YouTube's Top Creator Goes to Incredible Lengths

Jimmy Donaldson's videos can take months to plan
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 23, 2020 11:28 AM CST

This year has been a crummy one for a whole lot of people. Jimmy Donaldson isn't one of them. A couple of weeks ago, he was named YouTube's Creator of the Year, and as Bloomberg explains, it's not an honor he stumbled into. Lucas Shaw and Mark Bergen track Donaldson's rise, which had a laser focus and hard work at its center. As an 18-year-old in 2016, Donaldson dropped out of college to focus on cracking the algorithm that determined which videos YouTube recommends. "I woke up, I studied YouTube, I studied videos, I studied filmmaking, I went to bed, and that was my life," Donaldson says of the time. His first viral hit was posted at the start of the next year: "I COUNTED TO 100000!" In the 40-hour video, he does just that, ending with "What am I doing with my life?"

The answer to that question is pretty clear these days. His MrBeast channel boasts 48 million subscribers. By Bloomberg's count, over the last four weeks, his videos have been watched for upwards of 34 million hours. And there's something uncanny about just how consistent his success is: Every single video he posted last year got more than 20 million views. Shaw and Bergen dive into how he does it. For starters, there are no quick hits, and while he makes tens of millions annually, he funnels it back into his business. Videos can take months to plan (he has 50 employees) and days to film, and typically cost six figures to make. They often involve "displays of sheer willpower"—think 24 hours spent at an insane asylum. In one video, he gave $1 million to the person who managed to keep his hand on a stack of cash the longest. (Read the full article for much more, including the one wild video Donaldson hasn't managed to make yet.)

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