Being a YouTuber like MrBeast or Linus Tech Tips can be big business and lead to some serious growing pains. With your audiences of millions or just even thousands, you can launch your brand, sell personalized merchandise, or just follow your wildest dreams. Starting your own coffee company or performing Shakespeare to appease your childhood idolizations? Your monetizable audience is more than welcome to help you grow on your journey.
But with this growth comes some obstacles, especially if you are used to just making videos on the internet. There can be terrible missteps, like with SuperMega, a YouTube comedy duo that was recently accused of running a toxic work environment and one of its members of sleeping with fans. Even platform giants like Jimmy Donaldson, known as MrBeast, can trip under their own weight. Some empires come with a lack of hubris, like the current scandal of Linus Sebastian, the face and star of the 15 million subscriber channel Linus Tech Tips.
But once you get big enough, scandal becomes part of the brand.
A Tech Giant That’s Too Big To Fail
Linus Sebastian of Linus Tech Tips has created a platform over the past decade and a half that’s become the go-to channel for those who want a professional’s opinion before dropping thousands of dollars on a top-of-the-line PC or piece of immersive technology. To post videos every day to his over 15 million followers, Sebastian had to hire a full staff of 86 employees, according to the Linus Tech Tips site. It’s gotten so big that in May, Sebastian had to step down as CEO to have the time to keep starring and working behind the scenes on growing his brand.
But the large, powerful nature of his Tech Tips behemoth has tripped on itself, leading to a massive scandal. On August 14, fellow tech review channel Gamers Nexus published a scathing expose, claiming that Linus Tech Tips used incorrect information in its reviews, published wildly misleading graphs, and had some serious ethical rot that shared inaccurate information about a small PC cooling unit company. After multiple apologies, Sebastian announced that his channel would be taking a hiatus to reshape how they make content.
Madison Reeve, who worked at Linus Tech Tips in 2021, also made multiple accusations in an X thread including that her workload at the company was over-the-top with “3 tweets, 2 Instagram posts, and 2 TikToks minimum per day.” Shockingly, she also alleged she was called “dogshit” and “incompetent,” she was “inappropriately grabbed multiple times in the office,” and she never came forward with this information for fear of the backlash from the Linus Tech Tips community.
“We are taking Madison’s allegations seriously,” Linus Tech Tips posted on X. “These allegations do not align with our company’s ethics or the values we preach internally.”
Now that the main wave of scandal has subsided, we wait to watch what happens next. There’s no doubt Linus Tech Tips will remain afloat and will start posting sometime in the future, but there’s a contingency of Sebastian’s audience that’s lost their faith in him. That parasocial relationship is a fickle mistress. But even in the wake of structuralism, the Linus Tech Tips empire is just too big to fail.
YouTubers with millions of subscribers have such a large audience that it’s more likely than not many will ever even hear of a scandal or accusation. The cycle usually consists of them losing a few thousand subscribers at the onset of the controversy, only for an apology or community post to stem some of the bleeding. Then just wait a few months and they’ll be back to posting and getting brand deals like nothing happened. David Dobrik, Jeffree Star, and even Shane Dawson have all been “canceled” for their past indiscretions but they all have bounced back in some way, able to make a comfortable living while hiding under the guise of transformation from their former controversy.
Still, the situation illuminates a common creator issue: Creative, charismatic individuals don’t always possess the management wherewithal to scale their business while providing human resources and a positive working environment for dozens of employees. The need to endlessly churn out interesting content can, at times, pay a human cost.
The Beast Comes
Look no further for an example of a YouTuber that’s too big to fail than Jimmy Donaldson, aka MrBeast—the undisputed king of YouTube who has pulled in hundreds of millions of subscribers across dozens of channels.
With Donaldson, it’s all about how you stay personable and parasocial while keeping your team afloat amidst geopolitical tensions. MrBeast is a hugely popular brand worldwide that’s probably more recognizable than Mickey Mouse or Ronald McDonald to some of today’s youth. Creating videos, running his Feastables chocolate empire, and funding his philanthropy channel is a lot for one man stationed in South Carolina. To do so, he delegates. He has at least 60 full-time employees and his editors need to work diligently to reach Donaldson’s idea of quality.
But like every empire, it comes at a cost. Multiple former employees have accused the creator of creating a toxic and difficult work environment. Behind the scenes, his go-lucky attitude has been accused of being more of a facade.
Beyond these allegations, Donaldson himself has admitted to woes stemming from expanding his empire and outsourcing some of his work. Recently, Donaldson sued his former Beast Burger business partner, claiming that the quality of the food they were able to produce was subpar. The ghost kitchen company, Virtual Dining Concepts, counter-sued claiming that he didn’t keep his contractual obligations.
Also this week, MrBeast’s “7 Days Stranded at Sea” video was struck down by a copyright claim by Tsuriel Designs, a small content creator, who claimed that a two-second day/night animation in the video was his and it was used without permission. Then just a day later, the video was reinstated as if nothing happened. YouTube could have denied the claim, as its system does allow anyone to file, or a resolution could have been made behind the scenes. (Tsuriel Designs did not respond to a request for comment.) It seems this was likely a slip-up from someone on MrBeast’s editing team—though the controversy is deeply tied up with MrBeast’s public persona as the leader of his empire.
Overall, having your own business is the American capitalist dream. But these chuckle-balls turned capitalists like MrBeast and Linus Tech Tips are far from the icons of purity their audiences frame them as. Every video, post, and brand deal is a business decision with the end goal to grow and make a profit. The wider creator ecosystem prioritizes engagement, which lies in the same bed as controversy.
Getting eyeballs on your content is the only way to grow, even at the scale of these larger creators. Ultimately a large enough channel can survive a giant controversy, or even manage to have their fan base sweep it under the rug.
So remember the next time your favorite YouTuber deals with their own cancellation, they’ll be back and ready for you to pay, like, and subscribe.