MrBeast just became the biggest YouTuber in the world. His ascension marks the death of old YouTube and the rise of 'over-the-top' content.

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  • MrBeast has become the most-followed individual YouTuber in the world.

  • He's known for spending and giving away huge amounts of money in his videos.

  • Here's what this historic moment might mean for YouTubers moving forward, according to experts.

From fashion hauls to gaming videos, YouTube has long been a central hub for home-grown content, as many creators built up audiences, one video at a time, filming their daily lives and hoping to slowly but steadily gain enough subscribers to turn it into a career.

Throughout the 2010s, many top YouTubers became online micro-celebrities, garnering millions of followers, while still remaining mostly outside of the public eye, able to continue living relatively normal lives.

Felix Kjellberg, known on YouTube as PewDiePie, encapsulated this online era. His gaming and vlogging videos that landed him the spot of most-subscribed YouTuber in the world in 2013.

But when MrBeast came onto the scene, everything changed.

The YouTube giant, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, had been posting YouTube videos since 2012 but his channel really began to grow in popularity around 2017, when he went viral for taking part in ridiculous challenges (listening to Jake Paul's song "It's Everyday Bro" for 10 hours straight, for one) and donating vast sums of money to Twitch streamers.

These days, he's known for giving away huge sums of money to his subscribers in extravagant high-budget videos.

In recent years, Donaldson has become one of the highest-paid and fastest-growing creators on the platform, reaching the 100 million subscriber mark in July and growing by 11 million subscribers in four months to officially become the most-followed YouTuber on the internet in November. In doing so, he overtook Kjellberg, who held the title for nine years.

Experts told Insider that this momentous shift in the YouTuber league tables represents a broader change in the style of content that succeeds on the platform. They predicted that it could see YouTube turn into a money-spending free-for-all, with content creators trying to match Donaldson's success by replicating his elaborate videos, rather than trading on the authenticity that led to the success of early-era YouTubers

Experts say Donaldson's popularity has brought on a movement away from traditional lifestyle and vlogging content on YouTube

Over the past five to 10 years, some of the most popular content on YouTube was characterized by a "personal feel," with "a vlogging style, single camera" and "jump cuts," James Cohen, an assistant professor in media studies at Queens College in New York, told Insider.

Early in YouTuber's history, beauty vloggers like Zoella, who made a name filming makeup tutorials in her bedroom, and Shane Dawson, who rose to fame filming comedy skits, amassed millions of followers with their simplistic vlogging content.

According to Cohen, Donaldson's more complex content, which has involved the recreation of sets from popular TV shows and movies for large-scale competitions, creates more of a "television-like experience," which is more "flamboyant" than a typical vlog.

Donaldson's viewers tune in for the experience of "spectacle," Cohen said, which shows how consumers of YouTube and their preferences have changed over time. "Whereas millennials grew up with the vlogger, Gen Z is growing up with MrBeast," he added.

Werner Geyser, founder of the Influencer Marketing Hub, a media company that advises brands about the influencer economy, said that despite "personally relevant" content like vlogs previously dominating YouTube, viewers are now drawn to "videos that pique their curiosity."

Donaldson's content has successfully done that, "even if the concepts are absurd," Geyser continued, pointing to the moment the YouTuber gave away a private island to a subscriber for a video as one example.

But the growth of Donaldson and content creators like him, Geyser said, means that "there will be less viewer-creator interaction, as 'show-like' production tends to invite audiences as spectators," while the vlogging era involved creators addressing their viewers and building relationships with them.

Donaldson has shown that spending big money brings big rewards, but it could come at a cost

According to Cohen, Donaldson's high-production-style videos appeal to advertisers because they look professional and "seamless," with sponsored content occasionally built into the middle of videos like a television ad break.

"Vloggers are still very profitable, but for much more niche advertising which is valuable in its own right," Cohen said, adding that "high-production quality content is going to be a trend for some time" and might appeal to advertisers more than vlog-style content due to its professional look.

Geyser predicted Donaldson's immense popularity on the platform might lead viewers to "gravitate more toward watching and even recreating 'over-the-top' and professionally produced videos that focus on elaborate stunts and grand challenges," but that there's onconsiderableig risk to this trend for other creators on the platform: "This could all become real expensive real fast," he said.

"I don't think that dropping millions and hiring a lot of people to produce a single YouTube video is a sustainable model, but we might start seeing people emulate this, albeit with a smaller—but still substantial—budget in a bid to replicate or come close to MrBeast's level of success," Geyser said.

It seems this trend is already beginning. In June, Insider spoke to an up-and-coming YouTuber named Matthew Beem, who, out of admiration for Donaldson, borrowed $14,000 to meet and film with the YouTube star, going viral in the process.


Donaldson himself continues to spend huge amounts of money as his channels grow. In November, he handed out iPhones and bundles of cash to children for Halloween. When he hit 111 million subscribers a few weeks later, he celebrated by tweeting that he bought 1,111 lottery tickets.

According to Cohen, the future of YouTube content will likely look more "experimental" now that Donaldson's high-stakes challenges are performing so well. Creators are going to keep trying to "push the boundaries of what is possible" by trying new and "extreme" formats and genres.

"Viewers want to see creators up the ante in real-time," he said.

For more stories like this, check out coverage from Insider's Digital Culture team here.

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