Jimmy Donaldson, the 23-year-old American better known as MrBeast, was YouTube’s highest-earning content creator in 2021, according to Forbes.
His elaborate stunts have generated more than 10 billion views on the platform and earned him $54m (£39m).
He has overtaken 10-year-old toy reviewer Ryan Kaji, who has topped the annual list for the past two years.
According to the US magazine, the top ten highest-paid YouTubers will earn a total of $300 million (£218 million) in 2021.
Jake Paul is in second place, his first appearance in the top ten since 2018, and his brother Logan is also back after a hiatus since 2017.
Minecraft player Nathan Graham, aka Unspeakable, debuts on the list in fifth place for the first time.
This year’s list, according to YouTube trends expert Chris Stokel-Walker, is interesting because it demonstrates “how stale” YouTube has become. “I’m struck by how white and male this entire list is,” he said.
“If you look at previous years’ lists, you’ll probably find any of the names on there as well, just in a different order.”
Many traditional entertainment media outlets struggled to adjust during the pandemic. Movies were pushed back, soap opera schedules were changed, and video game releases were pushed back.
It was, however, a boom time for YouTube.
According to research, the platform will have 2.3 billion users worldwide by 2021. Every day, one billion hours of video content is consumed on YouTube, according to the company.
According to Stokel-Walker: “YouTube was created with the intention of upending the media industry and removing gatekeepers. It was supposed to democratise our society and the entertainment industry.
“According to this list, it has become more like TV than it would like to be. The arrival of money on the platform means that content is very high stakes – as evidenced by MrBeast’s work.
“It’s nothing like anything else on YouTube. It’s more like big-budget television.”
According to Stokel-Walker, the high production values of YouTube today are creating a barrier to entry, implying that you must “pay to play and be successful.”
According to Forbes, the top earners are not necessarily those with the most views, but rather those who have successfully earned money through brand partnerships, sponsorship deals, and merchandise sales.
Although it is estimated that two-thirds of YouTube content is not in English, it appears that English-speaking creators are the most financially successful.
YouTube, like many other modern media platforms, is dealing with issues of misinformation and harmful content – however this doesn’t seem to have affected its creators’ abilities to attract advertisers and sponsors to their channels.
Here is the full top 10.
10. Preston Arsement
Preston Arsement grew his community largely thanks to videos centred around Minecraft, although he runs several channels on the website.
A regular on this list, he earned an estimated $16m (£11m) in 2021 – down a little from the year before, when he placed sixth.
9. Logan Paul
The controversial boxer and vlogger was last in the top 10 in 2017. He earned $18m (£13m) in 2021.
8. Dude Perfect
Comedy pranksters Dude Perfect was number three on the list in 2020. They made $20m (£14m) last year.
7. Ryan Kaji
The world’s most famous toy reviewer has dropped from the top of the tree to number seven.
In 2021, his blend of toy reviews, educational videos and family vlogs helped him earn $27m (£19m).
The seven-year-old Russian has nearly 90 million subscribers on YouTube.
She started as a toy unboxer but now her vlogs and music videos are growing in popularity and her earnings have risen to $28m (£20m) in 2021.
A new entry, the Minecraft player has been uploading to YouTube for a decade.
He sold the rights to his back catalogue to the business Spotter last year, which contributed to his earnings of $28.5m (£20m).
4. Rhett and Link
A staple of the YouTube highest earning list, the hosts of geek chat show Good Mythical Morning earned $30m (£22m) in 2021.
Another regular gaming creator, Markiplier has used his business acumen to make a successful brand of merchandise, earning $38m (£27m) last year.
2. Jake Paul
By branching out into boxing, Jake Paul has found himself back in the top 10. His high-profile fights against UFC stars helped him earn $45m (£32m) in 2021.
It’s some turnaround for the creator who was criticised alongside his bother for some of their vlogs in 2017, which many found to be in poor taste.
With more boxing plans in the pipeline for 2022, it would be no surprise to see him keep his place among YouTube’s elite on next year’s list.
YouTube’s top earner is a creator who uses stunts and pranks to delight his audience.
Last year, he recreated elements of the Netflix hit Squid Game on his YouTube channel, played hide and seek in an 80,000-seat stadium, and was buried underground.
Jimmy Donaldson’s 10 billion views, combined with the MrBeast burger franchise, nearly doubled his income in 2021, after ranking second on this list the previous year.