YouTube may have scaled back its relationship with Logan Paul following his “suicide forest” video, but has the controversy actually helped his brand?
The 22-year-old YouTube star sat down with Good Morning America‘s Michael Strahan Thursday morning for his first TV interview since he was subjected to worldwide condemnation for posting the video.
“I’m a good guy who made a bad decision,” Paul told Strahan.
“Logan Paul had been on a redemption tour and I think this was the culmination of it,” Taylor Lorenz, tech and culture reporter for The Daily Beast, told InsideEdition.com.
His original video, which was posted Dec. 31, showed a suicide victim that Paul and his friends came across in Japan’s Aokigahara forest, a known destination for those looking to end their own lives.
The backlash was swift, forcing Paul to remove the video — which had racked up six million views within the span of just one day.
“The idea was to just do another fun blog, go camp for a night and make another entertaining piece of content in a forest,” Paul told Strahan. “Things obviously changed pretty drastically and quickly.”
He soon uploaded an emotional apology video, saying he’d had a “severe and continuous lapse in my judgment” and that he needed some time away to “reflect.”
YouTube reacted by limiting the scope of its relationship with Paul, one of the video-sharing platform’s biggest stars.
“In light of recent events, we have decided to remove Logan Paul’s channels from Google Preferred,” YouTube said in a statement. “Additionally, we will not feature Logan in season four of ‘Foursome’ and his new originals are on hold.”
After three weeks of no new content, Paul uploaded a YouTube video in which he spoke to Kevin Hines, who survived a jump off the Golden Gate Bridge 17 years ago. He also met with Dr. John Draper, the director of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
“It’s time to start a new chapter in my life as I continue to educate myself and others on suicide,” he said in the video. “I’m humbled and thankful to say this is just the beginning.”
Paul, whose videos previously centered around large scale pranks, told GMA he believed the controversy “happened for a reason.”
“I think that reason is so I could take this experience, learn from it, spread the message — the right way — about suicide prevention and suicide prevention awareness,” he said.
He has also pledged to donate $1 million to suicide prevention.
“He is taking ownership of it,” Lorenz said.
Despite the controversy, Paul’s YouTube popularity has raised significantly, she said.
“This whole fiasco has only helped his brand,” Lorenz said. “He’s grown over a million subscribers — he’s now household name. I think that what he did is not unforgivable. Had he been accused of something more problematic or nefarious I think that he probably would have suffered and had a really hard time coming back.”
His appearance on GMA is a sign of how much his influence is being recognized by the mainstream media.
“Just the fact that GMA interviewed him sort of validates how giant he had become,” Lorenz said. “People who didn’t know who he was before — parents who maybe heard something negative about him a couple weeks ago but didn’t really know him — sort of saw this softer, more positive side of him today and I think it has just grown his brand.”
As for his fans, they forgave him long ago. His apology videos were met with a chorus of supportive comments.
“Obviously there are still skeptics, myself included, who maybe doubt how genuine it is, and I think it remains to be seen how he’ll move forward,” Lorenz said. “But when it comes to his fan base, they never really abandoned him over this.
“I think he is going to be more than fine.”