The discourse on creators and philanthropy

MrBeast gets flack again for his latest videos

Hi, everyone! Sometimes when I’m feeling really uninspired, all I have to do is log on to Twitter dot com to see the most “we’re living in an episode of Veep” and “did they do this on 30 Rock?” stories of all time. 

This week, the inspiration flowed like a river: the anniversary of the Four Seasons (Total Landscaping) press conference, the Bored Ape Yacht Club ApeFest 2023 lighting fiasco that gave attendees something called welder's eye…I mean, who am I to suggest art and ideas aren’t all around us?

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Should Creators Be Philanthropists?

The internet has seized its latest victim of The Discourse™ and this time, it’s MrBeast—the creator perennially cited as proof of “how big this creator economy thing can get.”

The backstory: MrBeast (real name: Jimmy Donaldson) posted a series of videos over the weekend detailing his philanthropic efforts in Africa: “I Built 100 Wells In Africa” on his main channel and “We Powered a Village in Africa” on his Beast Philanthropy channel.

The morality police pretty immediately took to the comments section and Twitter to share their dismay.

The general argument of MrBeast’s critics: He’s exploiting people in need to get views. When he builds wells in Africa, he’s doing so to bolster his media business with content that racks up millions of views (nearly 70 million within four days of publishing his latest video, to be exact). And millions of views = revenue for his growing business empire.

Truthfully, I’m not very interested in determining whether MrBeast is “good” or “bad” for creating and publishing philanthropic stunt videos—morality is gray, and the internet often only has a taste for black or white.

What’s more interesting to me is that we’re even here in the first place, in the throes of discussion around whether philanthropy that goes viral is philanthropy at all. I fear we might be losing the plot.

The business of being a creator—whether it’s MrBeast or Emma Chamberlain or your high school friend making a go of it as a YouTube filmmaker—is centered around building and engaging an audience through content. How, where, and when that audience is mobilized—to buy coffee or wear merch or join a private community—varies. That’s what makes each creator business unique.

The universal factor, though, is that audience-building, storytelling, and distribution are the creator’s superpower.

If they’re using that superpower to spread a message that makes positive traction toward a good cause? Great. Who are we to tell them they’re doing it wrong?

This simple concept of a business putting its resources towards philanthropic efforts (and potentially profiting from these efforts) is not new. Major food companies donate day-old groceries and sock companies give away a pair for every one you buy. Philanthropic content is the creator’s version of doing just that.

Creators and influencers and business builders should, of course, be held accountable for their impact. Using your platform can go both ways, as we’ve learned time and again. But this week and this time, let’s recognize the real issue at hand: It’s not about whether MrBeast should profit from a video rooted in charity—perhaps it’s more about why he has to be the one to build the wells in the first place.

  • Ex-journalists at Motherboard, The Verge, and The Washington Post have launched a new employee-owned gaming media company.

  • Loved this profile of Shira Atkins from Wonder Media Network on her POV re: the future of podcasts and ads. Shira was one of the first people Josh and I met to discuss pods way back in 2019 before we launched Business Casual (RIP) at Morning Brew.

  • Bloomberg Media has over 500,000 paying subscribers, per Axios. Pursuing “niche professional audiences” works, you say? 👀

  • Spotify’s latest offering: monthly audiobook listening to premium subscribers in the US.

#digibuzzcodevoxious is a term we coined back in our Morning Brew days—a portmanteau of Digiday, BuzzFeed, Recode, Vox, and Axios. Obviously, the year was 2018 and the interest rates were zero. But still, the sentiment of “interesting media trends and news” remains. So the name stays.

These new AI meeting notes tools are really getting to be a valuable addition to the Smooth tech stack. I mean, look at this—now this is productivity:

Thanks for reading! Have cereal recs or some #thotleadership to share re: creators as philanthropists? Slide into our DMs (hit reply to this email).