A number of changes are afoot in the European tech media scene and it’s worth us pausing for a moment to take stock. The first item on the agenda is the news that London-based site ‘The Kernel‘, lately a ‘tabloid’ style news site about online culture, has been acquired for an undisclosed amount by Daily Dot Media (DDM), publisher of The Daily Dot, an Austin-based pop/tech/culture news site.
Kernel founder and editor-in-chief Milo Yiannopoulos – a former tech columnist for the UK’s Telegraph newspaper – is departing forthwith, though not into a new role. He will “continue in an advisory role while pursuing new projects,” he said in a statement. He says he also plans to “take time off”.
The Kernel was owned by BERLIN42 (a major shareholder), Yiannopoulos (who owned 25% of The Kernel at the time of sale), and unnamed private angel investors. BERLIN42 operates Hy!Berlin, a German startup demo conference series which perhaps thought it might get more traditional tech coverage out of The Kernel than actually came about, though Yiannopoulos says BERLIN42 was supportive throughout.
The Kernel’s eight staff are to come under the editorial direction of the US-based operation, though we understand individual negotiations are taking place with all The Kernel’s writers. The site only recently hired a COO, Cat Navarro, who joined January 6, but she is not staying on as part of the sale.
This was the team photo on Jan 6:
On October 27 last year, the site said it was expanding and hiring a full-time investigative reporter.
DDM CEO Nick White said: “The Kernel and The Daily Dot will produce hard-hitting news, features, and investigative reports from all corners of the brave new digital world.” However, no mention has been made of whether The Kernel will survive as a standalone site. Pressed on this, DDM replied that the Kernel would continue “for the immediate future” but would “ultimately be integrated into the Daily Dot Media family” in some way to be determined. In other words, The Kernel brand is almost certainly ear-marked for closure.
The Kernel claims to have hit 500,000 uniques a month, with a roster of eight permanent editorial staffers in its London offices.
Typical recent Kernel headlines included:
“PREDICTING THE FUTURE WITH ASPARAGUS”
“THE BEST CARS FOR FAT PEOPLE: A DEFINITIVE GUIDE”
“THE SECRET NAZI PROPAGANDA HIDDEN IN JUSTIN BIEBER”
The Kernel was launched at the start of 2012 by Yiannopoulos to “fix European technology journalism” and gained a reputation for – somewhat counter-intuitively – going after both tech scene individuals and initiatives to promote tech startups, such as ‘Tech City’ in East London. It shuttered in early 2013 after unpaid writers, in turn, went after it.
The company was forced to close, after being sued by former contributors who had not been paid for their work. Yiannopoulos says he later settled the £24,000 debts personally.
The latest incarnation of The Kernel came about when German venture capital vehicle BERLIN42 acquired The Kernel’s assets. This “new” Kernel had better success with stories of more mainstream appeal, such as an investigation into the sales of rape pornography ebooks on Amazon, stories picked up by BBC News and the Mail on Sunday. Although clearly this success was more editorial than commercial.
Yiannopoulos has at times been a controversial figure in the UK tech scene and appears to attract both fans and detractors in equal measure, though lately he has eschewed the tech sector for more mainstream debates such as Gay marriage.
Speaking to the Evening Standard newspaper in London, Yiannopoulus said: “I have a dangerously short attention span. That’s not to say I was bored of The Kernel – far from it – but I only really enjoy launching and leading things.”
Elsewhere in European tech media, the scene has been changing quite a bit.
Robin Wauters, a respected former writer with TechCrunch and The Next Web, launched his own project – Tech.eu – with a number of other players in the scene. The site has mostly avoided breaking news to bring longer think-pieces to the industry, and video interviews.
Meanwhile, Informilo, an editorial outfit founded by veteran journalist Jennifer L. Schenker best known for producing well-regarded magazines for numerous technology conferences, brought on board the outgoing tech editor for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Ben Rooney. Schenker and Rooney now form a team I like to call “The Kara and Walt of Europe”.
And at the same time the English language news sites covering tech regionally have grown. They include TechCity News covering the London tech scene and RudeBaguette in Paris, alongside older site like Arctic Startup in the Nordics and the many English language tech news blogs in Berlin. Even Poland now has a new English Language tech news site in the shape of Bitspiration.
As I predicted back in 2011, the tech scene in Europe deserved more and better media to cover its growth. It looks like it’s getting it.