Catch up with Part One here or read on for more on how PR can work with The Kernel, its international scope and plans for version two next year.
Interview by Max Tatton-Brown
EMLW: PR agencies are such a big chunk of the media ecosystem these days, what’s their function alongside a publication like The Kernel?
Milo: The only people we’re really interested in talking to are company founders, academics, thinkers, that kind of thing. Insofar as them putting us in touch with these people then yes, they can help.
But PR is not going to play anything like the role for us that it does for other tech publications, simply because of the nature of what we do. We’re not interested in the latest app release or endless requests for coverage or funding rounds or acquisitions.
We’re looking to create content that people who don’t read the technology press might be interested in. Frankly, a company getting acquired for £30m in France may be big news for the European ecosystem, which is pathologically obsessed with itself and insecure.
But that fact alone is simply not interesting. It doesn’t mean anything. Nobody cares outside the tech blogosphere.
What we’d look to cover is pieces of news that are significant in a larger or more profound way or that reveal a cultural or social trend.
In that case, I can see how there’s an overlap with Wired – in talking about technology that will change the world or have broader significance.
Our model is different to Wired because we’re looking to give space directly to some of the people actually making this happen in guest columns. So we’ll draft in the start-up CEO who’s actually doing it and give him 1000 words and help him with the writing.
Managing Editor, Stephen Pritchard tweeted about you looking for photographers, podcasters and film-makers – how do you see the role of this kind of content on the site?
We’ve already included some original AV content on current articles – a video interview on the lead story and an audio interview in the Catholic blogosphere piece and we’re just looking to expand that.
We’d particularly like to see young journalists who we can nurture and train and give a platform to. We’re looking for people who can communicate great stories and do great reporting and express opinions across whatever channel they like.
What’s the international scope of this project? Are you relying on contributors across the world?
It began as wanting to fix European technology journalism but it quickly became obvious to me that the kind of content we’re creating would have a global audience. The likelihood is that most of our writers will be European so the best way to put it is that we’re writing from a European perspective about tech globally.
In terms of doing this, you’ve created the site in about 6 weeks – how has the process been?
It has been pretty hellish and I’ve had about two or three hours sleep every night for the week before launch. Creating the website took a lot of work – editing that much copy and commissioning always will.
Running any kind of publication is difficult enough but at the same time when you’re trying to build that publication, you have to put your life on hold. But we think the result is worth it. Now that the infrastructure is set up, we’re looking forward to turning out lots of great pieces.
Most will know yourself and Stephen Pritchard in editorial but on the business side of things, how did you hope to complement that?
Between the two of us, we’re together the kind of CEO at the moment but we’re looking for somebody to come and help us on the financial side. We have a few people in mind.
Is it more of a “don’t call us, we’ll call you?”
We’d be delighted to hear from anybody who would like to come on board. Around the commercial side, we’ve got some ideas ourselves and we’ll be considering all our options.
Is there anything else we haven’t talked about that you think is significant to The Kernel?
One of the things that I find quite exciting is the newsletter (The Nutshell) that we’ll be doing every week and I can see that growing pretty quickly. Early subscribers get the first few months for free but The Nutshell is a paid product. It’s industry intel but a bit more gossipy.
We’re obviously starting all of this with our own investment and sponsorship from companies who want to own some of the mindshare of high-level discussion rather than vast quantities of eyeballs. Who knows where that will go.
But The Nutshell is from day one a paid product and that hasn’t been done before. Nor is there anything even remotely like it in Europe yet.
In the goal to emphasise integrity and analysis, it almost feels like the way an analyst approaches the hardware of technology but you’re doing it on the culture.
In April of next year, when we drop version two, you’ll see that a lot of the values that we have for our journalism will be applied to things like reviews or company intelligence.
We have plans for expansion and they’re not just journalistic. Having established value, quality and integrity from what we publish, as well as the deep and excellent connections in The Nutshell, it will become clear that we’re a valuable reviewer and authoritative commentator on products as well.
Do you think that will stir things up in the tech press? How do you think people like TechCrunch will react?
I’d like to think that some of the news blogs will raise their game as a result of seeing this, just in terms of journalistic quality because they’re fucking terrible.
I’d also like to think that this is a good and welcome entry into the market because there’s such a shortage of this kind of content that it’s almost not possible to say we’re scaring anyone as competitors.
I think people may begin to get worried when we start to own significant proportions of mindshare next year and people start coming to us before they come to other magazines. Then it becomes an editorial challenges because we’re getting interviews that other people don’t get.
That’s where it becomes interesting for me.
There’s an interesting viral element to those interviews since you may end up with someone in the industry just questioning someone they know.
That’s why Wired operates completely differently to us. They come from the point of view that they are outside, professional journalists reporting on this world.
That’s not what we are – we’re reporting from within that world with all the professional standards of journalists to the world outside.
Thanks to Milo for making the time to speak with us – like most of the tech industry, we’ll be keeping a close eye on how The Kernel gets on with its goals over the coming months.