Thanks to the explosion in popularity of online video streaming, “content creators” have grown from hobbyists earning side income to full fledged professionals making millions of dollars per year.
Arguably the most successful of all YouTube content creators is MrBeast aka Jimmy Donaldson. His channel has been viewed over 20 billion times and he’s collected over 125 million subscribers since he began posting videos in 2012.
MrBeast has become known for his over the top generosity, donating hundreds of thousands in support of fellow content creators as well as giving away millions in cash and prizes.
Often overlooked is how exactly Donaldson gets all that money and where it actually goes.
Who Is MrBeast?
Jimmy Donaldson, the real person behind MrBeast, is a 24-year-old YouTube pioneer.
He first joined the platform in 2012 at the age of 13. His initial videos featured video game footage and occasional speculation on the net worth of other YouTube creators.
They ultimately proved unsuccessful, failing to attract the attention Donaldson hoped. In late 2016, he enrolled in college, but reportedly only attended for two weeks before telling his mom, “I’d rather be poor than do anything besides YouTube.”
Unimpressed, his mother kicked him out of his childhood North Carolina home when he turned 18. Donaldson apparently holds no grudges, later saying she “loves me and just wanted me to be successful.”
Success would come in bounds.
His first viral video came in the form of an outlandish idea. In 2017, Donaldson posted a video encompassing over 40 hours of himself counting out loud to 100,000.
The experience provided him with all the clues he needed to game the YouTube algorithm. His channel quickly grew as he posted similar antics such as spinning a fidget spinner for 24 hours and watching a disliked music video on repeat for 10 hours straight.
Before the year ended, MrBeast had surpassed one million subscribers.
As the revenue from his channel increased, so did the scale of his antics.
In addition to nonsensical marathons, Donaldson started incorporating street games known as “last-person-to-leave” challenges, in which the last person to quit the game becomes the winner.
One video, “Last To Remove Hand, Gets Lamborghini Challenge” saw the YouTube star bring in less successful YouTube creators to compete. Many such early competitors went on to become regular MrBeast crew and still appear on the channel.
By the end of 2018, MrBeast had distributed more than $1 million dollars through his stunts, becoming known as “YouTube’s biggest philanthropist”.
With the channel booming and able to secure six figure ad deals with major brands, Donaldson turned his efforts primarily toward giveaways and using his platform for charitable fundraising.
In 2019, his #TeamTrees fundraising campaign garnered support from over 600 influencers and even attracted big names Elon Musk and Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey.
His videos now regularly top tens of millions of views. But how do those views translate into cold, hard cash?
Show Me the Money
YouTube pays out content creators on a pay-per-1000-views fee structure. That means for every 1,000 views on a video, the creator gets a fixed amount of revenue.
Popularity and length of content can increase the rate per thousand views, and MrBeast allegedly earns among the highest rates. Most of his money comes from this revenue.
However, MrBeast’s popularity also attracts high-profile sponsors. These sponsors sometimes pay six figures to advertise on his videos, but they also often sponsor whole videos by providing larger dollar prizes, such as million dollar giveaways.
These sponsorships allow Donaldson to keep more of the ad revenue while still producing high value content for his subscribers. Additionally, he has a popular merch store due to his dedicated community.
His net worth is not publicly known, but Forbes revealed in 2021 that MrBeast made $54 million off his ad revenue alone.
His most popular video to date, a recreation of the popular Korean tv series “Squid Game”, was sponsored by a video game creator Supercell. Its support allowed Donaldson to give away $456,000 to the eventual winner.
MrBeast sponsorships are mutually beneficial. After the insanely popular video, which has over 336,000,000 views on YouTube, downloads of the app increased by 41 percent week-over-week.
It also saw a 54% increase in week-over-week consumer spending.
The success of these partnerships are why so many big name sponsors continue to get behind Donaldson’s viral efforts.
He has navigated the increasingly scrutinizing public gaze and come out unscathed thus far, save for unsupported allegations of a difficult work environment.
The YouTuber is anything but ungrateful. Upon reaching 100 million subscribers in the summer of 2022, he live streamed his reaction for fans.
“I appreciate every single one of you that watches the videos,” he remarked. “This is literally all I’ve ever done with my life.
“All I do is wake up every day and obsess over how to make the best videos possible. It’s all I care about. It’s the only thing that’s ever really made me happy.”