The Messenger, the news startup launched by Jimmy Finkelstein less than a year ago, will be closing down. “The entire staff is devastated,” an individual with knowledge of the move told TheWrap on Wednesday.
Finkelstein announced the decision to staff in a memo on Wednesday saying, “I am personally devastated to share that we have made the painfully hard decision to shut down The Messenger, effective immediately.”
The Messenger’s website immediately went inactive without access to any archives, solely a link to their email.
The website, launched in May 2023, hired around 300 staffers to cover politics, culture, breaking news, business, sports, and tech. Some 270 staffers will lose their jobs as a result of the closure on Wednesday, 200 of whom are journalists.
The staffers laid off will not receive any severance, according to several dismissed staffers. Most of them learned of the news from a news break in the New York Times. They received an email from Finkelstein and their internal Slack messaging system was immediately turned off, they said.
The digital news startup launched with $50 million in funding, but only brought in around $3 million in revenue last year, according to Axios. The company has been losing millions of dollars and failed to secure the necessary investment to keep the company afloat.
Semafor reported that the decision was made on Wednesday afternoon to shutter the outlet completely, dooming the original plans of the founders to hire 550 journalists and gain a massive readership overnight which would translate to advertising revenue.
“We exhausted every option available and have endeavored to raise sufficient capital to reach profitability,” Finkelstein wrote. “Unfortunately, we have been unable to do so, which is why we haven’t shared the news with you until now. This is truly the last thing I wanted, and I am deeply sorry.”
Finkelstein, a media entrepreneur with decades of experience in the news industry as an investor in The Hollywood Reporter and the owner of The Hill, cited the economic headwinds facing the media industry as a whole as a factor in the financial troubles of the start-up.
“Unfortunately, as a new company, we encountered even more significant challenges than others and could not survive those headwinds,” Finkelstein wrote.
“Again, I want to apologize for being unable to find a way through,” The Messenger founder continued to staffers. “Thank you for your unwavering dedication and hard work.”
The top editor of The Messenger Dan Wakeford sent a memo to staff, obtained by the New York Times, writing: “I’m devastated we have to end like this, and I am sorry the last few weeks have been torturous.”
“I am here for you and wish this could have ended differently,” Wakeford concluded.
— Ben Mullin (@BenMullin) January 31, 2024
Read the complete memo from Finkelstein to staffers below:
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. This is truly the last thing I wanted, and I am deeply sorry.
The Messenger started with an incredibly important mission – to deliver balanced and accurate journalism at a time when Americans’ trust in media is at a record low – and I am proud of what we achieved. Our editorial team created and delivered an outstanding product that generated unprecedented traffic in seven months. ComScore recently announced that we reached 88 million page views in November. Under the right circumstances, I know we could have made a significant difference in today’s fragmented media landscape and country.
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. I am grateful to you and the partners who believed in our mission and came on board over the past seven months, but the reality is that we needed more capital to move forward successfully.
We understand that this announcement will immediately raise several questions, and our team is committed to providing timely information during this period. Our Chief People Office is available for any questions we have not addressed in the FAQs.
Again, I want to apologize for being unable to find a way through. Thank you for your unwavering dedication and hard work. I wish everyone well in their future endeavors.