One of the benefits of a week with my teen-age grandchildren is learning about what is going on with the internet. That’s how I was introduced to MrBeast. If you are under 25 you probably know all about him. I am way out of his target audience, but he corraled my eyes anyway. He is very good at that.
All week we were watching movies together and spent some interesting time after each film “breaking it open,” as we say (thank you Mel White, I think). Part of our dialogue included seeing the films through a Jesus lens. After one such session, I made a reference to seeing the MrBeast video we watched earlier in the day through a Jesus lens (the one replicating Squid Game). I made the hyperbolic statement, “That video was the greediest thing I have ever seen.” I soon found out a few of my grandchildren knew the myth of MrBeast more exhaustively than they knew much of the New Testament.
My contention was, and is, that MrBeast is an amazing entrepreneur and his money giveaways are, though well-intended, a great marketing ploy and a fun way to surf the wave of greed which constantly churns through the United States. Maybe I stated my contention too defensively, since I feel unfashionable when I mention what the Bible mentions all the time: greed is deadly. I will quote just one verse. Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NIV)
When I suggested MrBeast was dealing in greed, one of my grandchildren immediately looked up his counterpoint on Google, which was “He gives away most of his money. He is not greedy.” I stood corrected, since I had just met MrBeast and was not quick-to-the-draw with Google.
I gave one of those apologies that has a “but” on the end and said, “I just watched him spend a boatload of money, which came from somewhere, to produce that elaborate video full of people doing stunts to get money.” Now that I know more about MrBeast, I could have said, “Most of them got the fun of acting in his video for free. Many got an unusually generous payout. The winner got an amazing sum. Then Jimmy Donaldson (MrBeast) got all the ad revenue from the video, which has 282K+ views on the MrBeast channel with its 102M+ subscribers. Plus he got to sell his merch.” According to YouTube analytics service SocialBlade, MrBeast makes up to $2 million a month from YouTube ads alone. That does not include the in-video brand deals which earn him untold millions.
Who is MrBeast?
Jimmy Donaldson is a social media influencer. He was born in Kansas but raised in North Carolina, where he still lives. Donaldson uploaded his first video to YouTube in 2012. He was just 13 at the time, operating under the handle “MrBeast6000” and rarely appearing in his videos. His earliest output was mostly of the “let’s play” (video games) variety, though he’d also comment on various YouTube dramas, offer tips to potential content creators, and estimate the net worths of well-known YouTube celebrities. His subscriber base consisted of about 240 loyal followers by 2013.
By 2016, Donaldson was gaining in popularity on the heels of his “worst intro” videos, which poked fun at the various introductions he found on YouTube. He dropped out of college around this time to focus on content creation, wrangling old friends to help him and gaming the platform’s algorithm as the subscriber count increased.
His first viral video aired in 2017 when he was 19. He counted to 100,000. It took him more than 40 hours but his efforts paid off. As a result, he broke the 100,000 subscriber mark. Since first airing, the video has been viewed over 26 million times. It was followed by other successes like counting to 200,000, reading the dictionary, and watching Jake Paul’s music video for “It’s Every Day Bro” for 10 hours straight.
In 2018, the man now known as YouTube’s biggest philanthropist found his niche in the online world: giving away money to strangers. His stunts tend to have a philanthropic angle, like adopting an entire shelter of rescue dogs. It has almost become a joke that when people first see him, they hope/expect to get money. He talked to his mom about this in 2018 when he decided to give her money. She did not want it. In a video, he told her, “If I don’t give it to you, I don’t have a viral video.”
Where does the money come from?
Like so many popular (and unpopular) YouTube channels, MrBeast’s comes with video ads. See MrBeast (103M), Beast Reacts (19M), MrBeast Gaming (29M), MrBeast Shorts (15M). With each ad comes a respective cost per mille (CPM), which is the amount an advertiser pays a website for every one thousand people who see the ad. The exact CPM can vary from one country to the next, but most sources suggest that it averages out at around US$5 per one thousand views. Multiply that by the millions of views that each MrBeast video racks up and you begin to see all kinds of dollar signs. By 2021, when he turned 23, Forbes estimates he made $54 million.
Donaldson quickly understood his worldwide reach and began to “localize” his videos to increase his influence and revenue. He reports that the English channel views amounted to more than 122M in the first half of 2022, and the localized channel views added up to more than 160M in the same period. In March alone, the combined total number of views for all his channels was above 283M.
