MrBeast – real name: Jimmy Donaldson – is someone you will have almost certainly encountered on the internet. Famed for wildly generous acts of charity, fulfilling fantasies informed by a juvenile yet earnest brand of whimsy, and in the words of Bloomberg, cracking YouTube’s secret code for virality, his antics regularly provoke the curiosity of millions; earning him 69.3 million subscribers on his main channel, close to 22 million on his gaming channel, and almost 30 million across his other four smaller channels. In an interview with fellow YouTubers Colin & Samir, MrBeast offered the duo a rare behind-the-scenes look into his finances, which indicated his monthly content creation expenditure currently sits at US$4 million (AU$5.5 million) – bringing his total annual video budget to US$48 million (AU$65.5 million).
“You go from making money, spending money to making money, losing money,” says Samir Chaudry.
“On some videos… then other videos I have to make money to make up for it,” says Jimmy Donaldson.
Even when you account for the considerable advertising revenue and brand deals he manages to rake in with each respective upload, MrBeast regularly blows way more in terms of video budget, often leaving him in the red. So how can he possibly justify the gargantuan spend? Aside from having generated approximately 700 million views in the last 28 days alone – ie. the combined population of the US, Brazil, Russia, Japan – and an exceedingly impressive 70% audience retention rate in each upload, the rationale is simple. And it links back to this supposed “secret code” for YouTube success.
“I only want money so I can make better videos, so I can grow my channel… I don’t care about making money, I don’t care about time, I just want to make the best videos on the planet.”
Of course, contrary to the notion of overnight fame associated with the concept of YouTube virality, this didn’t exactly come together in short order. From the age of 12 to 18, MrBeast was posting regularly without amassing a particularly noteworthy audience. It wasn’t until he along with a handful of motivated friends decided to decipher the YouTube algorithm – “the black box of rules and processes that determines what videos get recommended to viewers” – did the master plan come together, eventually dropping out of college to pursue content creation full time.
Over the course of several months, MrBeast & Co. reportedly conducted daily conference calls to analyse what went viral, assigning each other related assignments, and routinely “pestered” major channels for data and audience analytics on their most viewed posts to understand the vital pillars upholding this fast-evolving economy of attention. Before long, theory was applied into practice. The first experiment in the MrBeast 2.0 era involved a premise that was both simple and laborious: ‘I Counted To 100,000.’ Since debuting on January 8th of 2017, the 40-hour affair which is exactly what it sounds like has generated 23 million-plus views.
“I woke up, I studied YouTube, I studied videos, I studied filmmaking, I went to bed and that was my life,” recalls Jimmy Donaldson in a previous interview.
“Once you know how to make a video go viral, it’s just about how to get as many out as possible. You can practically make unlimited money.”
Bloomberg has atomised your run-of-the-mill MrBeast video into a potent blend of three popular YouTube genres:
- “There’s the outrageous challenge, such as staying inside a block of ice for a day or being the last one to leave a vat of ramen noodles.”
- “There’s the celebrity guest appearance: Donaldson often works with other marquee YouTubers, including his favorite, the scientist Mark Rober.”
- “And there’s the reaction video — MrBeast has a posse of blundering childhood friends who participate in his stunts and generally play the role of hype men.”
“The videos take months of prep. A lot of them take four to five days of relentless filming. There’s a reason other people don’t do what I do,” adds Donaldson.
“The beauty of YouTube is double the effort isn’t double the views… it’s like 10X. The first million subscribers you get will take years, but the second will come in a few months.”
Very rarely does the phrase “the sky’s the limit” actually apply to something being described by media, but with a well-oiled content machine powered by virtually infinite cash and Jimmy Donaldson’s relentless dedication towards entertaining the masses from now until the day he dies, the sky really is the limit for MrBeast.
Check out the video below for more insights on how the MrBeast content factory functions, how the budget is spent in specific detail, and more.