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Some X users are convinced Elon Musk rigged the results of a MrBeast ad experiment where he earned $250,000

Lindsay Dodgson   

Some X users are convinced Elon Musk rigged the results of a MrBeast ad experiment where he earned $250,000
  • YouTube's biggest star, MrBeast, conducted an experiment on X.
  • He tested how much ad revenue one video generated, and after three days, he said it made $250,000.

Some X users are convinced that Elon Musk rigged the results of MrBeast's ad-revenue experiment to inflate his earnings to $250,000.

MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson, is YouTube's biggest star, with 233 million subscribers.

He has long been vocal about problems with X's monetization strategy for influencers, saying it isn't worth it for him to post content on the platform.

Musk has been trying to overhaul X's ad-revenue-sharing program to lure top influencer talent, such as MrBeast, with little success.

Last month, MrBeast told Musk he was "down though to test stuff once monetization is really cranking!" and on January 15, he uploaded a video on X to do just that.

"I'm curious how much ad revenue a video on X would make so I'm reuploading this to test it. Will share ad rev next week," Donaldson said in the post alongside a 16-minute video titled "$1 vs $100,000,000 Car!" that he uploaded to YouTube four months ago.

It received 215 million views on YouTube. As of January 23, on X, it has amassed 161 million.

On January 22, as promised, Donaldson shared that he had earned $250,000.

Donaldson, though pleased with the result, said it was "a bit of a facade."

"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," he said.

Others questioned the legitimacy of the experiment from the beginning.

Musk has been claiming creators will see more ad revenue on X than on YouTube for some time, but there is little evidence to back this up.

In December, multiple reports showed X saw an exodus of advertising revenue after companies including Apple and Walmart pulled their sponsorship deals.

This led some to believe Musk might have rigged Donaldson's video views or even paid out more ad revenue than he was supposed to.

Before Donaldson posted the results, one X user, who goes by Evan, said it was "becoming clear" that Donaldson and Musk had "worked out some sort of deal."

Kat Lo, the content-moderation lead at the nonprofit organization Meedan, shared Evan's post, saying Musk had a "strong incentive" to inflate the revenue Donaldson received "in a way that isn't representative of what Twitter can and will actually pay out to everyone else."

Another X user said they thought Musk was "trying to juice the machine" so Donaldson received a big enough payout and "doesn't say Twitter sucks for video anymore."

Jack Appleby, a social-media consultant, also shared his thoughts, saying it looked as if Musk was "artificially pumping MrBeast's Twitter video debut into the feed."

"I've seen it in feed at least 4 times now," he said. "And see how there's no timestamp and no ad marker? That pretty much guarantees Twitter is doing something behind the scenes."

Ads tend to appear in someone's feed multiple times, so people used this as evidence Donaldson's post was labeled as one on the back end of X's system.

Another anonymous X user said the video had appeared about seven times in their feed. They said they also saw the post was missing a time and the "Ad indicator on the top right."

"So is there a third, secret type of post you get when you're a YouTuber and Elon wants you to post here?" they said.

Mashable reported that unlabeled ads started appearing on X after Musk acquired the company in October 2022. This led to the advertising watchdog Check My Ads to file a complaint, the outlet reported, over ads not being transparently disclosed.

Rebecca Mardon, an associate professor of marketing at Cardiff University, told Business Insider that advertising regulations stipulated that ads — including those on social media — must be clearly identified.

Mardon said this case highlighted the wider issue of the lack of advertising literacy online.

"Social-media ads that are not clearly disclosed raise all sorts of ethical and legal issues," she said.

"If users' suspicions that this is the case for MrBeast's recent post on X are correct, then this is highly problematic."

Chris Kubbernus, the founder and CEO of the social-media marketing agency Kubbco, told BI that without proof, it was hard to say what was going on behind the scenes at X and whether the post was "unduly promoted."

"But we've seen many platforms 'Juice' or 'Heat' certain content based on the company's goals and ideals," he said. "TikTok was called out for doing this in previous years, and I wouldn't be surprised if X is doing the same thing here."

Musk seemed to respond to the claims he rigged the results in an X post on January 20. He replied to a post from a Tesla club's account saying the "mainstream media" didn't want to acknowledge the success of Donaldson's experiment.

"To the best of my knowledge, we have done nothing to amplify his viewers," Musk wrote.

But some X users posted screenshots from older versions of the X app, showing a "promoted" label added to Donaldson's post. Some also said they only realized it was an ad when they were able to select "not interested in this ad" from the dropdown menu on the post.

Kubbernus told BI that if Donaldson was getting preferential treatment, the benefits might be short-lived.

"Although giving MrBeast preferable treatment now might seem smart, it might signal to the current creators on X that only the big players matter," he said.

He added that Musk's problems wouldn't be solved by inviting "the MrBeasts of the world" to post content on X and make revenue.

"They need a plan to get more and more creators from all tiers to start driving traffic and users to X in order to bring more advertisers back to the platform," he said.

The biggest issue X faces is brands not seeing Musk's platform as safe and abandoning ship, and having a select few creators may not do much to help lure them back.

"This is why the biggest YouTubers today tend to make family-friendly content," Kubbernus said.

"YouTube knows this, and Elon is finding out that freedom of speech and advertising safety don't really go hand in hand.''

X didn't respond to a request for comment from BI.

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