It’s one of the worst things that can happen to you as a YouTuber, especially if you are a relatively small YouTuber who is still trying to make their mark on the platform. Gaining subscribers in the first place can feel like such an uphill battle, so losing them hits that much harder in the early days. Indeed, it is not uncommon for a new YouTubers to obsess over the loss of a single subscriber, even when their count is trending upwards overall.
As with most things, the first step to dealing with a problem is understanding that problem, so we’ve put together this post to help you identify why you might be losing subscribers and, in effect, how you might be able to put a stop to that loss.
So stop yelling “WHY AM I LOSING SUBSCRIBERS!” at the sky, and read on.
Cheaters Never Prosper
Before we get into the fixable causes of subscriber loss, it’s worth addressing the elephant in the room of any discussion about falling subscriber numbers—paid-for subs.
There are many reasons to steer clear of paying for subscribers, the main one being that they are rarely worth the money they cost in terms of views or revenue. But another big reason to avoid them is that the accounts you pay to subscribe to your channel are often fake, set up by bots specifically for the purpose of selling subscribers. If you just want to see the numbers jump in the YouTube Studio dashboard that might be fine for a while, but YouTube likes to purge their ranks from time to time.
If you have, for example, 23,000 subscribers and you paid for around 20,000 of them, the threat of YouTube implementing a way to detect those fake accounts and remove them from the platform will always be hanging over your account. And if you start to see a sudden, consistent drop in subscribers, there’s a very good chance that that is exactly what happened.
The moral of the story, quite simply, is don’t buy subscribers, views or any other YouTube metric. It is never worth the money it costs.
Reasons Why You Might be Losing Subscribers
While we could never promise a comprehensive list of all of the possible reasons you might be losing subscribers, there are a few common causes that tend to cover the vast majority of dwindling subscriber count situations.
Many YouTubers who stop uploading don’t do so with a single final upload announcement and then silence. For a lot of channels, the end comes slowly, over time. The uploads begin to get farther and farther apart until, finally, the next upload just never comes.
Granted, most viewers don’t actively lookout for channels to unsubscribe to in their feed, which is how many completely dead channels can maintain huge followings long after they have uploaded their last video. But some viewers do look to trim the excess fat, and if they are that on top of their subscriptions, they will know the signs of a fading YouTuber.
If you have been finding yourself struggling to upload at regular intervals, and the time between uploads has been getting longer and longer, there is a good chance that that is to blame for your shrinking subscriber-base. Naturally, there are many reasons why you may find yourself in this situation, and not all of them are as simple to deal with as “putting more effort in”. If you simply can’t find the time to upload more regularly, you may have to ask yourself if YouTube is right for you—or at least if it is right for you at the moment.
If you want to continue, but you don’t have time, it may be better to announce that you are taking a break. Let your viewers know that you fully intend to come back, rather than fight a losing battle to find the time to upload. It’s worth noting that the more you struggle to get your videos up, the more likely it is that you will start to resent your channel, increasing the risk of you burning out and not wanting to do it anymore.
There is such a thing as too much of a good thing. No matter how popular your content is at any given time, even the most fiercely loyal subscribers will tire of it after enough time.
Now, this is not to say you should be looking to overhaul your channel entirely on a regular basis, but rather keep things fresh. Your channel should be in a constant state of evolution—not making drastic changes every so often but making continual small changes all the time. Keeping your content fresh can be as simple as switching the format up a little bit. If you are a YouTube gamer, it might be trying a game that is a little outside of your regular wheelhouse. If you are a vlogger, talk about things that you don’t usually talk about.
The thing you are trying to avoid is your subscribers developing the sense that they are not going to get anything new from your latest video, which is the route cause of a subscriber losing interest in a channel because of stale content.
Out of Place Content
The flip side to the above section is making too much of a change to your channel in too short a time. It is possible to transition from one type of content or subject matter to another gradually, shedding subscribers who don’t like the new direction while picking up new subscribers as you go. As you will likely know if you have built up a following—which you presumably have if you are asking “why am I losing subscribers?”—gaining subscribers is a slow process. If you make abrupt and drastic changes to your channel, you will likely find a lot of subscribers jumping ship, but new subscribers will not be so quick to replace them.
Remember what it is that brought your subscribers to your channel in the first place, and try to respect that as much as possible. You shouldn’t be a slave to the type of content your core audience wants, but dismissing that core audience altogether is a quick route to fewer subscribers.