MrBeast approaches localization through dubbing. He has created separate channels for Spanish, Russian, Portuguese, and French content, and hired native speakers to provide voice-overs for his videos. These are MrBeast’s international YouTube channels: MrBeast en español (Spanish), Beast Reacts en español (Spanish), MrBeast На Русском (Russian), MrBeast Brasil (Brazilian Portuguese), MrBeast Gaming en español (Spanish), MrBeast en Français (French), MrBeast Gaming Brasil (Brazilian Portuguese).
By most estimates, 40-50% of MrBeast’s net worth comes as a result of merchandising and other business opportunities. Some sources report that the YouTube star earns as much as $2.25 million a month through merchandising alone, including sales of his own clothing line. Well-versed in internet economics, MrBeast reportedly receives around $1 million a month from the main sponsors on his primary YouTube page. There are further sponsors for his secondary channels and other social media accounts, as well as sponsors for his various charitable efforts and sweepstakes.
In 2020, Donaldson launched MrBeast Burger, a delivery app that brings signature fast food items straight to your door. It’s currently under contract with over 1000 brick-and-mortar locations throughout North America and Europe, with plans to expand. Along similar lines is Feastables, a chocolate bar company that MrBeast launched in 2022. In the spirit of Willy Wonka, the company routinely holds sweepstakes with prizes ranging from an Xbox game system to a Tesla Model 3. You can also download his game app: Finger on the App
Behind the scenes, MrBeast is a fairly active investor and partner in various startups and companies, including Backbone, Juice Funds, Current, Quidd, CSGO Lotto, and TikTok. He is a firm believer in crypto, but he received backlash in 2021 after Refinable, a token and NFT platform that he personally backed and promoted, plunged in value.
He is popular in Greenville, where his headquarters continues to expand. As of 2022, the MrBeast team was made up of 60 people.
Shall we look through a Jesus lens?
Philanthropy is an essential part of MrBeast’s operation. Not only does he give away considerable cash prizes to the participants of his many stunts, he also donates tons of money directly to charity. Over on the Beast Philanthropy channel (10M), 100% of the ad revenue, sponsorships, and merchandise sales go to charitable organizations (like to my pet causes through Team Trees and The Ocean Clean Up).
He’s also quite modest in terms of his lifestyle. As he told Joe Rogan, “I think living your life chasing like a nicer car, and a bigger and bigger box to live in is kind of like a dumb way to go about life.” Mr. Beast also talked to Rogan about his ongoing struggle with Crohn’s Disease.
Put everything together and you get the picture of a passionate content creator, with an eye on his mortality, who would produce a blockbuster stunt and donate the proceeds before buying himself a fancy car. But keep in mind, MrBeast is only 24 years old and has plenty of time to build upon his already impressive fortune and develop a taste for big houses and sweet rides.
As with every person, I have no intention of judging what Jesus is doing with Jimmy Donaldson, personally. Not.My.Job. As far as what he is doing publically, and as a person who profits from influencing people I love, I have to exercise some discernment. So I did my research.
What I like about him is his alternativity, his simplicity and his community-building.
What I think deserves some skepticism, is #1, the greed factor. Most of what he is doing is about money: making it, giving a lot of it away, and investing it in a masterful, entrepreneurial empire. The Greenville headquarters alone is worth at least $14 million and they are scouting the town for more property. The attention of the greedy, gullible young, worldwide, is the fuel for the enterprise.
Jesus said, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” (Luke 12:15 NIV)
Individually, Jimmy Donaldson “appears” (the all-important YouTube word) unconcerned with possessions. So maybe he could be considered interested in the second clause of Luke 12:15.
But MrBeast sure is good at acquiring possessions — especially subscribers! And his millions of followers are fascinated by his handouts. Most of his performers (except his mother) are greedy for some spillage.
Since we live in the hyper-capitalist US, we should beware of the Jekyll and Hyde nature of living greedy all day but trying not to really be (or appear) greedy. I think MrBeast teaches us greed, but Jimmy Donaldson might like his life to be about philanthropy. If you watch the video about headquarters, you will see that Jimmy lives in a little room inside of the huge MrBeast enterprise (he also has another house) — that picture is a visual warning to us all. We live in the house of greed and only Jesus can save us. Without Him, we will be swallowed. Look at poor Jimmy! Isn’t he a feastable?