Jimmy Finkelstein’s Startup The Messenger Faces Hurdles as Insiders Scoff at ‘Delusional’ Readership Goals

The new news site owner aims to reach 100 million monthly readers but is reportedly struggling to hire talent

Jimmy Finkelstein
Media mogul Jimmy Finkelstein (Getty Images)

The launch of media mogul Jimmy Finkelstein’s The Messenger in May is going to run into money problems due to the “delusional” aspirations of the antiquated thinking of the executives behind it, industry insiders are saying.

Finkelstein, the former owner of The Hill which he sold in 2021 for $130 million, told The New York Times earlier this month that it planned to launch the politics/business/entertainment/sports news site in May with a minimum of 175 journalists stationed in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, and aspirations to have about 550 journalists in place within a year. And to makes that lofty ambition doable, he had amassed $50 million in investor money.

“When Jimmy Finkelstein owned The Hill, it was highly successful and its traffic was the largest of any site in politics other than CNN, hardly old school,” a company spokesperson told TheWrap. “We have brought together the best team in media and look forward to launching in May.” 

Media insiders told the New York Post in a report published Sunday that $50 million won’t be enough to launch a news site that will be able to reach 100 million monthly viewers. That benchmark was put forward by The Messenger’s No. 2 exec Richard Beckman, former president of The Hill, with a spokesperson saying that they are confident they can reach that goal by the end of 2024 along with $100 million in revenue through “a mix of direct advertising, programmatic and sponsorship revenue across multiple platforms.”

It’s a goal that one insider described as “delusional” to The Post.

“It’s wishful thinking,” the exec said. “They are a few ghosts from the past. If they were a public company, I wouldn’t invest in them.”

Another media critic snarked at the 74-year-old Finkelstein’s comments to the New York Times where he reminisced about the times when he and his family would “all watch ’60 Minutes’ together” and wait for the next issue of Vanity Fair. “Those days are over, and the fact is, I want to help bring those days back,” Finklestein said.

“Whenever a new website references an old magazine and TV show, you know they are not looking towards tomorrow,” the critic told the NY Post.

While The Messenger also has its top editors in place, it didn’t get everyone from their wishlist. Former Hollywood Reporter chief and current Ankler Media CEO Janice Min turned down an offer as did former Daily Beast editor John Avlon.

Those who are onboard include former People editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford, Politico senior editor Marty Kady and Entertainment Weekly editor Mary Margaret, though the Post says that Finkelstein has been “vague” on how The Messenger’s editorial staff will be structured.