Screenshot of the TheMessenger website.
The Messenger, a startup digital news website that launched in May, is shutting down after reports that it was running out of money, an executive at the outlet who has been briefed on the matter told NBC News on Wednesday.
The Messenger launched in May with Jimmy Finkelstein, who previously owned The Hollywood Reporter and The Hill, at the helm. It promised to provide “thorough, objective, non-partisan, and timely news coverage” in a time of bias and misinformation.
An email seen by NBC News that was sent to staff signed by Finkelstein, describing it as a “painfully hard decision” to shut down “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,” the email said. “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 email also included an attached “Frequently Asked Questions” document telling employees there would be no severance and the last paycheck would be on Jan 31. Laid-off employees would also be eligible for COBRA health coverage beginning Thursday.
Jordan Hoffman, a film critic at The Messenger, wrote in a post on X that the last message he saw before he was kicked out of the company Slack was from a colleague wondering about health insurance coverage for an upcoming surgery.
“All I know is that if I were to launch a media start-up I’d be sure to rent an entire floor of a downtown Manhattan skyscraper that was 9/10ths empty all day … and then fail to tell my employees they were laid off until they read about it in the New York Times,” Hoffman wrote in another post.
Earlier this month, Semafor reported that The Messenger’s board was considering shutting down the website as the outlet was set to run out of funds by the end of January. A spokesperson denied the claim to Semafor, saying additional funding had already been secured.
Read more on NBC News
A day before staff were informed they were now without jobs, The New York Post reported that Finklestein was working to secure deals to inject new revenue into The Messenger to keep the site going.
Nieman Journalism Lab cast doubt on claims by leadership at The Messenger that the digital news outlet would deliver on its hopes to draw in 100 million monthly unique visitors and eventually support a 550-person staff. A Neiman article published shortly after The Messenger’s launch noted that the vast majority of its content appeared to be quick-aggregation over originally reported articles.
In one hour tracked by Nieman, The Messenger published 27 stories in comparison to just nine at The New York Times.
News of The Messenger’s end comes after a brutal month of media layoffs: The Los Angeles Times, Forbes, Time, Sports Illustrated, Tech Crunch, NBC News and Business Insider all recently announced cuts to their staff.
Unionized workers at Conde Nast staged a single-day work stoppage last week over what the NewsGuild described as the company’s “unlawful” negotiations on proposed layoffs.