The first exposé on Gushcloud opened a can of worms and triggered a series of events to take place. For those befuddled by the development and have lost track, here's a refresher of what happened:
The Gushcloud exposé 2.0 by Xiaxue will be divided into 5 parts. Here we go!
PART 1: Xiaxue's responses to Gushcloud's responses to her allegations
Yup, it's a very lengthy and complicated issue. We have summarised it to give you the gist of it.
The statement given by Gushcloud Malaysia's Siang contradicts CEO & co-founder Vincent Ha in regards to inflated earnings
In Gushcloud's response to Xiaxue's allegations of inflating earnings in her first exposé, Vincent Ha admitted their mistake in having their earnings "mistakenly construed" though "there was never an intention to “inflate” [their] earnings or to deceive and mislead anyone."
Xiaxue pointed out the blatant contradiction between Siang's email and Vincent Ha's admission of guilt.
Although Gushcloud argued that masking ads is not illegal and their influencers aren't forced to do so, Xiaxue's stance is that it is still unethical of them for allowing it
Xiaxue revealed the questionable ethics that Gushcloud seem to uphold when it comes to masking ads. She further reiterated that although the choice to mask ads are up to the influencers themselves, Gushcloud (who are also profiting from the influencers' ads) should also be held responsible for accepting masked ads that are outright lies and deceitful.
Gushcloud argued that the "inflated" pageviews were simply outdated, but to Xiaxue, they could very well be deliberate in order to mislead clients
In response to Xiaxue's allegations of inflating bloggers' statistics, Gushcloud's argument was that the statistics were simply outdated since they update the influencers' decks "manually, every few months (sometimes annually)".
Xiaxue stated that the neglect in updating bloggers' statistics could very well be deliberate in order to mislead people. She further poked a hole in their argument, pointing out that all the Twitter, Instagram, Facebook stats were updated except the Google Analytics stats in the decks, and said, "You are saying it is technologically challenging to supply clients with up-to-date blog page views? What's so hard about logging in to their Google Analytics account?! It just takes a few clicks! What a weak excuse."
Although there still isn't conclusive evidence to prove that Gushcloud bought fake YouTube views for Babe Of All Trades, Xiaxue explained why she found the numbers to be extremely suspicious
Xiaxue admitted that she never had any conclusive evidence to support her suspicions of Gushcloud influencer, Kay Kay of buying fake YouTube views. Gushcloud denied all allegations, but Xiaxue remained a skeptic. Referring to the image above, Xiaxue justified her skepticism towards Kay Kay's dodgy YouTube views, "Chick vs Dick gets a lot of views from loyal viewers of Clicknetwork that's amassed over years. Babe of all Trades is a standalone channel that's so new. Did Kay Kay somehow eclipse herself in popularity?"
Xiaxue then asked, if indeed Kay Kay is as influential, why weren't her efforts to drive views to Gushcloud's Christmas video working. Even with combined efforts of enthusiastic Gushcloud influencers amounting to 182 posts under the #GCchristmasvid hashtag to hype the video, the views on Gushcloud's Christmas video remained very low.
Getting a qualified opinion for a company's financial report is a very, very serious issue, in which Gushcloud's Siang and Vincent seem to be downplaying
What Gushcloud had to say about receiving a Qualified Opinion for their 2012 Financial Reports was that "record keeping was messy". Xiaxue mentioned that both Vincent and Siang are downplaying the veracity of the issue. She questioned how Gushcloud could lose receipts and documentary proof for $233,444 (approx. RM620,000), which is A LOT of money to not be accounted for. Perhaps Part 2 of Xiaxue's latest exposé can shed some light into Gushcloud's financials.
PART 2: Xiaxue cracks down on 2012, an interesting year for Gushcloud which also includes a mysterious intern
Gushcloud attributes its brush with bankruptcy in 2012 to Facebook's clampdown on their campaigns, leading to the cancellation of the Gush concert in San Francisco
In 2012, Gushcloud was in trouble with their finances and they were close to being bankrupt. They have always attributed their $984k (approx. RM2.6mil) loss to Facebook's change of policy, which prohibits users from earning money through the Facebook platform.
Xiaxue then pointed out that in the same year, Gushcloud received funding to expand outside of Singapore which included San Francisco, which they took the opportunity to organise a concert featuring bands like The Cab, Mayday Parade and Hellogoodbye at Fort Mason Center.
Aside from the concert, a SAYS source confirmed that Gushcloud ran a contest "Gushcase" wherein influencers and musicians stood a chance to win an all-expense 4D3N paid trip to San Francisco. The winners were also announced on Gushcloud's Facebook page.
However, 16 days before the large scale concert was set to kick off, Gushcloud announced the cancellation due to "financial reasons", which would cost a huge chunk of money and also explain their $984k (approx. RM2.6mil) loss during that year.
The most interesting and probably most damning (to Gushcloud) part of the exposé is the mysterious intern who allegedly falsified documents for Gushcloud
Something was brought to the attention of Xiaxue by a reader, Shaun Stanislaus after her first exposé. According to Shaun, he personally knows a guy who interned for Gushcloud during 2012. Shaun was told that during the intern's time there, he was asked to falsify documents. In a turn of events, from Althea Lim asking Shaun to take the posts down, to her lying about Shaun's intentions, Shaun decided to call Althea and confront her. He recorded himself speaking on the phone with Althea and in the recording, Althea was very clearly admitting to some questionable ethics like inflating numbers.
Listen to the voice recording below:
The brief very specifically stated for influencers to "complain/lament" about SingTel's competitors
A brief by SingTel (a telco in Singapore) to Gushcloud influencers has also surfaced and in the brief, it called for slandering of their competitors, specifically M1 and Starhub. As Xiaxue pointed out, it is not the norm and it also breaches the Singapore Code of Advertising Practice:
11.1 Advertisements should not unfairly attack or discredit other products, organisations or professions directly or by implication.
The influencers did not hold back on their punches on SingTel's competitors even if it meant contradicting themselves
Influencer, Lydia showed no mercy in expressing her frustration with her Starhub (SingTel's competitor) even though she advertised for Starhub just a month earlier
Many other influencers did not hesitate to jump in with their complaints as well
Their tweets were then followed up by posts on their blogs, lambasting the competitors, thus recommending their readers to switch to SingTel in their "true opinion"
Which then brought Xiaxue to the next point, where bloggers abuse their power of "true opinion" as evident in the case of blogger, Eunice Annabel who was caught red-handed in a lie
Gushcloud prepared a deck for potential sponsors for their office renovations, which included some very absurd and exaggerated claims...
The exposé was getting too long at this point, so Xiaxue decided to include this part just for laughs. And it really is quite hilarious. In efforts to acquire sponsors for their office renovation, Gushcloud prepared and sent a deck to the potential sponsors, highlighting the benefits and values of sponsorships. Their deck displayed ridiculous claims like having the kitchen placed strategically where visitors will walk past when visiting the toilet, which is worth $30,000 (approx. RM80,000) annually.
...like promising sponsors that they will receive "600% in media benefit" in return
Why another exposé? Xiaxue has had it with being called a liar repeatedly by Gushcloud while they remained unrepentant of their faults and mistakes.
Xiaxue's conclusion: "This is about Gushcloud and its questionable ethics."
Xiaxue concluded her second big exposé on Gushcloud, stating that this is not about her or Nuffnang but rather about the industry and doing right by the readers.
"This isn't about me. This isn't about Nuffnang. This is about Gushcloud and its questionable ethics."