Media startup the Messenger got off to a rocky launch that was met with widespread ridicule about its story selection and “delusional” traffic goals — considering the difficulty of finding the site.
The brainchild of former Hollywood Reporter part-owner Jimmy Finkelstein, the Messenger went online on Monday after a months-long buildup fueled by a reported $50 million venture capital infusion.
Media industry observers have blasted Finkelstein as “delusional” for his stated ambition of attracting 100 million monthly readers in a year’s time — all while turning a profit in an intensely competitive landscape in which outlets are fighting for dwindling advertising dollars.
Reaching Finkelstein’s lofty goals seemed even more improbable considering how difficult it was to find the site after it launched.
A Google search for “The Messenger” didn’t bring up the site as one of the first options — instead offering up an Iowa-based news service with the same name.
“Like with any new media platform, it takes a period of time to index on Google, which will happen shortly,” a company spokesperson told The Post on Tuesday.
The rep would not reveal how many people visited the site its first day, but claimed: “We’ve hit our traffic numbers earlier than expected and it has all been organic.”
Finkelstein, who hopes the site will appeal to a wide swath of Americans in the same vein as “60 Minutes” and Vanity Fair magazine, has said he hopes to eventually employ some 550 journalists in offices in New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.
The site sought to make a splash in its debut by featuring an interview with former President Donald Trump.
But many were ready to, figuratively at least, shoot The Messenger.
There’s a “discrepancy with what they promised and what they turned out to be,” a media source said, noting that Finkelstein is friends with Trump and the interview was a “softball interview.”
The source said the site, which is being run by former People editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford, is missing a hard-news edge.
“It feels like People magazine,” the source said, citing Wakeford’s soft touch.
“The interview [with Trump] feels like it belongs in an entertainment magazine. It had no follow-up questions and no real questions,” the source said.
Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at New York University, said that the Messenger was launched “with as few ideas as possible.”
“In fact, zero seems to be the target number and, heck, they may get there,” Rosen told the Wrap.
Dan Froomkin, a veteran journalist who edits the media watchdog site Press Watch, blasted the site for commissioning a survey which found that a majority of Americans have a preference for “more objective media” — one of Finkelstein’s key selling points.
“Nothing says ‘credible and objective’ like paying for a poll to show how desperate the nation is for a news organization like yours,” Froomkin tweeted, adding: “Dimwits.”
Scott Nover, a technology and business reporter for Quartz, noted on Twitter: “I would dunk on The Messenger but I googled the site’s name and cannot find it.”
Others gave more technical criticism about that the site’s “SEO [search engine optimization] strategy,” saying it was “not quite ready to support $100 million in year one ad revenue.”
Aram Zucker-Scharff, a privacy engineer, tweeted that the Messenger failed to grasp “the modern basics of SEO set up pre-launch.”
“Between the lack of modern SEO and the ad configuration I’m getting 2015 vibes all around,” Zucker-Scharff tweeted.
Zucker-Scharff also took issue with “just the s—-iest possible Outbrain configuration.”
Outbrain is a web recommendation platform used by publishers to drive traffic to their websites.
Twitter user Jon Christian summed up the tough road the site faces to win over critics.
“[You] gotta respect how The Messenger talked a HUGE talk about revolutionizing journalism that would heal a divided nation, then started churning out viral dumpster juice literally the day it launched,” he tweeted.
Christian included a screenshot of a Messenger post linking to a news story about two people being arrested “after cocaine drops out of fake pregnant belly.”
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