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

Posted by Max Tatton-Brown on 21st December 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.

Max Tatton-Brown