At the 2023 Streamy Awards which aired Sunday night on YouTube, content creator MrBeast aka Jimmy Donaldson won the main category Creator of the Year as well as the award for Best Collaboration (with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson). The 25-year-old who grew up in North Carolina was the only winner taking home multiple awards, showing the resounding success he has had with his YouTube channel focused on over-the-top challenges (and the occasional grand gesture).
As Statista’s Katharina Buchholz reports, the latest release of Forbes’ list of the most successful internet creators lists Donaldson as the highest-earning of them all – at a yearly gross of $54 million. The MrBeast channel was also the second-most followed on YouTube as of August 2023 – up from rank 4 at the beginning of the year. In this time span, Donaldson has attracted attention for paying for operations making 1,000 blind people see and 1,000 deaf people hear.
YouTubers generally ranked high among the best-paid content creators. One aspect of this is sponsored posts as well as ads earning more if they are in a video format. According to Forbes, Donaldson is in fact capitalizing on this aspect. However, many creators who have earned millions as social media personalities have done so by outside business deals. Third-ranked Jake Paul who started out as a comedy and music creator on Vine and later YouTube has pivoted to boxing and merchandise sales. Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal of channel Rhett & Link have branched out from YouTube sketch comedy and other entertainment content to live appearances and merch sales. Mark Edward Fischbach, known as Markiplier on YouTube, initially uploaded gaming videos, but now also earns most of his cash with, again, merch sales as well as podcast and TV deals.
Elliot Tebele might have come the longest way from posting memes on Tumblr to running a media company that includes notable Instagram accounts like FuckJerry, TV productions, consulting and even board games. Jerry Media has worked or is working with notables like Michael Bloomberg (during his 2020 presidential run), Seth Phillips (“Dude With Sign”) and the Instagram egg. Tebele’s brand Jaja Tequila is also bringing in money.
The highest-earning female content creator (at least in 2021) was Danielle Bregoli aka Bhad Bhabie, making her millions on OnlyFans – a platform with a straightforward monetizing strategy. The 20-year-old actually started out as a meme herself, after a video clip and pictures of her 2016 appearance on TV show Dr. Phil went viral and made her the Cash-me-outside girl at just 13 years old. Bregoli built a sizable music career in the years that followed and has been cashing out on OnlyFans since turning 18 in March 2021. Alexandra Cooper of the Call Her Daddy podcast and TikTok’s biggest name Charli D’Amelio also make the top 10.