EML Wildfire Tech PR Blog

What’s at the core of The Kernel? An interview with Milo Yiannopoulos (pt.1)

Posted by Max Tatton-Brown on Dec 21, 2011

While the tech media has had its fair share of ups and downs in the past few years, this week has seen the launch of an ambitious new title that hopes to buck the trend. The Kernel, a project best described by Editor-in-Chief Milo Yiannopoulos here, hopes to carve its niche with a laser-sharp focus on editorial and quality over quantity.

But isn’t this the attitude every publication starts life with? And (sad as it sounds) can a publication launch today and prosper on quality editorial alone, with no regard to dark arts like SEO?

We spoke with Milo to find out how a team led by him and Managing Editor, Stephen Pritchard plan to stand out.


Interview by

EMLW: So can you start by telling us a little about your role at The Kernel

Milo: I’m one of the initial investors in the company but I have a strictly editorial role – so my job is writing my column twice a week, defining the overall editorial strategy and editing copy.

Who are your competitors and target audience? Who do you want to read this?

Well in a sense, we’ve created a market because people are so conditioned to think that tech news means badly recycled press releases. Or occasionally a tech blogger over-reaching himself to pen an opinion piece, which is overbearingly banal in its content and almost unreadable in its grammar.

We’re trying to jolt people out of that and realise that actually, in the way that they might Instapaper stuff from The Atlantic or Slate, people in Europe want to read that stuff too. And there are people in Europe who can write that kind of stuff.

In a sense I don’t really see us as having direct competitors in Europe. If we did, maybe Wired? But again not really – although the print edition is a little closer to some of what we do, the online edition is again wrapped up with breaking news. They’re getting sucked into that but it’s absolutely not what we’re interested in whatsoever.

We’re taking a completely fascist approach to good quality content. We’re not interested in SEO, we’re not interested in those annoying multi-page articles – we only care about producing and publishing beautiful thought provoking content.

And we’ll do that at the expense of growth perhaps, but that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Would you do it to the extent of going out of business?

Yeah, absolutely. The Kernel is never going to become another tech site chasing page views and advertising revenue, that’s not what we are.

The site is largely guest contributors- if you could get anyone to write an article tomorrow, who would be your dream author?

We’re looking for people who are heavyweight thinkers and considering what impact technology has on politics and people. Someone like Evgeny Morozov who has done a TED talk and written a very good book.

He’s a perfect example of a serious heavyweight intellectual who’s puncturing the vacuousness of the social media elite and journalism schools, all of whom basically struggle to rub brain cells together.

He thinks very critically and intelligently about technology issues. Not naming anybody specifically but I find some of the supposed gurus in Europe (that the press here suck up to) a bit uninspiring. I think there are much better people in Europe who need to be introduced to a mainstream audience.

In terms of those big social media voices, do you think these channels are reaching the maturity where it’s possible to puncture that bubble or do you think their role will endure.

I think we’re at a tipping point. People are screaming out for a better quality of public intellectual, better quality of writer, better quality of thinker.

People talk about the social landscape of the internet as a kingmaker and creating lords out of people like Tim O’Reilly who otherwise would be laughed out of a publishers/ newspaper. I think that’s true and I also think that people in the last couple of years are beginning to realise they aren’t really getting what they thought they would out of these people.

It’s like the retreat from user generated content back to Hollywood and the success of the iTunes store – many people just want beautiful polished content. It’s what they really want and it’s what they’ve always wanted.

Anything else may proliferate because people want to make content and want to consume content but it will never make money. And our view is that people are desperate for a much better quality of writing and thinking than tech journalism in Europe and we’re going to attempt through guest columns and staff writers to give them that.

Click here to read part two of the interview with Milo, including more on the business model, The Nutshell and phase two in 2012.

  • http://magicbeanlab.com mediaczar

    Good luck to Milo & co. Not entirely sure why they aren’t chasing ad revenues; am assuming that they’ll have alternative revenue streams? Events? Training? 

    Not writing for SEO is a good call, too. It’s lovely to be able to set the conversation, rather than to try merely to amplify existing conversations. If they’re chasing influence and not audience figures, that would make sense.

    Coupled with that, it’s a brave editorial decision to want to create new gurus (I tend to sympathise somewhat with his views here.) Gurus are an easy way of attracting traffic and attention and influence…
    But if you put all these together, the content will have to be pretty good, no? 

    So here’s a post from their “first issue” as it were: “Soon we’ll all be doing it the Kardashian way” [http://mczar.me/tmPD8X]. And here’s one from Milo that makes the (commonly held, but – I believe – demonstrably false) claim that “Facebook, even when you’re logged out, is keeping track of the sites you visit.”I’m not saying that they’re any more celebrity focussed than other blogs, or that their technical knowledge (or respect for research) is any the less; but how much is this *really* pushing the boundaries?

    • http://MaxTB.com Max Tatton-Brown

      Thanks for the comment Mat, a good summary of the challenges ahead. There’s more coming in part two about business models and next steps.

      See you at 10am…

    • http://twitter.com/s_pritchard Stephen Pritchard

      Mediaczar, I’m not sure why you’re saying
      >Milo that makes the (commonly held, but – I believe – demonstrably false) claim that “Facebook, even when you’re logged out, is keeping track of the sites you visit.
      Facebook has just this week been taken to task by the Irish Information Commissioner, for example (see Guardian story http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/dec/21/facebook-advertising-data) – and there is plenty more documentation on this.

      • http://magicbeanlab.com mediaczar

        Stephen — see the Irish Data Commissioner’s report:

        “…while certain data which could be used to build what we have seen termed as a ‘shadow profile’ of a non-user was received by Facebook, no actual use of this nature was made of such data” and “neither is there any profile formed of non-users which could be attributed to a person on becoming a user.”

        But that’s not actually what I’m referring to. I’m referring to *this* blogstorm: 

        Facebook is watching you even when you’re not logged in: (Google Search: http://mczar.me/tn5Z6e

        This blogstorm was a response to a post from  Nik Cubrilovic (http://mczar.me/uKmHlp). The post’s findings were (unsurprisingly) much more complicated than the blogstorm would have us believe — and documented a security flaw, rather than a concerted effort to steal our personal data. There’s lots of technical language, so it’s not a surprise that the anti-Facebook partisans simplified it to tell a more compelling story.

        What received less coverage was Facebook engineer Gregg Stefancik’s very speedy response in the comment stream, and Cubrilovic’s follow-up post a couple of days later, entitled ”
        Facebook Fixes Logout Issue, Explains Cookies” 
        I don’t expect the average person to follow this stuff. For them, the sensationalist “Facebook is after my data” is enough. But a commentator should — I feel — check his facts.

        Or at the very least, question the consensus opinion — I don’t think that Milo will get to be a thought leader if he follows the herd like that.