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Employees at the “non-partisan” media startup are increasingly concerned about The Messenger’s financial health and are quietly pushing for unionization of the newsroom. At the same time, they are calling on management to hold a town hall meeting to address their myriad concerns, the situation told Confider.
Sources say among the issues employees would like to see addressed is the outlet’s recent partnership with an AI company, The Messenger’s president Richard “Mad Dog” Beckman Suggesting to others that the site is “out of money” and the internal secrecy of site traffic.
In addition, employees wonder why editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford It remains MIA, especially given the increasing bumps in the road in front of the property, according to the owner Jimmy Finkelstein has made it his mission to regularly send story ideas and tips to editors, a task generally reserved for Wakeford. However, a Messenger spokesperson claimed that Wakeford still had “full editorial control” and that Finkelstein was merely making “editorial suggestions to the team.”
The Messenger launched in May with the big promises of booming traffic and huge drops in sales. Just months into its existence, key executives left, citing clashes with Beckman, who was nicknamed “Mad Dog” for his brutal leadership style at Conde Nast.
While reporters already complain about the reliance on “clickbait” journalism and aggregation to generate large amounts of content, the newsroom was stunned this month by the announcement that the site was partnering with Seekr, an AI company.
According to the Press release, the “strategic partnership” would serve to flag “clickbait” and “eliminate bias.” This of course left the employees confused due to the proliferation of sensational headlines on the site, but also concerns that these will essentially be replaced by AI bots.
Continuing to fuel the firestorm, sources said, was the messenger’s job very positive story about the company two weeks before the partnership was announced.
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The fallout from the collaboration, which employees said left them “blindsided,” was made worse by internal comments from Beckman — the one Who made These unbiased promises of $100 million in sales within the first year mean the site is in financial trouble. (A spokesperson for The Messenger disputes this characterization, telling Confider that the site is “doing exceptionally well” and is expected to be profitable by the end of 2024, adding that “there is no question that we will remain afloat.” )
This led to employees using the site’s Slack channels and urging management to hold a town hall event to address these concerns. Sources said there was growing and active union organizing behind the scenes on the part of reporters, which could finally be addressed openly in a full meeting.
Employees have also been upset that management closely guards access to the site’s Chartbeat, which provides data and analysis on online traffic. According to people familiar with the matter, only senior editors are allowed to see the data on Finkelstein’s behalf, raising concerns that traffic is declining and advertising revenue is falling, especially since the site is still largely on relies on poorly paid programmatic advertising.
Based on Similarwebs External traffic analysisThe Messenger is currently ranked 195th among U.S. news sites, achieving similar numbers to local news outlets in Texas.
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