Mass Media Die-Off Continues As Ambitious 'Non-Partisan' Start-Up Suddenly Goes Dark

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Feb 01, 2024 - 06:45 PM

A news website launched just 8 months ago with $50 million and tall ambitions to rival the likes of the Los Angeles Times suddenly halted operations on Wednesday.  In so doing, The Messenger became the latest outlet to generate its own grim headlines about the financial state of journalism in the United States. 

"By closing less than a year after it launched, The Messenger will now be one of the biggest busts in the annals of online news," writes Benjamin Mullin at The New York Times. By Wednesday evening, all content had been stripped from, which now only displays the outlet's name and a general-contact email address. There are no severance packages for terminated employees, whose health insurance will come to a screeching halt

Messenger founder Jimmy Finkelstein (Evan Agostini/AP)

Founder Jimmy Finkelstein, who had envisioned that The Messenger would become an essential nonpartisan voice in an increasingly polarized media landscape, announced the move in an email to staff on Wednesday afternoon: 

"The industry has faced extraordinary challenges this past year. The economic headwinds have left many media companies fighting for survival. Unfortunately, as a new company, we encountered even more significant challenges than others and could not survive those headwinds.”

Messenger writer Jim LaPorta tweeted that Finkelstein was scooped by other outlets who contacted staff members asking about the outlet's sudden failure: 

Another writer, Jordan Hoffman, suggested The Messenger was doomed by hubris

Right out of the gate, Finkelstein raced to build a large staff of journalists for a site that he hoped would rival 60 Minutes and Vanity Fair in the public eye. At the time, a media insider told the New York Post“Whenever a new website references an old magazine and TV show, you know they are not looking towards tomorrow.”

Finkelstein hired approximately 300 staffers, tapping people with experience at outlets that included Associated Press, Reuters, NBC News and Politico. He had a goal of surpassing 550, and his second-in-command, Richard Beckman, said the outlet aspired to hit $100 million of revenue in 2024 from "a mix of direct advertising, programmatic and sponsorship revenue across multiple platforms.” Those goals would have seen The Messenger zoom from zero to surpassing the reach of Conde Nast and the Post in under two years. It never came close.   

Beckman is said to have been a major part of the The Messenger's failure. Company insiders told The Daily Beast that the Conde Nast veteran spent like the startup had already reached its lofty goals, blowing money on expensive leases and a hundred grand on office snacks

There were also ongoing editorial controversies, with some editors bailing within mere days of the site going live, recoiling over clickbait headlines and aggregated news content. In late 2023, Finkelstein ruffled feathers by reportedly directing that articles about Donald Trump's civil fraud trial were to be kept off The Messenger's homepage. The two are said to be friends. 

The Messenger's explosion adds another plume of smoke to the disastrous US media hellscape. In 2023, more than 20,000 media jobs vanished. Last week alone, the Los Angeles Times laid off 120 employees -- equal to about 20% of its newsroom -- while Time Magazine terminated about 30 workers.