YouTube Content Creators Deliver Burgers, Nine-Foot Jeans, An 18-Carat Gold Xbox Controller … And Enormous Audiences
Harnessing audiences for film and television content is now more challenging than ever thanks to variables such as the streaming model disruption and aftershocks of the pandemic. And while the industry tries to keep up with the ever-evolving landscape, content creators on YouTube are attracting enormous audiences to their channels and building multimillion-dollar empires in the process.
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YouTube has 2.1 billion monthly active users across the globe and around 122 million daily users — numbers that show no sign of abating. The figures clearly show that, in terms of eyeballs on screens, the platform’s reach often surpasses film and TV viewing figures. Younger audiences are increasingly spending their time scrolling through the site’s video offerings, a fact that has caused the film and television industry to sit up and take notice. It’s understandable why many believe this platform — which is less than 20 years old — will continue its growth as a global one-stop shop for entertainment.
To illustrate this, we’ve handpicked seven of the most disruptive and dynamic YouTube talents making waves on the platform. These are savvy entrepreneurs with loyal fan bases who successfully monetize their endeavors in a way never seen before. For the older generation who might be unfamiliar with consuming content on YouTube, it’s a hard concept to grapple with, but there’s no doubt about it: YouTubers are changing the game of content creation in a way we could have never foreseen.
At just 24 years old, MrBeast (real name Jimmy Donaldson) has become the most-subscribed individual and highest-paid YouTuber ever to have launched off the platform. Famed for his costly stunts and cash-prize giveaways, he boasts a whopping 116 million (and counting) subscriber tally for his main MrBeast channel which led to him earning $54 million in 2021. He’s got four additional channels, which collectively have more than 86 million subscribers, and Forbes currently estimates his net worth at around $500 million.
These are some staggering numbers for a guy who started uploading arbitrary content, such as filming himself playing computer games on the platform back in 2012. Five years later, MrBeast cracked the YouTube code when a video of him counting to 100,000 went viral, catapulting him into YouTuber fame. Since then, he’s continued his trajectory in the vlogging sphere with a number of crazy stunts that continue to reel in subscribers, such as building a real-life Willy Wonka factory to promote his Feastables chocolate bars (a gimmick that attracted 37 million views in three days), as well as a $456,000 real-life Squid Game experiment, and the courageous confinement of being buried alive for 50 hours. The North Carolina-based star spares no expense with his wild antics: the average budget of a MrBeast video is between $1 million and $3.5 million.
MrBeast has perfected the way to market to his subscribers throughout the years and has successfully used the platform to boost his offline endeavors, which, as well as his chocolate bars (available in Walmart stores in the U.S.), include his MrBeast Burger franchise, a delivery burger service that became the fastest-growing restaurant in the U.S. with more than 1,000 locations in two years. The latter made $100 million in revenue by July 2021 after it launched in December 2020. The YouTuber has also ventured into philanthropy by giving away money and filming it for content. Most recently, he posted a video where he helped 1,000 people get sight-restoring surgeries, a gesture that drew as much criticism (for ‘performative altruism’) as praise.
LINUS TECH TIPS
Canadian YouTuber Linus Sebastian first founded his popular Linus Tech Tips channel in 2008, and today, just over a decade later, its 15.3 million subscribers can tune in to see reviews on products ranging from computer processors to nuclear fusion reactors as well as emerging technologies. His production agency, Linus Media Group, which started out in his garage, now has more than 80 employees, and according to some reports, Sebastian has an estimated net worth of $50 million. His eight channels have a total of 26 million subscribers, with the main channel, Linus Tech Tips, dubbed the most-watched technology channel on YouTube. Videos such as a computer capable of supporting seven users simultaneously or a three-part series documenting the making of an 18-carat gold Xbox controller have continued to lure in viewers, with the former drawing in 6 million views and the latter 1.3 million views.
In 2017, LMG launched its annual LTX Expo convention, which brings together tech-focused content creators and personalities. Its goal is to “create a hands-on experience” with the tech community and Linus Tech Tips fans. Sebastian also founded his own online streaming service, Floatplane, a paid-for service that allows content creators to upload and monetize their own content.
KIDS DIANA SHOW
Younger audiences are increasingly turning to YouTube rather than linear television to watch their favorite shows, and Kids Diana Show is one of the platform’s most popular channels for children. It stars 9-year-old Eva Diana Kidisyuk and her brother Roma in the popular Diana & Roma videos with content including kids’ songs, roleplays, unboxings and educational entertainment and has more than 110 million subscribers. Since launching in 2015, Kids Diana Show has amassed more than 100 billion views, making it the sixth most-viewed and sixth most-subscribed show on the platform.
