Critics rip Jimmy Finkelstein’s media startup ‘The Messenger’
The Messenger – a news site yet to be launched by media mogul Jimmy Finkelstein – risks becoming a money pit run by old-school executives with “delusional” ambitions in a growing business ferocious, according to industry insiders.
Finkelstein, a former co-owner of The Hollywood Reporter and The Hill who raised $50 million to fund the venture, told The New York Times he will launch the site in May with at least 175 reporters located in New York, Los Angeles and Washington.
The 74-year-old investor said the new site, which he hopes will appeal to a wide range of Americans like “60 Minutes” and “Vanity Fair” have done over the past few decades, will employ eventually about 550 reporters – about as many as the Los Angeles Times.
“Whenever a new website references an old magazine and TV show, you know they’re not looking to tomorrow,” said one media critic.
Another media executive took a softer approach, calling Finkelstein’s plan “interesting” and “positive” for the media sector which, if successful, could create new jobs and drive competition.
“I have no doubts about his sincerity in doing so,” the source said. “Jimmy wants to count. He’s a guy who wants the president on the phone.
Finkelstein’s No. 2 executive Richard Beckman, a Condé Nast veteran who later served as chairman of The Hill, claimed The Messenger would generate more than $100 million in revenue next year by attracting 100 million monthly readers – while making a profit.
“Revenues will be a mix of direct advertising, program and sponsorship revenue across multiple platforms,” a company spokesperson said. “Given the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from a number of partners, we are very confident of reaching that number by the end of 2024.”
For context, the traffic figure would make the fledgling site one of the most-read digital sites in the United States, beating Conde Nast, Vox Media and the New York Post digital network, each with around 83 million visitors apiece. . February, according to Comscore.
The goal of achieving that goal in one year isn’t just difficult — it’s “delusional,” a longtime media executive close to Finkelstein and Beckman told The Post.
“It’s wishful thinking,” the exec said. “These are some ghosts from the past. If they were a public company, I wouldn’t invest in them.
Beckman is perhaps best known for a horrific “prank” gone wrong when he tried to get two co-workers – a Vogue advertising executive and a Vogue fashion director – to kiss after a meeting in advertising sale in 1999.
A source who has worked with Beckman – whose fierce commercial style has earned him the nickname ‘Mad Dog’ – told the Post that the North London native brings a ‘football hooligan approach to sales’: aggressive and intelligent, but some of his past behavior “wouldn’t fly today”.
Beckman ended up banging the executives’ heads – and breaking their noses, forcing Conde to pay a seven-figure settlement. Beckman was forced to apologize and attend counseling.
“If they all come out of this with just a broken nose, they’ll be lucky,” an insider joked.
Beckman has made numerous ‘pie-in-the-sky’ projections of more than $100 million in annual growth at other small media properties, the source said, adding that the executive typically sells his vision with “sizzling reels” that “cost a fortune”. ” TO DO.
(Beckman kicked off The Messenger with a sizzling reel featuring Dire Straits’ 80s hit “Money for Nothing,” The Times reported).
“Richard has had a very successful career and his reputation in the industry has been earned by generating billions of dollars in revenue,” Finkelstein said in a statement to the Post.
“He was hugely successful at Conde Nast and was also successful when he worked with me at Prometheus and The Hill, and that’s why he’s now here at The Messenger.”
Finkelstein also tapped digital traffic guru Neetzan Zimmerman, who worked at Gawker Media before working at The Hill. Between those gigs, Zimmerman helmed the social media app Whisper, where he became the target of a series of stories from The Guardian, which alleged the app incorrectly tracked its users’ locations.
Zimmerman called the reports a lie and The Guardian printed clarifications and corrections to its reports, but Zimmerman was suspended and left the company. An internal investigation by Whisper found no wrongdoing.
Meanwhile, insiders said The Messenger, which aims to cover topics ranging from news and politics to entertainment and sports from an unbiased angle, is struggling to attract top talent.
Among those passing on offers are Janice Min, whom he hired to revamp The Hollywood Reporter in 2009, former Hearst editor Joanna Coles and former Daily Beast editor John Avlon, sources said. sources at the Post.
Finkelstein chose former People editor Dan Wakeford, who left the magazine amid a wider restructuring last year, as editor of The Messenger. Other recruits include longtime Politico editor Marty Kady and former Entertainment Weekly editor Mary Margaret.
While job candidates said Finkelstein has dangled generous six-figure salaries, they say his plans appear ‘vague’, with few details about how the outfit will be structured and even where reporters will work. .
A handful of employees who have already signed on currently work at a WeWork in Midtown Manhattan, while Finkelstein runs the company from his home in West Palm Beach, Florida. The company is expected to move into an office in downtown Manhattan ahead of launch, sources said.
A media executive who worked with Finkelstein called the CEO “cunning,” but added that $50 million is just a fraction of the bill needed to launch a top-notch media property.
“If Jimmy was buying a house, he would negotiate the curtains to bring the price down, but it’s not an easy time for a new entrant,” the source said.
Sources close to Finkelstein said the tycoon has no plans to raise more capital for the project.
New York Post