Protocol, the tech news website launched by former Politico owner and publisher Robert Allbritton in early 2020, will shut down later this week and lay off dozens of employees, people familiar with the business told CNN on Tuesday. case.
Staff members were told at a town hall meeting on Tuesday that the news agency would stop publishing on its website on Thursday. The outlet’s flagship newsletter, Source Code, will continue to be published for several weeks, but all other newsletters will stop after Tuesday.
The news agency’s closure will affect around 60 staff, people familiar with the matter said. They will remain active employees until Friday, Dec. 16, and then be entitled to eight weeks of severance pay, the people added.
Allbritton announced the launch of Protocol in late 2019 to much buzz. The Washington media mogul told Vanity Fair at the time that he wanted to replicate Politico’s successful model for the tech industry.
“I wish it was as big, if not bigger, than Politico right now,” Allbritton told Vanity Fair in 2019.
But Protocol never had much luck. Shortly after its launch, the global pandemic unleashed brutal economic headwinds on the media industry, leading to staff reductions. Finally, when it looked like the outlet might gain a foothold as the pandemic’s grip on the economy lifted, German publishing giant Axel Springer struck a deal to buy Politico. This acquisition resulted in the integration of Protocol, which had operated independently, into Politico Media Group.
Goli Sheikholeslami, the chief executive of Political Media Group, has been working with Axel Springer for months to conduct a long-term strategic planning process to best position the company. The plan, people familiar with the matter said, is to double the size of the company by 2027.
But it comes as Big Tech companies have faced particularly tough economic conditions, making it particularly difficult for Protocol to generate revenue from ad sales to the industry, people familiar with the matter said.
“The reality is that the advertising market has tightened, particularly in the tech space, which has exacerbated some existing challenges typical of a new startup,” one person explained.
People familiar with the matter said Protocol would once again be well below revenue targets in 2022. And the outlook for next year looked bleak, given the deteriorating economy and the blows the tech industry was taking. endured in recent months.
After weighing several options, executives ultimately decided it didn’t make sense to continue operating Protocol, people familiar with the matter said. Instead, the decision was made to shut it down and bolster Politico’s tech coverage, where some displaced protocol staff might be able to find new roles.
“We very much appreciate the impact of journalism Protocol has produced, and I want to personally thank each of them for the unique talents they have brought to Protocol,” Sheikholeslami wrote in an email to staffers on Tuesday. afternoon. Sheikholeslami reiterated that Politico sees “great opportunity in tech coverage” and wants to “win the conversation about the future of tech the same way we do politics.”
As part of the long-term strategy review, Sheikholeslami was also expected to announce further changes to the Politico Media Group on Tuesday. Most notably, Politico US and EU will combine to form an operating company with a single management team.
This team will consist of Mark Dekan, Chief Operating Officer; Matt Kaminski, US Editor; Jamil Anderlini, Europe Editor; Cally Baute, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Business; Nicolas Sennegon, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Politico Europe; Rachel Loeffler, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Professional Affairs, United States; Meredith Jolivert, Vice President and General Counsel; and Brad Dayspring, vice president of marketing and communications.
Sheikholeslami said Claire Boussagol, CEO of Politico Europe, will also leave the company.
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