Barry Diller's Not-So-Exclusive 'Very Short List'S

Very Short List has been a favorite bauble of Barry Diller since the IAC chief established it nearly three years ago, after failing to buy Daily Candy. He envisioned VSL as a smart, tidy newsletter. But it looks worrisomely distended.

The email publication appears to have been bulking up dramatically. When last we checked it had 20,000 subscribers, too few to get much attention from advertisers. A year ago, VSL contributor Kurt Andersen told Charlie Rose it was up to 100,000 subscribers.

We checked in today with VSM general manager Gary Foodim, who says the list is up to 200,000 subscribers.

Tenfold growth is a commendable achievement for a list that targets a "smart set" of well-to-do would-be sophisticates. The question is whether VSL still has any claim on that set or whether, as we hear, the list has been diluted with users from other IAC brands, resulting in an open ad rate surprisingly low for a database of upscale consumers. One anecdote making the rounds even says that Diller's friends have abandoned the service; of 25 buddies he used to seed the VSL list, all but one is said to have unsubscribed.

Apparently retaining at least some highbrow airs, VSL hasn't responded to our request for comment on that scuttlebutt.

But it's easy to imagine that Diller, who once said he would be "much diminished" without VSL, has moved on. Rumors that he wants to offload the site have been rife this year. Now VSL is said to be in talks with Jared Kushner's ailing New York Observer. And Diller would appear to have a new favorite toy, judging by the $18 million he's feeding into the bonfire that is Tina Brown's Daily Beast.