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May 15, 2024, 12:16 p.m.
Business Models

After The Messenger’s collapse, Jimmy Finkelstein seems to be itching for a do-over

“May I suggest to any potential investors just setting your money on fire instead? Faster, less traumatic, same outcome.”

Happy birthday to The Messenger, which launched one year ago today! Weirdly, I don’t think I’ve come across any Messenger stories in my feeds lately — maybe a shadow ban? — but it must be well on its way to the sort of media dominance that comes with $50 million in startup capital, a newsroom of 550 journalists, a commitment to “polyperspectivity,” and plans for $100 million in annual revenue.

Oh, wait — you’re telling me The Messenger shut down three months ago? It burned through all $50 million, laid off hundreds of journalists, and made only $3 million in revenue in 2023? Well, at least no one could have foreseen such an unfortunate series of events. “Economic headwinds” come for us all, I guess.

In all seriousness, the implosion of The Messenger was one of the most spectacular and predictable media failures of recent decades. The culprit was, at its core, the strategy laid out by owner Jimmy Finkelstein, which was tuned to an earlier age. In the roughly hundred days since the shutdown, Messenger journalists have tried to find new work — and filed suit against Finkelstein for severance payments they say they are owed. (At least three lawsuits have been filed.)

No one would blame Finkelstein for laying low for a while. But instead, he’s back at it, according to a new report from The Daily Beast’s Justin Baragona:

Despite falling flat on his face with doomed media outlet The Messenger, Jimmy Finkelstein is already looking to launch another project, multiple sources familiar with the situation told The Daily Beast.

The former owner of The Hill recently met with potential investors in New York, according to three sources familiar with the matter, in an effort to drum up interest in a new venture. This potential new project is still very much in the planning stages, the sources emphasized.

Details are still scant on what exactly Finkelstein may be cooking up, with sources speculating that it could be health industry-related and possibly not even a traditional media company.

Either way, the 76-year-old mogul does appear determined to add another chapter to his lengthy career. “Jimmy is definitely doing something. He’s not prepared to be on the sidelines,” one person close to Finkelstein told The Daily Beast.

Who is Finkelstein brainstorming with? According to Baragona, billionaire and J.D. Vance fan James Tisch and Newsmax CEO Christopher Ruddy (recently seen taking $50 million from a Qatari royal to “soften” Newsmax coverage of the nation). Finkelstein is reportedly “promising to soon launch a project with the potential to clear his name after The Messenger’s spectacular failure.”

Well, best of luck. But let’s see what The Messenger’s laid-off journalists are saying about the idea of their former boss taking another whack at making Americans “fall in love” with media again.

Photo of several Western Union messenger boys in Norfolk, Va. in 1911 via the Library of Congress.

Joshua Benton is the senior writer and former director of Nieman Lab. You can reach him via email (joshua_benton@harvard.edu) or Twitter DM (@jbenton).
POSTED     May 15, 2024, 12:16 p.m.
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