The Messenger will shut down after less than a year

MONEY & BUSINESS: The Messenger will shut down after less than a year



Money-bleeding start-up The Messenger — the news site that launched to great fanfare last May —  shut down after less than a year in “the Titanic of publishing disasters.”

The startup was scrubbed of all articles Wednesday evening, hours after an insider at the publication told The Post “The site will go dark.”

None of the roughly 300 staffers will get severance, the source added.

The site’s homepage was blank aside from the message  [email protected]

A rep for The Messenger did not comment.

Co-founder and CEO Jimmy Finkelstein, who raised $50 million to launch the site, had been scrambling to secure funding this week as employees braced to hear whether the company would avert disaster, as The Post previously reported.

“This will go down as one of the biggest busts of all time,” a media expert said. “The Messenger will be remembered as the Titanic of publishing disasters.”

Finkelstein had big dreams of turning The Messenger into a major centrist news outlet that would include hiring around 550 journalists within a year and compete with the likes of The Los Angeles Times.

Jimmy Finkelstein is shutting down The Messenger, his news site that he launched in May. Patrick McMullan via Getty Images

He paid top dollar to lure away talent from major publications — including The Post, Politico and NBC News — and paid the site’s editor Dan Wakeford around $900,000, sources said.

“What ultimately killed The Messenger was lack of message — and arrogance,” the industry source said. “Hundreds of people left great jobs with the promise of creating something better — which turned out to be a big lie.”

Another insider merely added: “It’s shocking how bad Jimmy handled this.”

In the last few days, Finkelstein had been trying to lock down a funding deal, telling The Post on Tuesday that staff would learn of their fate in the next 48 hours.

Earlier this month, a group of conservative media and business executives led by Omeed Malik, a financier who backed Tucker Carlson’s new media venture, had reportedly proposed $30 million for a 51% stake in the news site, putting its valuation at $60 million.

In recent months, the site’s journalists chafed over Finkelstein’s close relationship with Donald Trump. The Messenger

Media critics balked at the bloated valuation given the site’s puny financials and weak traffic. 

In recent months, the site’s journalists chafed over Finkelstein’s close relationship with Donald Trump, questioning a directive from editors to take down stories on the former president’s civil fraud trial in New York so as to not overwhelm the homepage, Semafor reported.

Making matters worse, Wakeford, a former editor-in-chief at People, was reportedly MIA on many occasions and left bigger editorial decisions up to Finkelstein.

Employees also griped about demands to aggregate clickbait news stories in order to drum up traffic for ad dollars.

Employees also griped about demands to aggregate clickbait news stories in order to drum up traffic for ad dollars. The Messenger

The implosion comes after Finkelstein and the site’s president Richard Beckman crowed to The New York Times last March that The Messenger would garner more than 100 million monthly readers and bring in $100 million in revenue in 2024.

In November, the site lured in just 12.5 million unique visitors, sources said, as Beckman — an exec known for aggressively drumming up advertising revenue — sounded the alarm bells to employees that the site was running out of money

The company got off to a bumpy start, burning through cash at a fast clip and spending roughly $39 million on hiring, CNBC reported.

It ended 2023 with a net loss of $43 million and laid off two-dozen employees to stem costs in early January.

Still as the end neared, Finkelstein shot down reports that he was considering shutting down over cash shortfalls.

Beckman, meanwhile, stepped down in October, with sources telling The Post he did “not see eye to eye” with Finkelstein on the direction of the business.

The exec wrote in his departure memo on LinkedIn, that he would be stepping down due to “short-term” health issues Jan. 31 — which ironically is the day the site ultimately shuttered.

Prior to launch, media critics ripped the duo of Beckman and Finkelstein as two “ghosts from the past” with “delusional” ambitions  in an increasingly cutthroat business.

Finkelstein had big dreams of turning The Messenger into a major centrist news outlet that would include hiring around 550 journalists within a year. WireImage

The men have been partners in various media ventures, including at now-defunct Prometheus Global Media and Finkelstein’s publication The Hill, which he sold in 2021, but none of the companies had been as ambitious as The Messenger. 

Beckman, a Conde Nast veteran, who was known for selling magazine ads for the company’s publications, was brought on to make big deals, but critics pressed how difficult it is to grow in a fast-paced, digital media landscape.

For that, Finkelstein also tapped digital traffic guru Neetzan Zimmerman, who worked at Gawker Media before working at The Hill. But again, sources said Zimmerman was using an old digital media playbook. 



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