There’s an old-fashioned rivalry brewing between New York’s most notorious tabloid and the media startup founded by the former proprietor of The Hill and the Hollywood Reporter.
In recent weeks, publisher Jimmy Finkelstein has poached several current and former well-known staffers away from the New York Post to join the Messenger, his digital news site which promises to launch in May. Two people with knowledge of the conversations told Semafor that the Messenger hired former digital editor-in-chief of the New York Post Michelle Gotthelf — who last year settled a bitter sexual discrimination lawsuit against the paper — as a top editor.
She helped hire the Post’s rewrite guru Bruce Golding and its managing editor for politics Neil Sloane, a Messenger spokesperson confirmed — and there are likely to be more staff jumping ship from the Post to the Messenger in the coming days.
The tabloid responded in its news pages, where it quoted one skeptic calling the Messenger “a money pit helmed by old-school executives with ‘delusional’ ambitions” and another referring to Finkelstein’s crew of older male executives as “ghosts from the past.”
The Post’s skepticism is nearly universal in media circles, and I admit I can’t figure out how they’d reach those numbers for a general-interest news website in a tough ad market on the diminished, post-Facebook web.
In an interview with the New York Times, Finkelstein and other executives said that the company had raised $50 million, and planned to launch in less than two months with 175 people on staff. The news outlet is planning to eventually employ 550 journalists and generate more than $100 million in revenue next year. Wednesday, it acquired the political media startup Grid News, which came with an investment Grid’s Abu Dhabi-based backer, but little with little traffic or revenue.
Morning Brew publisher Jacob Donnelly questioned how the new publication planned to meet its extremely ambitious audience and sales goals amid stiff competition and weakness in the advertising market.
“It will not have anywhere near 100 million monthly readers over the next five years,” he wrote. “The days of hacking your way to monumental traffic numbers are behind us. The platforms are far stingier with referral traffic than they used to be.”
Room for Disagreement
My colleague Steve Clemons, who worked with Finkelstein at The Hill, writes that he has confidence that his former boss and his team can leapfrog many and achieve those numbers.
“Everyone is looking through politics as the lens for readership — Jimmy is going after lots of other verticals that will go viral,” he wrote in a Semafor Slack discussion of the Messenger.