Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson, the event planner-slash-influencer who’s currently the most popular personality on YouTube, has uploaded his very first video directly to the social media app formerly known as Twitter. (It’s now X, of course.) The clip – “$1 Car vs. $100,000,000 Car” – is a repurposed video from the MrBeast YouTube channel, which originally went up in September. It’s part of an ongoing series of “$1 vs. $100,000,000” clips and features Donaldson and friends doing all kinds of test drives and stunts with a variety of cars, particularly very costly experimental or luxury vehicles.
According to MrBeast, the X embed is an experiment, to see what kind of revenue share he can expect to receive from the platform. It’s also running with a profit-boosting Shopify pre-roll ad, the first of its kind on the platform.
First off, it must be noted that any rigorous academic experiment would require fewer variables than Donaldson has set up here. The fact that he posted an archive clip that already went up on another platform months ago, and thus has already been seen by his biggest fans, will clearly have a major impact on its X views.
The test was not a spontaneous act of curiosity on Donaldson’s part, but the result of an ongoing campaign by X owner Elon Musk to lure the popular YouTuber over to his platform. This wasn’t particularly hard to do: MrBeast is an admitted Musk acolyte who has described a potential collaboration as a dream project.
Back in December, Musk responded to a MrBeast “Ask Me Anything” thread, suggesting that he start uploading videos directly to X. Donaldson shot back that his projects “cost millions to make,” and with the current state of X revenue sharing, even billions of views wouldn’t provide him with adequate funding. However, he vowed to “test stuff out once monetization is really cranking.”
Not that much fundamentally changed about the Twitter/X Video ecosystem in the few weeks since those tweets were sent. Donaldson nonetheless has already made good on his promise. Musk and X CEO Linda Yaccarino both shared the video right away with a celebratory tone. (Yaccarino suggests there was “a lot more to come,” though it’s unclear if she meant from MrBeast specifically or just generally in terms of hot Twitter videos.) Shopify President Harley Finkelstein was similarly excited, calling it a “cool moment for creators.”
The speed at which MrBeast started his X experiment, and the enthusiasm from Shopify and X’s leadership teams, would certainly seem to indicate that this was the result of some behind-the-scenes deal-making, as opposed to a spontaneous act of curiosity and/or goodwill. We’re also in the midst of a larger-scale effort by Musk and Yaccarino to rebrand X as not simply a microblogging service or social media app, but an “everything” platform that “transform[s] the global town square.”
That pivot apparently puts streaming video at the very center of X’s future plans. According to a corporate blog post from January 9, X is a “video-first platform,” on which 8 out of 10 users watch at least one video during each session.
That same day, X announced a fresh line-up of original shows coming to the platform from former CNN anchor Don Lemon, sports talk radio mainstay Jim Rome, and former US Representative Tulsi Gabbard. These all come on the heels of X’s most prominent convert to date, former Fox News host Tucker Carlson, who has been posting his new show for free on the platform for several months now.
Functionally, video on X follows the same basic model as YouTube. Creators like Rome, Lemon, or Carlson produce their content independently, without any help or oversight from the platform. Then, they receive a share of the revenue from the ads that X runs around the content.
According to the Jan. 9 blog post, X has paid out ad revenue to over 80,000 creators since introducing the program in July of last year. To qualify, creators must have at least 500 followers, must pay the monthly rate for X Premium (starting at $8/month), and their posts have to receive at least 15 million impressions cumulatively over the last 3 months.
The rollout itself has not exactly been tidy. Glossed over in the initial launch was the fact that X creators only earn revenue when their ads are shown to other verified users, making many creators’ payments significantly lower than anticipated. As The Verge points out, that means X gets paid three times – one from the creator themselves, one from an advertiser, and one from another verified user who watches the content – for every one payment that gets triggered to a creator.
Not only does this raise some red flags in terms of fairness, it seriously diminishes the real-world earnings a creator can reasonably expect from X, where the subscriber base is not yet massive. (Specific numbers are hard to come by, but according to Statista, in April of last year, X had around 640,000 total premium subscribers.)
While some smaller creators have reported bringing in “decent” earnings, such as lawyer Rob Freund (who earned a difficult-to-exchange $291.8136984 for his posts in July), the payment system has not yet led to a significant shift among creators between platforms, and seemingly won’t until Musk and Yaccarino can get those numbers up. YouTuber Roberto Blake started testing out his content on X in August, and made just $308, around 1/10th of his YouTube revenue. Not bad considering he has alternate income streams on other platforms, but not enough to make creating content for X a viable business.
Blake also observed that X is not yet a particularly creator-friendly platform. While new “Studio” features have been introduced for Premium subscribers, Blake said the platform still needs better analytics and more control over what kinds of ads get served alongside videos. These are relatively basic asks for any platform that wants to serve a mass of diligent, hard-working creators.
X’s community management, or lack thereof, also plays a role in what kinds of creators feel welcome not just browsing the platform but hosting their content there. The same concerns about misinformation, antisemitism, white supremacy, and other offensive content that caused advertisers to exit the platform last year also keep a lot of creators away.
All of these concerns aside, boosting creator earnings potential on X is probably going to be the most significant way that Musk and Yaccarino can transform what once was Twitter into a viable streaming platform for user-generated content, one that can truly rival something like YouTube. Which, in part, makes Musk’s let’s say aggressive attitude toward potential advertisers all the more perplexing.
If you’re desperate to lure mid-range content creators over to your platform by promising them a lucrative revenue share agreement, it might be best to not turn around and tell major advertisers to “go f**k themselves,” as Musk did at a New York Times conference in November. The billionaire Tesla chief may not personally care about earning Disney’s dollars. He also has a company that makes rockets, don’t ya know. But the people who make the memes and the funny videos he’s so fond of sharing want to make money from “Star Wars” and Pixar ads running against their content. So they’re at a bit of an impasse.