The Messenger, Jimmy Finkelstein’s new media outlet financed with $50 million in investor money, finally launched Monday. But while Finkelstein surely hoped the new outlet would get a warm welcome, it received the exact opposite.
Far from oohs and ahs, the Messenger was met with scorching criticism from readers who were left confused and angry, calling it “literally unreadable.”
“What it’s trying to do is kind of interesting: launch a digital news site with as few ideas as possible. In fact, zero seems to be the target number and, heck, they may get there. It’s a kind of discipline: ‘Nothing that would differentiate us should be used to describe us,’” NYU journalism professor Jay Rosen wrote.
He continued: “You could argue that they’re trying to repeat the trick Roger Ailes pulled with ‘fair and balanced.’ * Take a right wing POV; make it super obvious * Deny that you have any POV, like The Media does * Turn the friction into culture war * From that culture war program the channel.”
“I would dunk on The Messenger but I googled the site’s name and cannot find it,” business reporter Scott Nover said. While another user said what many were thinking: “They have no idea what they’re doing.”
When Finkelstein announced his goal of hiring a minimum of 175 journalists stationed in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, and his aspiration to have about 550 journalists in place within a year, his lofty ambition was shrugged off as “delusional” by industry insiders who noted among other things that the site would be free and supported only by advertising.
The New York Post was told by media experts that $50 million wouldn’t be enough to launch a news site that would be able to reach 100 million monthly viewers, the goal put forward by The Messenger’s No. 2 exec Richard Beckman. And judging by the reaction from those who gave the site a look today, it’s nothing but bad news for Finkelstein.
Peter Kafka, host of Recode Media, noted some of the headlines on Messenger for its launch Monday. Among them, “Hertz Denies Rental Car to Puero Rican Man for Being a ‘Foreigner’” and “Suspects Arrested After Cocaine Drops Out of Fake Pregnant Belly.”
“Launching a news site is hard but ooof. Welcome to the Messenger, which raised a gazillion dollars: ‘Our talented journalists are committed to demystifying the onslaught of misinformation and delivering impartial and objective news,’” Kafka wrote. “Btw I’m not saying people won’t click on these links. But you don’t need to launch a heavily funded site to distribute these links. They’re already all over the internet. (Also, this is the least defensible kind of publishing to get into as the ai race to the bottom starts.)”
Here’s a small sprinkling of other scalding comments: