Long before he struck gold, Jimmy Donaldson was editing YouTube videos out of his car in a community college parking lot. “School just wasn’t for me,” the creator said this year. “I’m like the last person you’d expect to become a YouTuber.”
Now 24, MrBeast is the king of his niche, which features extreme challenges and donations to his fans. As his popularity increases, the budgets get bigger and so do the giveaways. His content is somewhere between Jackass and The Ellen Show, but 10 times as big — and Gen Z is loving it.
After a decade in the content creator game, MrBeast has amassed the largest following of any individual creator and now boasts 200 million subscribers across all channels, some of which famously include philanthropy videos in which he gives away large sums of money to the most deserving (and some less deserving) people. The only channels with more subscribers are those of two Indian music labels and CocoMelon, which thanks to pandemic babies, eclipsed 140 million subscribers this year.
Donaldson’s secret recipe? Consistency and commitment.
An Inside Take
We spoke with one of many rotating producers tasked with making Donaldson’s visions come to life. “It was very clear to me from the beginning that the only goal of MrBeast is to make the best YouTube videos in the world”, the producer laid out plainly.
The first video he was assigned pitted 100 boys against 100 girls in side-by-side rooms to see who could stay within the confines of a painted circle for a hundred hours.
“It was an absolute trip, I think I dissociated for a second, ” he said. “250K in $1 bills in the middle of the room full of 100 boys. Another 250 in the girls’ room. They were making origami, building chess boards out of these $1 bills. It was my first real taste of the studio. We shot for four days straight.”
During the summer, the team gave away a private island in the Bahamas to commemorate MrBeast’s 100,000,000th subscriber. But buying a private island is apparently easier said than done.
“The island was literally just a giant rock,” laughs the producer, “so we had to terraform it. We brought in barges and barges of sand, planted trees, and built a few roads. We even added a swimming pool and helipad.”
On the latest video set in Antarctica, the crew at MrBeast went the extra mile for their sponsor by naming a mountain Mt. Shopify. Hans Zimmer, the world-class composer responsible for countless film scores, provided the composition because, at this point, why not?
Reinvent and Reinvest
Perhaps what’s most crucial about Donaldson’s business acumen is his commitment to reinvesting the money he makes into his video empire. Like many YouTubers, MrBeast has several streams of income, from Google Adsense to in-video sponsorships with brands ranging from Nerf toys to Venmo.
MrBeast also has multiple other channels on top of his main one, like MrBeast Reacts and his gaming channel. These are far cheaper to produce, generate a good deal of revenue through ads, and increase the reach of the main channel.
They have even decided to expand into different languages this year, with MrBeast en Espanol now the fastest growing international channel having reached almost 24 million subscribers and counting. The team at MrBeast casts big-ticket celebrities for these voiceovers, accounting for why they have skyrocketed in popularity in such a short time. Donaldson realized that “only 10% of the world speaks English. So what? 90% of the world can’t see my videos? That’s ridiculous.”
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Beast Burger: Venturing Past Video
Donaldson learned pretty quickly that reinvesting most of his money into future videos would come at a cost. His side channels do a good bit of the heavy lifting when it comes to monetization, but merchandise is an essential component of the business.
Enter the Beast Burger. Deemed a “virtual restaurant,” MrBeast Burger allows users to order delivery only, as the food is prepared in “ghost kitchens” all over the country, and doesn’t offer actual seating. This model erases most of the overhead of running a restaurant chain, as Donaldson simply licenses his recipe to these ghost kitchens, rather than building a franchise from scratch. As if MrBeast’s audience loyalty was ever in question, the debut of his first physical restaurant drew over 10,000 people to the launch, some claiming they drove over 15 hours to be there.
In addition to the Beast Burger, Donaldson’s team recently rolled out the Feastables Chocolate Bar, which has made it onto shelves in every Walmart in America. Pivoting some of his business to these highly scalable offerings has allowed Donaldson to make more extravagant videos without fretting about the price tag.
MrBeast as a Case Study
Young creators can learn a lot from Donaldson’s success. After putting over 10 years into the channel, it’s clear that he found the formula that drives engagement and causes videos to go viral. Creators like MrBeast design their content to fit specific platforms like YouTube and by intensely studying what its preference algorithm liked, Donaldson was able to turn MrBeast into the empire it is today.
This approach is a double-edged sword, however. As time has proven time and again, creators continue to be restricted by the platforms they work on. Many dislike this gatekeeping and claim it takes away from individual creativity. Nonetheless, as MrBeast has proved, relentlessly following the path can net great rewards. Even when asked if he’s thought about going independent, Donaldson shakes his head. “Instead of thinking about building my own platform, I can think about building businesses and leveraging my audience off of YouTube.”