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Why Elon Musk needs MrBeast


Exactly how much money can you make by uploading a video to X? The going assumption has been that X — like Twitter before it — is a poor platform for video creators that can’t compete with YouTube and TikTok in terms of monetization and reach. So there’s been a lot riding on the results of a recent test by MrBeast, who aimed to see whether he could actually make money on Elon Musk’s platform.

Last week, MrBeast, real name Jimmy Donaldson, posted a video to Musk’s platform with the explicit goal of seeing “how much ad revenue a video on X would make.” Musk had previously encouraged MrBeast to post to X, and he sent out an excited message shortly after the test went up. “First MrBeast video posted directly on 𝕏!” Musk wrote. Now, a week later, Donaldson has shared data on how his first video performed: it made around $260,000 across more than 150 million views.

On the surface, the results sound promising. That same video has been up for four months on YouTube, and it’s only notched 215 million views over there. That revenue also compares favorably to a recent YouTube video that MrBeast shared analytics for — that one made $167,000 over a five-day period with 99 million views. So it’s at least plausible that X can keep pace with YouTube.

But Donaldson was quick to note that his performance on X comes with some real caveats. “It’s a bit of a facade,” he wrote. For one, he has the advantage of being MrBeast, and there was increased attention on this video given that it was his first on the platform. Advertisers bought ads to run specifically on his video, earning him a higher rate. Shopify’s president, Harley Finkelstein, bragged shortly after the video went up that his company was “the first commerce brand to partner in the ad pre-roll” for MrBeast.

That suggests a typical video from another creator won’t earn as much. “Advertisers saw the attention it was getting and bought ads on my video (I think) and thus my revenue per view is prob higher than what you’d experience,” Donaldson wrote.

There are other reasons to think MrBeast’s test video did better than a typical upload would. Multiple reports have indicated that X was quietly boosting MrBeast’s video to viewers, artificially inflating the view count. Musk has denied that this happened, but there’s enough evidence to suggest that someone was putting the post in front of more eyes than it naturally would have achieved. MrBeast’s entire account was getting an artificial boost from X, too, as of last year.

X’s view count doesn’t seem to be a particularly reliable metric of performance, either. Musk didn’t respond to a question from Donaldson on how much of a video needs to be watched for it to be counted as a view, meaning it’s possible that every flicker of the video across a user’s feed helps add to that 150 million view count. YouTube is quick to count playback as a view, too, but it’s generally understood that there needs to be at least some amount of actual viewership. Ads, for example, require a full 30 seconds of watch time to be counted.

Of course, MrBeast was always going to make far more money from a video and have far higher viewership than the typical user. But all signs point toward his performance on X struggling to keep pace with one of his poorer performances on YouTube. Donaldson previously wrote to Musk, “My videos cost millions to make and even if they got a billion views on X it wouldn’t fund a fraction of it.” As of this writing, there are no longer preroll ads playing on the test video, so it seems like Donaldson’s prediction was right — even if X’s ad revenue were high enough, the platform doesn’t even seem to have enough available ads to run on the video for him to keep making money.

Donaldson didn’t indicate one way or the other as to whether he’ll continue to post videos to X, but it’s very clear that Musk is hoping he will. Among Musk’s many, many new business pillars for X is transforming it into a robust creator platform and a rival to YouTube. If YouTube’s biggest star doesn’t think his platform is worth the time, it’s going to be hard to convince anyone else to bother.





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