Former longtime AOL (TWX) news exec Lewis Dvorkin has been working on a secret new project for about a year. It launched today — True/Slant, yet another news aggregator/blog farm — and it looks like a flop.
What is it? Another take on the Huffington Post/Newser/Daily Beast model of aggregating a wide swath of news and opinions written by freelance contributors, and — somewhat unique — blogs by paying advertisers, which, as far as we can tell, aren’t there yet.
It launched in “alpha” mode today, and Dvorkin somehow managed to distract the WSJ’s Walt Mossberg away from gadgets long enough to review it. Getting Mossberg to write about True/Slant could be the highlight of the company’s existence.
Walt describes the business in more detail — lightly paid contributors, ad revenue share, could get equity — and praises the site’s unseductive, text-heavy design. But he doesn’t tell you the real problem — which is that True/Slant, at least on its first day, is dreadfully underwhelming. (Unless you are sucked in by headlines like “Detroit: still can’t catch a break,” or “Colonization by Democratization.”)
Perhaps Dvorkin will be able to somehow get enough traffic and interest to attract and pay top talent, or organise around a specific niche where there’s a strong audience. But that will be very hard: It’s not like there’s a shortage of blog hosting services or news aggregators — remarkable and unremarkable — out there already.