Of all the reasons to criticise Ed Miliband, doing an interview with a popular online publisher, focused on politics and current affairs seems an odd one.
Sure, the online publisher in question is Russell Brand. Yes, Brand is ridiculous. Yes, he told people not to vote, but he has a large, young, potentially left-leaning following who are no doubt very capable of making up their own minds about whether to vote. On the face of it this is a coup for Labour and it’s easy to see why Miliband took the chance.
As an online publisher with reach into key demographics, untapped by mainstream politicians and unreachable by mainstream news media in many instances, Brand is very relevant. You don’t have to like or admire him to acknowledge he’s built an impressive media platform. Of course it’s self-indulgent but as such it’s arguably far more transparent than many other media outlets, owned and directed by distant proprietors with their own agendas and their own controversial track records. People know what they’re getting with Brand. He’ll draw a crowd and viewers will be able to separate interviewer and interviewee.
10 Million Followers
Brand’s YouTube channel has over a million subscribers. Each video gets between 100,000 and 250,000 views. It’s fair to assume the Miliband one may get more viewers, from a broader audience and a great deal of wider coverage, because of all the publicity. To put his online influence into some context against more traditional media outlets, Brand’s 10 million followers on Twitter compares to @TheSunNewspaper’s 730,000 or @DailyMirror’s 360,000. David Cameron dismissed Brand as a “joke” but sat down with Heat magazine, circulation 240,000, Twitter following 370,000.
That’s not to say The Sun, The Mirror or Heat aren’t also worthwhile outlets if politicians think they can get a fair hearing and reach an important audience, which is the key to any such media interview. But politicians must try to reach the broadest audience possible which means speaking to a broad mix of media and personalities. And the media world is changing and diversifying. Love him or hate him, Brand not only embodies the untapped potential of sections of the disenfranchised electorate but also a major trend as to where the media is heading.
The Sun and the Daily Mail put the boot in to Miliband and Brand.
Similarly those who won’t watch because they don’t like Brand or don’t like Miliband – or both – or don’t think one should be associating with the other are unlikely to change their voting intentions.