yes, he is a real person - 38.7 million. (Remember when E! had 38.7 million views? Me neither.)
Your brand is dying fast and quiet, and you don’t seem to be noticing. That should scare you. Perhaps you still hold a certain degree of glamour and intrigue to a generation past; but to my generation and that after mine, you are nothing but a punchline. Gossip, rich people living the high life, mean-spirited fashion reviews…Generation Y fundamentally does not care. That’s why we’re getting our entertainment through any avenue but traditional media. Frankly, putting Grace Helbig on your network was the only shot in hell you had of getting us to tune in.
Do you have some grasp now of the ripple effect this poor judgment has had on your brand? You have only served to underline your image in the minds of millions of young people as a petty, spiteful little network that has long-since flown by the last exit to relevance.
E!, you have cut off your nose to spite your face. Digital media creators will continue to thrive and grow while you remain stagnant, churning out increasingly desperate variations on a theme in the hopes that nobody notices that it’s all the same crap; and you - and your profits - will regret it.