Last night Graydon Carter's Waverly Inn was host to a party for Napeolonic media mufti Michael Wolff and former New York mag honcho Caroline Miller's new project Newser, the web 1.0 news aggregator. Ten years ago, Michael Wolff wrote Burn Rate; it chronicled the spectacular failure of his first web venture, NetGuide. Along the way, Wolff seriously burned his backer Alan Patricof and nearly everybody else he worked with. So
when if Newser fails, will there be a Burn Rate II?
We asked him if he'd been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement for Newser.
He laughed. "Never! No NDAs, never," he said. "That's the rule of the road."
So there might very well be a tell-all in his future. Rory laughed and said, "It's inevitable!"
Wolff agreed: "Inevitable."
"It could be called, "I can't believe those idiots gave me money to do it all again!" Rory said.
We asked Wolff about the algorithm that is Newser's kind of main claim to fame. Users can move an indicator on a continuum that runs from hard to soft news. "I have no idea how it works," Wolff said. "The tech guys explained it to me but I zoned out halfway through. Go ask that guy," he said pointing into a web of white-haired bespectacled men. "The one with white hair and the glasses."
Later, Caroline Miller was lingering by the door, ready to escape. Man, why didn't she get an NDA out of Wolff? "Because I'm feckless!" she said. Nice.
"Michael doesn't even have a contract," she said. "This whole thing is all on a handshake."
So what exactly does Wolff do for Newser? Here's what he does not do: "He's not allowed to talk to anyone on the inside," Miller said. "He's not allowed to manage anybody. What he discovered a long time ago about himself is that he likes to fire people. He has the ideas but I make them happen."
So he has ideas. And did he bring the money? No. "It's all Pat's money anyway!" That would be Patrick Spain, the CEO of HighBeam and soon to be the main character of a really harsh book about how the internet sucks.