Iain Martin, former senior editor at The Sunday Telegraph and current columnist at Reaction, muses on finding the Beach Boys on YouTube, why the Telegraph made room for incendiary characters like Milo Yiannopoulos, and the impact of doing so.
The voracious appetite for clicks hasn’t been without cost.
Milo had plans for Telegraph blogs. Lots of plans. And suddenly, for a brief period, he was the Telegraph’s visionary guru handing out internet kool aid to us baffled and sceptical hacks and to the seriously talented people then in charge of the site. He was parachuted in to meetings with the company’s leaders where he mapped out his vision of a Telegraph at the forefront of a millennial media revolution.
This all sounds ridiculous now. Hell, it was ridiculous then. But it was before we had all realised that Facebook and Google were not our friends. They were going to suck up all the ad money and kill all but those with the sense to charge for quality content. We didn’t know that then. Anyway, the ferocious pace of change in media at that point, and the need for novelty, for an answer, any answer, meant that a character like Milo (a charismatic conservative chameleon) could walk right in.
With hindsight, I failed miserably in my responsibility as comment editor and should have made a stand. I was not alone in this. Quite a few other experienced executives thought the Milo for clicks experiment would blow up but we agreed in the pub that there was no point being near the scene of the explosion.