Nate Silver, whose confusing math blog became part of the New York Times web site last summer, recently signed up for a new webchat service that allows people to buy facetime with him for $1,000 an hour, only to back out as soon as people started asking, "Hey, why is the New York Times letting one of its bloggers sell webchats for $1,000 an hour? And, really, $1,000 an hour?"
Silver is one of the "Authors and Bloggers" virtually available for a fee on ExpertOpinions.com, a site launched last month by Brandon Adams a 32-year-old former Harvard University lecturer and professional poker player. For a mere $1,000—30% of which goes to Adams—you can have an hour of Nate Silver looking at you through a web cam. You can also buy time from Freakonomics co-authors—and former Times bloggers—Steven Levitt (call for an hourly quote) and Stephen Dubner ($3,500 per hour).
But alas, for Silver, it was not to be. As soon as we caught wind of this little side-gig, via a 3 p.m. Twitter post from the Washington Examiner's Byron York, we contacted Silver to ask it it was for real. Just over an hour later, we got this note back explaining that his name would be off ExpertInsight.com "within 24 hours."
This is a project started by a friend of mine. I think it's a clever business model and I agreed many months ago to be one of their several dozen "experts".
I've done consulting projects in the past for sports and entertainment clients, but not for any political clients, or other firms or individuals who are likely to figure into my coverage. I am a freelancer with the NYT, and the contract provides me with some modicum of flexibility on this — provided, however, that any such engagements are disclosed to them, and that there aren't conflicts of interests.
I envisioned this as a natural extension of that. I would have been able to vet the clients and the subject matter so as to make sure it was something that I was completely comfortable with. The high price point reflects the fact that I have very limited time (and even less intellectual interest) in most of the consulting projects that are offered to me.
But my first priority is to the New York Times, and after talking things over with my bosses, I've decided that it just doesn't feel appropriate, on a number of levels, for me to offer my time up in this way. So, I have decided not to participate. I have already informed the Expert Insight guys about my decision; they are understanding and will removing my name from the site within 24 hours.
Likewise, a spokeswoman for the Times—which limits staffers' paid speaking gigs to nonprofit and educational institutions—told us that "Nate is not moving forward with this."
But he's still available for consulting, so don't despair, kids. He'll even work for you if he's not "intellectually interested" in whatever it is you want to pay him to think about. And you can keep it to yourselves if you're shy. We asked Silver whether he discloses his consulting work to his readers as well as his bosses at the Times: "I haven't booked any consulting engagements since starting at the NYT, and none are ongoing right now. I would not ordinarily disclose consulting clients to my readers unless it were salient to the subject matter I was covering."
If you're interested in talking to any member of the Gawker team—web chat, phone call, lunch, whatever—just make us an offer. Group and seniors discounts are available.