The Messenger, an ambitious online news site, closed its doors abruptly on Wednesday after just eight months of operation. Despite investing around $50 million into its business efforts, the nonpartisan digital outlet failed to sustain itself in the competitive industry.
Founder Jimmy Finkelstein delivered the news via email to his stunned employees, who numbered around 300. Finkelstein confessed that he had refrained from sharing the bleak development earlier as he had been tirelessly seeking ways to generate enough funds to achieve profitability. Sadly, his efforts were in vain, leaving him “personally devastated.”
Finkelstein acknowledged that the current economic climate has imposed significant challenges on media organizations, with many struggling to survive. The Messenger’s untimely demise adds to a growing list of prominent media outlets, such as the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated, and Business Insider, that have been forced to downsize or undergo substantial layoffs. The New York Daily News and Forbes magazine are among the venues where planned staff reductions have sparked employee walkouts.
While The Messenger may not have prevailed, its brief existence serves as a reminder of the precarious nature of the media landscape in the face of mounting financial pressures.
The Rise and Fall of The Messenger
Despite a tumultuous media landscape, The Messenger boldly entered the scene in May with aspirations of becoming a dominant player in the industry. The company poached experienced journalists from renowned organizations, such as The Associated Press, and spared no expense in securing multimillion-dollar office leases in major cities like New York, Washington D.C., and Florida. With ambitious goals of attracting 100 million monthly readers, The Messenger invested heavily in order to dominate the web traffic market.
Unfortunately, despite its lofty ambitions, The Messenger fell short of its targets. Even at its peak, the outlet only managed to capture a quarter of its desired audience. This disappointing result, coupled with the absence of profitability, led to the rapid depletion of the company’s cash reserves as advertising revenues dipped.
Critics were quick to point out that The Messenger’s founder, Finkelstein, had relied on an outdated business model centered around social media distribution and search engine optimization to garner attention. This approach was increasingly ineffectual in an ever-changing digital landscape.
The fate suffered by The Messenger is not unique. Even BuzzFeed News, a Pulitzer Prize-winning online news outlet, struggled with the same challenges. Last April, CEO Jonah Peretti made the difficult decision to shut down the organization after failing to achieve profitability. He admitted, somewhat belatedly, that he had overestimated the support and distribution capabilities that large platforms could provide for sustainable, quality journalism designed specifically for optimal social media engagement.