Yesterday evening, journalists and newsy iconoclasts alike gathered at Graydon Carter’s uber-trendy, West Village bistro, the Waverly Inn, to celebrate the launch of Newser.com, Michael Wolff’s latest project, an innovative online news service that claims to "do the reading for you."
The site, which has been available in beta form since August but launched yesterday with all the bells and whistles, uses high-tech machines to scour the web for news. Human beings, in the form of editors and writers, then comb through these stories to find the ones to highlight. Once top-tier stories are selected, they are fused and re-formatted to be presented in a "smart and entertaining" way. Drudge-like, the site runs the gamut from Turkey’s political crisis to Oprah’s school girl scandals. One cutesy, and possibly brilliant, feature: an adjustable filter tool, which can be set anywhere between opposite spectrums of "Soft" and "Hard" news, so that readers control whether they get entertainment or more serious journalism.
Newser was born of a collaboration between Mr. Wolff and Patrick Spain, CEO of Encyclopedia.com and HighBeam Research, a subscription-based research site that’s a kind of thrifty Lexis-Nexis.
‘We’re out to combine traditional media with online animation," said Mr. Spain. "The idea is to provide the reader with something they didn’t even know they wanted to know!" He beamed.
Jason Rapp, of IAC Mergers and Acquisitions—he’s also, formerly, a Clinton aide and the vice president of New York Times Online Development—said that "everyone is interested in news derived from the web only."
Newser’s editor in chief Caroline Miller, who used to helm New York magazine, explained that the site’s stories are situated within a thread format, so that readers have access not only to the latest news, but to the way a story has developed over time. "We wanted to make something sexy!" she chimed. "We want to make news pleasurable. So to that end, our goal is to identify the very best work in sites and blogs and give you the top line!"
Mr. Wolff was no less enthused. "Somebody’s going to reinvent the way people get news," he said. "It’s not going to be from TV! It’s not going to be from radio! It’s going to be online! The opportunity is without limit and is extraordinarily exciting."
Daughter Elizabeth, a reporter for the New York Post, appeared less inspired than her father. "Uh, great party… yada yada yada, I’m outta here."