Of Sidewire, the beyond-Twitter chatter site for political obsessives, one fan says ”it feels more honest, like a conversation you’d have in a greenroom with someone instead of on set.” (Curt Merlo/For The Washington Post)

For political junkies, there is truly no greater time to be alive. The Internet allowed us to cancel our dead-tree subscriptions — how did we ever wait 24 hours between doses? — and get news and commentary on an hourly IV drip. Cable TV banished those bleak days when we once yearned for the weekend (Honey, “Meet the Press” is on!) by offering up 24/7 punditry panels, constantly refreshed like an all-you-can eat buffet, or at least reheated under the lights. And then, most sublime, came Twitter, granting us a real-time window into the hair-trigger thoughts of everyone from the lowliest statehouse reporter to the presumptive GOP nominee.

Lately, though, you’ve probably been wondering: How can I have more?

With Sidewire, there’s a way!

The website, launched last fall, features public chats, posted in real time as genuine Beltway insiders share their thoughts on the news of the moment — and allow you to eavesdrop.

Listen in as Mike Murphy, who flushed $100 million down the toilet running Jeb Bush’s Super PAC, tries to predict who Donald Trump might pick for vice president (“I’m betting on Gary Busey”). Follow along as Mitt Romney’s former chief strategist trades messages with Martin O’Malley’s erstwhile communications manager about their expectations for the GOP convention. (“It will be a Trump-centric event. Lots and lots and lots about Donald Trump.”)

Sound appealing? Then this is the place for you.

“What’s really cool about chatting is that everyone is doing it right now, and people are getting better at it,” says Andy Bromberg, the 21-year-old Stanford dropout and CEO/co-founder of the company. “If we started Sidewire 10 years ago, it wouldn’t be as effective because people wouldn’t really know how to chat.”

Lately, the entire nation seems to be practicing the form: brainstorming with colleagues in virtual conference rooms, texting jokes to family members, trying to one-up friends with witty banter in Gchat or HipChat. Slack, a three-year-old chat platform, has grown in the past year from 750,000 active users to more than 2.7 million. More than 80 percent of American adults send text messages. Privately, plenty of users feel as it their repartee is worthy of an Aaron Sorkin screenplay — but it takes a special kind of egotist to want to make these conversations public. Many of them call Washington home.

If there were ever a crossover episode between HBO’s “Veep” and “Silicon Valley,” Sidewire would have a story arc. Headquartered in San Francisco but largely staffed by current or former Washingtonians, it draws from both the tech world’s itch to create a hot new communication platform (its founders have raised $4.85 million from investors) and the Beltway’s boundless natural resource — insider political chatter.

But are there enough people out there who want to listen?

Sidewire wasn’t supposed to be a chat site — you can credit or blame Sen. Lindsey O. Graham for that, but we’ll get there in a minute. It all began with Tucker Bounds, a former spokesman for the John McCain 2008 presidential run.

Back then, campaign communications strategy used to be so easy: Leak things to the Associated Press, forward a few articles to TV news producers, watch it get covered on the nightly news. Twitter and Facebook existed, but they didn’t yet dominate news cycles.

A droll live chat with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) helped Sidewire find its new focus. (Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)

After McCain’s loss, Bounds pursued a private-sector career in public relations, eventually taking a job at Facebook. There he got a firsthand look at the evolving way in which people get their news — increasingly, from their personal networks, be it their partisan pals or conspiracy-theorist relatives. Bias and slant were rewarded; uninformed sources were given as much credence as legacy media.

“There’s a ton of noise on the Internet that is built on social aggregation,” Bounds, now the Sidewire president, said recently. “I think the discourse, particularly around this election, suffers.”

So he set about to fix that, with a tech prodigy he met through a mutual friend. That was Bromberg, who was only 19 at the time, a fact Bounds didn’t realize until he tried to schedule a planning meeting at a wine bar. The initial idea for Sidewire was to be a sort of curated Twitter, where a select group of insiders would post articles and short messages. Increase the signal and reduce the noise.

But then in November, Graham (R-S.C.) failed to earn a spot on the presidential debate stage in Wisconsin and agreed instead to answer questions live in a Sidewire chatroom. Political journalists, academics and flacks joined in while Graham offered a mix of hawkish analysis and Jackie Mason-style wisecracks.

Bromberg said that was the moment they realized that chat — not posts — was the product. “One of our investors said that a lot of companies wander through the desert a long time before they find something magical. For us, it was like two months into launching.”

Now, two years after its incorporation, about 600 “newsmakers” have established Sidewire accounts, and the site hosts multiple chats a day, with principals ranging from brand-name broadcasters such as Chuck Todd and ice cream magnates Ben & Jerry to a variety of Beltway-famous sages you might not recognize on the street.

“I actually like it and have been having fun with it,” says Ben LaBolt, a former White House flack for President Obama, now a founding partner at a private PR firm. “It’s just like texting with a friend and having a conversation, but taking it public as if chat were a broadcast medium. It feels more honest, like a conversation you’d have in a greenroom with someone instead of on set.”


Chuck Todd of NBC’s “Meet the Press” is among the D.C. insiders who has held forth on Sidewire. (Charles Dharapak/AP)

So has GOP strategist Mike Murphy, former head of a Jeb Bush super PAC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images for Meet the Press)

Bounds and Bromberg won’t say what their traffic is, however. Even in Washington, their perfect market, skepticism remains.

“It sure seems great for pundits who want to talk to each other about their opinions ad nauseam without disturbing the other passengers on the Acela quiet car,” said a D.C. reporter who was invited to use Sidewire but hasn’t bothered. “But the big part of social media for reporters is having public engagement with our stories. You’re not going to get a lot of traffic off of Sidewire.”

He added that he fully expects to feel like an idiot if and when public chats become the next big thing.

It’s true — every new medium seems laughable when it first comes out. Remember when everyone mocked Twitter as a realm where narcissists announced what they were having for breakfast?

Sidewire has plans to branch out beyond politics, starting this summer. If chat among D.C. insiders doesn’t interest you, maybe you’d be more interested in chats among tech gurus or movie directors or athletes. (They’ve already had superstar soccer goalie Hope Solo participate.)

“We’ve recently made it so you can actually see when someone is typing,” Bromberg said. “It might sound like a small thing, but it makes you feel like you’re in the conversation and makes the person feel more human. Honestly, I think watching someone chat is more humanizing than seeing them on TV.”

And for political junkies, no better time to seem alive.