Credit: The Messenger

In early September, Seth Davis announced on Twitter/X that he and fellow college basketball insider Jeff Goodman were joining media start-up The Messenger, which he called “America’s hottest new platform.”

Roughly two months later, it sounds like it might be America’s latest tech media platform to burn bright and die fast.

Lachlan Cartwright and Justin Baragona with The Daily Beast’s Confider reported Thursday that staffers at The Messenger are raising concerns over several issues that seem to signal all of the tell-tale signs that the company is in deep trouble. Chief among them was a suggestion reportedly made by The Messenger president Richard Beckman that the website is “out of money.”

There’s also the curious case of editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford, who has reportedly been MIA since July while owner Jimmy Finkelstein directly sends editors ideas and tips. A company spokesperson says Wakeford maintains editorial control.

The Confider team also shared concerns from staffers over the company’s recent partnership with an AI firm, which sounds similar to the desperate moves being made at G/O Media, as well as internal secrecy over site traffic numbers.

The Messenger was launched in May 2023 by Finkelstein, who previously owned the Washington, D.C.-based The Hill, with a stated mission to “champion balanced journalism in an era of bias, subjectivity, and misinformation.” The company quickly staffed up with a slew of heavy hitters from around the industry, including Wakeford (formerly People EIC), Marty Kady (formerly Politico politics editor), David M. Ewalt (former Gizmodo EIC), Amy Eisinger (former Self EIC), and Mary Margaret (former Entertainment Weekly EIC).

They also tried to make a The Athletic-esque splash in the sports media world, literally hiring that company’s former editorial director, Dan Kaufman, to lead its sports coverage. Along with basketball writers Davis and Goodman, they also hired college football writer Ryan Nanni, sports and pop culture writer Arash Markazi, NFL writer Mike Tanier, former FiveThirtyEight editor Neil Paine, football writer Kaelen Jones, and longtime NY Daily News sportswriter Christian Red, to name a few.

Per Confider, many staffers have grumbled about an internal focus on “clickbait” journalism as well as the recent announcement that the company was entering a “strategic partnership” with Seekr, which would “leverage AI to ensure editorial content consistently aligns with journalism standards,” though Seekr’s bias ratings seem rather biased itself according to some critics.

As for Beckman’s comments that The Messenger is running out of funds, a spokesperson for the company disputed that characterization to Confider, saying that the site “is doing extraordinarily well” and still expects to become profitable by the end of 2024. Beckman had previously boasted that the company would employ around 550 newsroom employees and earn $100 million in annual revenue by 2024.

Ultimately, the proof of that concept might be found in the site’s traffic, but those internal numbers are reportedly guarded so tightly that most editorial staffers don’t have access to it. According to Confider, only senior editors have the ability to see those numbers, prompting others to presume they must not be very good.

According to the New York Times, The Messenger was garnering over 100,000 daily visitors four days after it launched in May. Based on a Similarweb external traffic analysis done by NeimanLab founder Joshua Benton, The Messenger’s site traffic is currently hovering around the same level as sites like Houston’s ABC13 and Smithsonian Magazine.

[Daily Beast/Confider]

About Sean Keeley

Along with writing for Awful Announcing and The Comeback, Sean is the Editorial Strategy Director for Comeback Media. Previously, he created the Syracuse blog Troy Nunes Is An Absolute Magician and wrote 'How To Grow An Orange: The Right Way to Brainwash Your Child Into Rooting for Syracuse.' He has also written non-Syracuse-related things for SB Nation, Curbed, and other outlets. He currently lives in Seattle where he is complaining about bagels. Send tips/comments/complaints to