Who Is Michael Wolff Smarter Than Today?

Shadowey EditorsesTom Scocca: Great. Now Michael Wolff is smarter than David Carr.

Choire Sicha: Says who???

Tom Scocca: Says Michael Wolff’s daily spam: Who Is Michael Wolff Smarter Than Today? Previous winners have included Rupert Murdoch, Barack Obama, and the Pope.

Choire Sicha: I enjoyed The Daily Spam today, because previously Michael Wolff has not gone so far as to call any important rich people nitwit retards, as he did with the New York Times writer David Carr.


Tom Scocca: Well, you know, Carr is an ignorant dillweed who knows nothing about business. Unlike Michael Wolff, who has been a fabulous success at every media business he has founded.

Choire Sicha: According to Michael Wolff, he is working at a very successful business for Patrick Spain, the former CEO of Hoover’s.
Did you know that Newser has three directors on its board?

Tom Scocca: What is “Newser”?

Choire Sicha: “Newser is an online news service that adds human intelligence to machine-driven aggregation.”

Tom Scocca: Huh. The more I look at that sentence, the more I suspect that Wolff has in fact done the opposite, and is farming out these daily ego-commentaries to some sort of demented version of ELIZA that runs custom scripts.

Choire Sicha: That may be? Also did you know that it is based in Chicago?

Tom Scocca: Oh, i know that it is based in chicago. (That was ELIZA. See? Wait, let me try it on Wolff.

David Carr, who writes about the media for the New York Times, and who I’ve never personally liked very much (we were colleagues at New York magazine, where he would stand too close and bray rhetorical statements and open-ended questions), wrote another in a series of columns yesterday about how important newspapers are-even as his own company is threatening to close the Boston Globe.

Eliza: Can you elaborate on that?

Choire Sicha: Heh. You’re in luck Eliza—he sure can!

Tom Scocca: “It was quite a long and digressive piece with a variety of stray points, but two seemed particularly revealing.” Eliza: Please go on.

Tom Scocca: “We need newspapers because people who haven’t had the benefit of newspaper training-people, for instance, trying to be citizen journalists on the web-might not know how to ‘make the calls, hit the streets and walk past the conventional wisdom.'” Eliza: Do any other reasons not come to mind?

Tom Scocca: “(How can people write such stuff with a straight face?)” Eliza: Does that question interest you?

Tom Scocca: OK, enough from the bots! I think we’ve found Michael Wolff’s ideal reader.

Choire Sicha: Skynet?

Tom Scocca: This makes sense, on reflection, since ELIZA was originally meant to mimic a therapist.

Choire Sicha: I was going to suggest–there is something about treatment and pathology in Wolff’s columns no?

Tom Scocca: Something? There is nothing but pathology. Michael Wolff is lost in the No-Fun House.

Choire Sicha: I am being overly polite because I am trying to not be snippy.

Tom Scocca: Last month, the Wolff-bot sent us a spam announcing that “The Wall Street Journal is Really, Really Mad at Us”:

Robert Thomson, Murdoch’s editor of the Wall Street Journal, thinks Newser is a tapeworm. Newser and other news aggregators are “parasites or tech tapeworms in the intestines of the Internet,” he told The Australian newspaper.

And when you clicked through to the story from The Australian, it turned out that Robert Thomson was actually talking about Google News.

Choire Sicha: Yes, in fact, he did not mention Newser at all, did he!

Tom Scocca: No, he did not.

Choire Sicha: But I’m sure he meant to. After all, Michael Wolff is very important.

Tom Scocca: In Michael Wolff’s epic mind-war with Rupert Murdoch, it was clear that’s what was being discussed. Murdoch is like Michael Wolff’s white whale, except rather than getting on a whaleboat Wolff is just sitting in a bathtub in the middle of the continent–Chicago!–pushing around little origami boats he folded out of the page proofs of his book, his book about Rupert Murdoch. There’s not even any WATER in the bathtub.

Tom Scocca: I liked the column in which he wrote about how buying the Journal showed Murdoch was washed up, because newspapers were dead, etc. Funny, I thought the idea of his book had been that the Journal purchase showed how very vital Murdoch was. Not that I read the book. But I read some reviews! Say, who reviewed that book for the Times?

Choire Sicha: Oh did you? Hmm I cannot remember! Was it this one?

Tom Scocca: Oh, David Carr! Weren’t we just talking about him?

Choire Sicha: Well it’s a VERY small world. After all, as Wolff points out, he and David Carr “worked” at ‘New York’ magazine together! Though according to their archives, David Carr wrote.. a few articles in 2001? Between October and December?

Tom Scocca: Clearly that’s the most important connection between him and Michael Wolff. That and that they write about the media business. “It’s always been amazing to me how little Carr knows about business,” Wolff writes.

Tom Scocca: Wolff is not wrong when he suggests that people who write about business don’t always know what they’re talking about. Think about what sort of clown it would take to write a sentence like this: “News Corp., for its part, has, with its acquisition of the Wall Street Journal, effectively rebranded itself as a newspaper company-a kiss of death.”

Choire Sicha: That does sound sort of bad–but perhaps time will make a fool of us! Of course, the two met again last summer. They were on a panel!

Michael Wolff began a denouncement that would last throughout the hour, asserting that the “New York Times is in a large part getting its news off the internet.”

Wolff later said, “the truth is, that out there is the perception that you’re not really offering all that much value. It doesn’t make any difference if you believe you are.” David Carr retorted that the claim was “a bunch of shit” and pointed to “really great metrics in…the growth of our online audience.”

But then Wolff said all the Times traffic was from About.com, which was a particularly shoddy website!

Tom Scocca: “The truth is, that out there is the perception”–I think you could put that on the Newer banner.

Choire Sicha: It’s punchy!

Tom Scocca: Hey, speaking of Web sites, I just took a look at the site of News Corp, which has effectively rebranded itself as a newspaper company. If they really want to rebrand, they should move the “Newspapers and Information Services” tab over from its current spot, sixth from the left. After “Filmed Entertainment,” “Television,” “Cable Programming,” “Direct Broadcast Satellite Television,” and “Magazines and Inserts.” But before “Books” and “Other Assets.”

Tom Scocca: Oh, hey, there’s a big picture of Hugh Jackman with blades coming out of his hands. Rupert owns that, doesn’t he? Did the Friday Wall Street Journal make $35 million last week? Because Wolverine did.

Tom Scocca: Maybe Michael Wolff should tape a set of steak knives to the back of his fists. Rupert might pay more attention. If your whole life is gonna be a superhero fantasy, you might as well go all the way.


Choire Sicha: Now is a good time to mention that I am on book contract for a fine News Corp. product! Also I might note that News Corp. will announce their quarterly results tomorrow at 4 p.m., though I’m sure Michael Wolff will deliver that information to us in our inboxes. Anyhoo! So you’re comparing Murdoch and Wolff, and noticing that this supposed newspaper business is actually very diversified–and inter-folded, whereas Wolff has a blog.

Tom Scocca: Yeah, but besides that, they’re basically rivals. At least they’re both banging the help.

Choire Sicha: !!!

Tom Scocca: Although Rupert put a ring on it.

Previously: The Los Angeles Times.