Ukrainian-American Diana and Roma are frequently joined by their parents, Volodymyr and Olena, on the show, which now has been translated into 20 languages across 20 channels on YouTube, bringing in another 100 million subscribers to the content.
The Kidisyuks initially started the channel in 2015 to share video content of their children with family and friends, but when their subscribers hit the 1 million mark, both parents put their energies into the channel full-time and have since relocated from Ukraine to Miami (for a year) and then to Dubai, where they currently reside.
In 2020, the brand inked a deal with digital kids’ content studio Pocket.watch, to create a global franchise named Love, Diana — The Princess of Play that expanded the empire into a live-action animation series, which is available on OTT platforms such as YouTube, Prime Video, Roku Channel and Samsung TV+. The deal also spawned a mobile game and merchandise. While no official stats on income have been released, some reports suggest Kids Diana Show is worth more than $100 million.
Marques Keith Brownlee, aka MKBHD (his initials plus HD for ‘high definition’), is another tech-savvy entrepreneur who has parlayed his reviews of tech products and gadgets into a successful online business on YouTube and through his podcast Waveform. He gives viewers videos on everything from drones to smartphones and frequently speaks to some of the tech world’s biggest corporate professionals. His loyal fan base has seen him build a reported $40 million empire ever since his 2014 review and scratch test on the iPhone 6 (which has since amassed 9.2 million views on YouTube).
MKBHD has 16.8 million subscribers on his channel, and he has interviewed a raft of big names, including Bill Gates, Will Smith, Neil deGrasse Tyson, Mark Zuckerberg and Barack Obama. Oh, and he is also a professional ultimate frisbee player.
Fourteen years ago, five friends at Texas A&M University — Tyler Toney, Garrett Hilbert, Cody Jones and twins Cory and Coby Cotton — launched their first video on YouTube, which saw them shoot a series of wild basketball shots in their backyard. Today, that video has had more than 44 million views and the channel now boasts more than 59 million subscribers, making it the second-most subscribed sports channel on the platform.
With the tagline “five best buds just kickin’ it,” the sports and comedy brand has had guest appearances from the likes of Paul Rudd, singer Tim McGraw, Serena Williams, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team to name a few. They set a Guinness world record in 2009 for the longest basketball shot, have been featured on ESPN and have even filmed with British soccer clubs Manchester City, Arsenal and Chelsea.
All this fanfare has generated the Texan quintet a string of lucrative sponsorship deals, a book deal, live tours, merchandise and a television series dubbed The Dude Perfect Show on CMT, which then moved to Nickelodeon. In 2020, they partnered with YouTube Originals for the documentary Backstage Pass, which chronicled their live tour.
Casey Neistat is arguably one of the most well-known faces in the vlogging world, having successfully utilized the platform to spin out several lucrative businesses. A filmmaker in his own right, he kickstarted his career in the early 2000s on video projects by artist Tom Sachs and a short doc called iPod’s Dirty Secret, which covered the absence of a battery replacement option for Apple’s newly launched iPods. He then began his daily vlogs on YouTube in 2015, which captured his life in New York City and covered random experiences such as flying in first-class on an Emirates flight for $21,000.
His comic delivery and digital savviness led to him expanding into other tech and startup businesses: In 2015, he built a video-sharing app called Beme, which CNN then bought for $25 million. When that deal came to an end a few years later, Neistat launched a new workspace venture dubbed 368. He also writes, directs and stars in commercials — his Make It Count video for Nike has had more than 32 million views — and his documentary Under the Influence, about YouTube phenomenon David Dobrik and made with Christine Vachon’s Killer Films, debuted at SXSW last year.
Safiya Nygaard worked as a video producer for BuzzFeed’s popular Ladylike series, in which women attempted a variety of beauty rituals, before she left to launch her own YouTube channel in 2017. Her video “Why I Left BuzzFeed” has racked up more than 15 million views since she posted it in 2017, one of many videos of the same name posted by ex-BuzzFeed staffers that year.
But what has made Nygaard so appealing to her subscribers (all 9.66 million of them) is her offbeat approach to vlogging about beauty: rather than standard tutorials or product reviews, Nygaard makes wildly entertaining content with series such as Bad Beauty Science, where she mixes every lipstick from Sephora together, or fashion-focused content such as wearing wacky items of clothing like 9-foot-long jeans. Her love of creating content independently has seen the Stanford graduate grow her online business to a net worth of $5.5 million, and in 2019, she released a lipstick collection with ColourPop.
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