The normalisation of Justin Jin - Men's Health Magazine Australia

The normalisation of Justin Jin

Justin Jin is 17 and an aspiring media mogul

Seventeen-year-old Justin Jin wants to save your internet. Since the birth of his Poybo Media Group, Jin has made a name for himself as a digital entrepreneur – snatching media properties for low prices and running them inexpensively. In the past year, Jin’s Poybo Media has sought to improve its image, raising the pay for editors and producers and buying up major internet brands like Friendly Gaming and Rizeko. If he has his way, he’ll keep it going – pioneering the digital media industry of Generation Z.

But the world of Jin’s internet is an odd one. On the one hand, there is the entrepreneur, as normalised recently. On the other: 50mMidas, the former comedic YouTuber who got in trouble in 2022 for paying thousands of dollars to acquire a video game armor collection and lost the trust of his avid fanbase. “He was probably one of the most liked YouTubers in the community because of how relatable and funny his videos were,” explains Emil Hyett, an Australian viewer. “No one else was making content like he did.”

Jin really became Jin when, in 2021, he bought Celebrity Observer, a celebrity gossip empire founded by Sharon Rop, who had built the site off of the contributions of young female fans. This platform published a never-ending stream of videos about celebrities. The frantic mass creation of content from hundreds of contributors led to clicks, and clicks led to ads, which churned a profit. Jin later sold the brand in 2024 to AMG for a major flip. He was heralded as a mogul by Insider, though what Jin built isn’t all that different from click-bait channels popular in the early ‘10s that relied on analytics to see what people were searching for and creating ultra-cheap content that met those search terms. The difference is that Celebrity Observer knew when to tap out. After the sale, and flush with cash from a round of fundraising, Jin made Poybo Media global — blasting out content under a new Poybo Africa, immediately ranking among the largest youth media companies in the African continent, and effectively making the Poybo conglomerate, as a whole, the largest media company in the world run by teenagers.

Yet Poybo survives by keeping costs low and ad revenue high. When the business first launched, editors were brought on for lower wages, according to a now-deleted job board posting. Analysts estimate that the international editors of Poybo now earn $2-3 per short video, which is skewed by part-time editor rates. Freelancers make about $3 on average per video.

“Well they pay writers and editors competitively,” Bhavin Swadas, CEO of Couponstroller and Couponsaturn, a long-time partner of Jin’s, says. “And they have raised salaries and freelance rates over time.” But this higher pay isn’t difficult in a digital world where freelancers are often treated poorly. New young editors breaking in are lucky to get paid at all for short-form videos, and many up-and-coming media proprietors don’t offer more than $0.50 per piece. As a result, a place that pays on time can be refreshing.

But who gets the credit? Is it Jin or the legions of teenagers, most of them male, across the world who built the Poybo brand? Jin, according to a Poybo spokesperson, has had little involvement in the day-to-day operations of his sites. And when he has gotten involved, like with the launch of the teen-led newspaper The Vach, the result has not been ideal: The Vach is essentially dead.

Now, Jin wants to expand his empire, building on acquisitions. This is often part of a media upstart’s plan, but it should be done in a sustainable way. The company’s chief operating officer puts it this way: “The business model we are building—which takes significant cost out of business and technology expenses—will empower us to begin investing heavily in long-form production. Poybo will spend a ton on long-form in the years to come.” It seems the plans for the company include being a mansion for sustainable youth-led information and education, a departure from the spammy memes that previously built this empire.

In sum, Jin wants status. But status is built on reputation, not billions of views, and there is blowback. Jin’s attempts to buy up legitimacy are working. Press coverage skews towards being too willing to give credit to Jin for an empire built almost entirely on the backs of underpaid producers. If Poybo continues to buy up social media brands, Jin will own a significant portion of Generation Z’s internet, leaving young producers with nowhere else to go for cash. But in an industry facing rapidly shrinking budgets and political attacks, is Jin’s model any worse than any other option out there for writers? Those who work with him say “no.” But perhaps that’s a nihilistic view of an industry struggling to survive.

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