It’s been coming for a while, and in 2021, it finally happened. According to Forbes’ annual listing of the highest-earning creators on YouTube, Jimmy Donaldson – aka ‘Mr. Beast’ – now leads the way, after raking in an estimated $54 million from his YouTube content throughout the year.
Donaldson takes the crown from Ryan Kaji, the now 10-year-old YouTube toy unboxing sensation, who’s lead the Forbes top earner list for the past three years running.
The top YouTuber earnings overall actually saw a big jump in 2021 – as explained by Forbes:
“Altogether, the YouTubers collectively earned about $300 million in 2021 - another record amount - up 40% from a year earlier, mostly propelled higher by increasing views on their YouTube channels and the ad revenue they generate from those videos. Around half their earnings come from that ad revenue. To pad their pay further, all these stars have branded merchandise lines. And they variously dabble in generating additional revenue from Twitch, Snap, Facebook, podcasts, NFTs - even hamburgers.
It’s worth noting that these are not official earnings numbers – Forbes uses a range of sources to formulate its estimates, including data from Captiv8, SocialBlade and Pollstar as well as interviews with industry insiders.
So the numbers here are not definitive, as we can’t know for sure how much each creator has brought in. But based on these combined research sources, the top 10 YouTube earner list for the past year is:
1. MrBeast – $54 million
Best known for his highly elaborate videos, and massive giveaways, Mr. Beast took some major steps in 2021, including launching his own chain of fast-food delivery outlets across the US and Canada.
2. Jake Paul – $45 million
The social media influencer turned boxer, Paul remains a divisive figure for many. But no matter how you feel, he’s clearly doing something right.
3. Markiplier – $38 million
Gaming creator Markiplier continues to see huge success, with his 31.5 million channel subscribers tuning into his increasingly creative, and original content.
4. Rhett & Link – $30 million
The YouTube OGs, Rhett and Link are currently preparing to launch Season 21 of their show ‘Good Mythical Morning’, which has run for more than 2,000 total episodes thus far.
5. Unspeakable – $28.5 million
Primarily a Minecraft content creator, Nathan Graham has been expanding his content into more elaborate, real-life set-ups, which has propelled his success to new heights.
6. Like Nastya – $28 million
Seven year-old Nastya Radzinskaya is the youngest creator in the Forbes list, with her channel content focusing on toy reviews and activities for kids.
7. Ryan Kaji (Ryan’s World) – $27 million
The former child king of YouTube, Kaji has dropped down the list in 2021, but remains hugely popular, with his toy unboxing videos keeping youngsters entertained around the world.
8. Dude Perfect – $20 million
The Dude Perfect team formulate unique sports challenges, and have more recently taken to adding celebrity cameos and partnerships to boost their content.
9. Logan Paul – $18 million
The other Paul, who’s now a retired boxer himself, remains a highly influential figure, and in many ways highlights the value of creating a persona that people can align with throughout their own life. Though his luck did take a turn recently (see below). Worth noting too, Paul originally rose to fame on Vine.
10. Preston – $16 million
Finally, making up the top ten, Preston Arsement has gained a massive following for his gaming videos, which once again underlines the significant of gaming in modern web culture.
It’s interesting to note the top trends, which are not based on views, so these are not the most-viewed channels, necessarily. But they are the creators that are beat monetizing their efforts.
If you’re looking to get a better understanding of YouTube, and what resonates with audiences, these creators can provide some key guide notes, while they also highlight the opportunities for revenue generation as a result of online content.
Which is definitely not easy, but it is worth noting the success of these stars, and learning from their channels to build your own online video approach.
You can read Forbes’ full top ten YouTube earners listing for 2021 here.