After a $50 million launch and lofty promises of building one of the nation’s largest newsrooms, The Messenger is shutting down to celebrate its first anniversary.
The online media platform, launched in 2023 with a commitment to unbiased journalism, never found its footing heading into a presidential cycle while being captained by founders who invested heavily to drive traffic but never enjoyed returns amid plummeting advertising rates. Most of The Messenger’s hundreds of staff were first notified about the closure through media reports and even caught their editor-in-chief off guard, according to the Washington Post.
“Unfortunately, as a new company, we encountered even more significant challenges than others and could not survive those headwinds,” The Messenger CEO and founder Jimmy Finkelstein wrote in a memo to staff after the news broke.
“I am personally devastated to share that we have made the painfully hard decision to shut down The Messenger, effective immediately. Over the past few weeks, literally until earlier today, we exhausted every option available and have endeavored to raise sufficient capital to reach profitability. Unfortunately, we have been unable to do so, which is why we haven’t shared the news with you until now,” he added.
One staffer said “pandemonium” broke out on the team’s internal Slack channel after the news was first broken by the New York Times. Dan Wakeford, the editor-in-chief, tried to assure his staff, adding he was “not in the loop” and searching for more information. As the day wore on and stress mounted, staff resorted to sharing pictures of their pets to lighten the mood.
Minutes after Finkelstein’s memo came out, employees were forcibly kicked out of their Slack channel, underscoring how sudden the collapse of The Messenger was.
In 11 months, the site went from boon to bust, hiring more than 300 staff from reputable news outlets including Politico, Reuters, NBC News, and The Associated Press, only to see grumblings as writers realized they were encouraged to create more “clickbait” than they were initially told. The big bet on a “balanced” news site envisioned by Finkelstein never proved profitable, and The Messenger’s collapse will go down as one of the greatest cautionary tales in the 21st-century digital media landscape.