I’m Sorry You(Tube) Feel That Way: An Introduction to the YouTube Vlogpology Genre

Sampson, Bellaley May
Smith, Philippa
Eklund, Tof
Item type
Degree name
Master of English and New Media Studies
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Auckland University of Technology

In 2016, a digital genre dubbed the vlogpology began to emerge on YouTube, a year before Time magazine declared 2017 The Year of Apology, in reference to the influx of public apologies occurring during that period. Vlogpology combines the words vlog (video blog) and apology. The vlogpology is a form of crisis communication that attempts to relay and repair a situation between a vlogger (a person who creates vlogs) and the public viewing their video. Vlogpologies are known for going viral, often garnering far more views than a vlogger's regular content does. They are also known for their ability to be transformed into memes across social media platforms and have received extensive mainstream media coverage. Despite being labelled a genre of videos in the scholarly literature, there has been little evidence offered that focuses sufficiently on what links vlogpologies together when it comes to generic features.

This study investigates the vlogpology as a digital genre drawing on Benoit’s IRT – image repair theory. I apply a mixed method approach to my analysis of vlogpologies using three different methods for analysis. Firstly a move/step analysis is conducted to create a typography for the vlogpology. Secondly, a corpus software-assisted lexico-grammatical analysis is conducted on fifteen vlogpologies transcripts to examine the lexical patterns and potential ideologies within the texts. Finally, a visual analysis of features drawing on Kress and van Leeuwen’s visual grammar examines the vlogpology thumbnails to see what is communicated visually when it comes to the image of the vloggers and how they wish to represent themselves. Through these methods, this study identifies the communicative goals of the vlogpology, how the vlogpology is structured, and discusses what the broader societal space around the vlogpology may be that continues to facilitate its success as a genre.

The key findings of this study reveal that a range of communicative techniques are used both visually and linguistically in vlogpologies. Vloggers use this genre to make a concession to their audience when their misdemeanour or inappropriate behaviour has been exposed. This occurs from the moment the vlogpology's thumbnail is viewed through to the vlogger’s entire performance on the YouTube video. I argue that a vlogpology enables a vlogger to repair their image and maintain their brand and online identity, which they may be reliant on to attract advertising and financial benefit., i.e. monetization. My findings also show that vlogpologies are often created when the vlogger is under extreme duress and may be uncomfortable with being told to apologise, which can result in non-apologetic language and seem insincere. The pressures of severing the unique parasocial connection formed between audience and creator, reputational damage, and loss of financial opportunity are just a few of the pressures that these creators face. The vloggers’ standard content is often centred on themselves, so naturally, their crisis is also related to them. The heavy use of personal language that has been mocked in online coverage is not narcissistic; rather, it is on brand for a vlog, which serves as a snippet of their own life. With that being said, stylistically, the vlogpologies in my dataset were shown to share visual design features, unique lexical patterns and similar structures that identify them as a genre indicating that vloggers may study each other’s work to meet the most effective criteria when it comes to seeking forgiveness. Ultimately the vlogpology may continue to be the primary method for vloggers to journey through times of personally-created crisis on YouTube - as long as the audience collectively demands it. The purpose and effects of this symbiosis are worthy of future discussion.

Publisher's version
Rights statement