More and more digital celebrities are raking in “shameful” amounts of money, surpassing even mainstream stars. Whereas years ago, many people saw youtubers as a passing fad and didn’t take them seriously, today, they are being taken seriously and the influencer marketing associated with them is getting more attention. It is a business that has not been negatively affected by the pandemic, and may even have benefited from it. It is important to note that, while youtubers earn disproportionately from the outside, almost all of them also place a high priority on charity. In January, the US magazine Forbes published its list of the most successful video-makers.
The fact that the highest earning of them all, Mr. Beast (real name Jimmy Donaldson), has broken all records with 54 million USD in earnings, is proof that the genre is not a passing fad, or even stagnating. He has nearly doubled the earnings of the lasy year’s front-runner, who made 29.5 million USD in 2020. He might as well have changed his name to Mr. Burger, as his surging viewership led to more than 1,600 restaurants across the US backing him in 2021 to sell burgers branded with his name. The 23-year-old youtuber promotes his branded burgers to his 88 million subscribers, with restaurants sharing half the profits. Donaldson is also loved by his followers for his philanthropic efforts, donating to homeless shelters, children’s hospitals, and zoos. He has bought up entire department stores and donated all their stock, or bought a desert island and donated it as well.
The Paul brothers are no longer so concerned with accepted public morals. Logan Paul made a big splash in 2017 when he took a video of a dead body in one of Japan’s famous and infamous forests, where suicides are often committed. Brands immediately shunned him and his brother Jake was also affected by the scandal. Now they’ve been forgiven and are earning again from YouTube ads – and not badly – with Jake Paul making 45 million USD and his brother 18 million USD in 2021. Add to that the fact that Jake Paul’s career as an athlete, who has turned professional boxer over the years, is now worth a lot more than vlogging. He’s won three high-profile fights against MMA fighters – two against Tyron Woodley, one with Ben Askren – and all by huge margins. Even though Jake poses as a badass bad guy, his heart is in the right place, because let’s not forget that last year he founded the Box Bullies Foundation, whose main goal is to teach kids about boxing and help them learn self-defence.
The Hawaii-born Markiplier’s channel has now reached more than 17.3 billion views and over 29 million subscribers. Mark Edward Fischbach, a creator of mostly “Let’s Play” horror survival videos, created the Unus Annus channel in 2019 with youtuber Ethan Nestor with the concept of uploading a video every day for a year, then deleting the channel. It was a huge success, with 1 million subscribers in the first 5 days – rising to 4.56 million in the last period – and over 11.5 million views in the first week. After the last 12 hours of live coverage, which peaked at more than 1.5 million concurrent viewers, Fischbach and Nestor cancelled the channel at 12:00 on 14 November 2020, exactly one year after its creation. And it should be noted, few people can sell as many t-shirts, sweatshirts, and branded merchandise as Markiplier. As a result, he’s now on the list with nearly twice the earnings of last year. Markiplier and his fans have raised and donated millions of dollars to charity.
It certainly helps the success of the genre that YouTube has seen the largest increase in US users of any social media app during the epidemic. Use of the Google-owned video service grew from 73% of the US adult population in 2019 to 81% in 2021.