They’re Ignoring MrBeast’s Rules of YouTube, and Thriving

The algorithm to get on YouTube’s homepage encourages creators to look and sound the same. Unmute to hear the chaos of straying from that model.

Late last year, Zackary Smigel, a YouTube creator, made a video titled “Why Is YouTube Like This?” By “this”he meant that the platform was filled with videos that have sensationalized titles, heavily edited content and grabby thumbnails, often featuring a person’s emotive face.

A more succinct way of putting it: Why is everyone on YouTube doing an imitation of MrBeast?

MrBeast — whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson — is the most popular YouTuber on the planet, with a grip on younger people (and the internet in general) that can be hard for some adults to comprehend. He produces videos known for both their scale (“I recreated every set from ‘Squid Game’in real life, and whichever one of these 456 people survives the longest wins $456,000!”) and their adherence to growth strategies that he has developed with painstaking detail.

Within a moment of clicking on any MrBeast video, he is shouting at his 250 million subscribers to explain the thesis of the video. Every thumbnail displays his face — with his mouth closed these days, which he said brings in more clicks than thumbnails where he has his mouth open. Titles are written in a classic clickbait style, like “In 10 Minutes This Room Will Explode!”

He is present in each video, but only physically. He has said that he doesn’t want to show his actual personality on camera, because he sees the very concept as something that could limit growth. In nearly every regard, he approaches YouTube as if it were a science.

In a nod to how well his methods have worked, copycats have sprung up across the platform, putting twists on the MrBeast-approved strategies for thumbnails and titles and stunts. Burnout among popular YouTube creators, where monetization began in 2007, has been widespread for obvious reasons: If you want your channel to be successful, you need to figure out how to please the platform’s algorithm. Fail, by posting too infrequently or in the incorrect way, and your audience may dry up along with your livelihood.

So most creators have a choice to optimize, ride the algorithm, and overwhelm the audience. Or, alternatively, to trust their viewers.

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