And, if you absolutely must change the direction of your channel, do it gradually. Many of your existing subscribers will stay through the transition if it is done gently, and may even find themselves liking content that they wouldn’t previously have watched. On the other hand, those same subscribers would leave if you made those changes all at once.
An unfortunate side effect of the interconnected nature of the Internet and the opportunities it presents is an increase in tribalism and a lack of nuance. Before the Internet, it was necessary to get along with people, and so compromise was commonplace. These days it is so easy to find like-minded people that the need and desire to compromise has been lost, and this has led to what has been called “cancel culture”.
Now, we’re not talking about highly offensive behaviour here—if you get on your YouTube channel as a white person and yell the “N” word, you probably don’t need us to explain to you why your subscriber count might be dropping. But this same mentality is applied to far more frivolous opinions.
Having any kind of controversial opinion can lead to subscribers choosing to leave, and what your opinion is and who your audience is will determine what is controversial enough to affect your subscriber base. For example, if you are the gaming YouTuber we mentioned above and you state that PC gaming is better than console gaming, you may find a significant chunk of your audience jumping ship. On the other hand, if you are YouTubing your comedy show and you have the same opinion, your audience probably won’t be leaving in droves. Some of them might be offended, but generally speaking, your audience would be a comedy audience, not a gaming one.
If this might apply to you, the only thing you can do to stem the tide is to apologise, though it is worth considering what kind of YouTuber you want to be. For something as trivial as comments on which gaming platform is best, it is probably not a hill worth dying on. If it is an opinion on an important issue facing society, on the other hand, it is entirely possible that you would rather stand by your views at the expense of those subscribers. Only you can decide which end of this spectrum you are on.
While most users understand that ads are how their favourite creators make money, most people also have a point where it becomes too much, and that can be a reason to leave for many. If you are putting pre-roll, mid-roll, and post-credit ads on your video, and then throwing in some brand deal promotion and affiliate links in the description, it might start to feel a bit soulless to your subscribers—especially if you go from little-or-no advertising to a full-bore advertisement cannon more or less overnight.
Finding a balance here is tricky, as every channel is different. But it is worth remembering that having more ads only increases your revenue if the number of people watching stays the same. If adding more advertisements to your videos is going to cause a significant portion of your subscribers to leave, it might work out better from a revenue standpoint to reduce the number of ads.
Unsubscribing is Relatively Uncommon
One thing many YouTubers fail to appreciate is how severe their infraction must have been for subscribers to be leaving in any significant numbers. As a general rule, people rarely unsubscribe from channels on YouTube, which is part of the reason why YouTube has such a torrid time handling its user’s notifications feed.
Regardless of what has caused your subscriber count to start dropping, you should not dismiss it, as it must have been significant to your channel if it is affecting your subs in this way.
Always Maintain a Sense of Perspective
We mentioned earlier how some YouTubers are more affected by the loss of subscribers than others, and this is something that should be carefully watched for in yourself.
There are many innocuous reasons why someone might unsubscribe from your channel. They might have subscribed by accident in the first place. They might have closed their account altogether. Ultimately, you can’t please everyone, and they might have just decided your channel isn’t for them after all. The occasional small drop in subscribers should not be considered cause for concern, especially if it is a statistically small number. A YouTuber with fifty subscribers will notice a single subscriber leaving, but a YouTuber with ten thousand subscribers should not be obsessing over one or two—or even dozens of people leaving.
It is crucial to remember that you will never be everyone’s cup of tea, so to speak, but as long as your average subscriber count is climbing, you should not be overly concerned with the few that have decided not to stick around.
The Best Defense is a Good Offense
Being aware of the potential causes of vanishing subscribers and taking a proactive approach to preventing this problem from happening in the first place is far more effective than trying to stem the tide once people have started leaving. Granted, that won’t be an option for many reading this—if you’ve searched for a post on why you’re losing subscribers, it’s a good bet that you’re already in this situation.
But for those who are not, if you can keep the things we have mentioned in this post in your mind when running your channel, you will be much better placed to retain your audience.
There is a delicate balance to strike between keeping your audience happy and making the content you want to make.
The most successful YouTubers have an audience whose interests align with their own, and you should strive for that also. If your audience wants to see what you want to make, you don’t have to worry about putting out something they don’t want to see.