This reporting is featured in this week’s edition of Confider, the newsletter pulling back the curtain on the media. Subscribe here and send your questions, tips, and complaints here.
The honeymoon is well and truly over at The Messenger, where just four months since launching two key business executives have quit and others are looking to leave, Confider has learned.
Mia Libby, who joined The Messenger as chief revenue officer in November last year, resigned earlier this month, and Stephanie Parker, who was head of marketing since December, has also exited the troubled startup. Three people familiar with the situation say both women resigned following clashes with Richard Beckman, The Messenger’s president, who earned the nickname “Mad Dog” for his hard-charging ways at Condé Nast, where he once broke an employee’s nose.
“Beckman is at the center of the problems—the two women left because of him. More are looking to leave,” one well-placed Messenger mole told Confider. Beckman wildly claimed in an interview before the launch that The Messenger planned to turn a profit and generate an eye-watering $100 million in revenue in 2024, but thus far the only prominent advertiser the site has consistently drawn has been Interactive Brokers LLC, a firm that buys and sells stocks, bonds, and some crypto.
Libby, who previously served as CRO at The Daily Beast, was giddy just a few months ago when The Messenger went live. “I am so proud to be a part of today’s historic launch of The Messenger,” she posted to LinkedIn. “We’ve worked for months to build a media brand that’s absent bias and subjectivity alongside verticals that feed your passions. Today is the start of that mission.”
Staffers who spoke with Confider said she and others have bailed on that “mission” because of Beckman and his fantasyland projections for revenue and scale. There had already been an extraordinary number of notable exits from the fledgling site, with multiple editors quitting just days after the launch.
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At least a half-dozen staffers who remain at The Messenger have griped to Confider that editor-in-chief Dan Wakeford has yet to articulate any editorial vision to the newsroom and shows a distinct lack of enthusiasm for leading the publication. “There’s different verticals and different editors leading their fiefdoms but not one person making sure things work together,” one senior staffer lamented to Confider. Libby and Parker declined to comment.
In a statement to Confider, a Messenger flack wrote: “Two-thirds of our business team are women, and the Company supports women at all levels of the organization. Regarding Mia, she did a wonderful job and built a great team. She ultimately felt ready to run her own show. Stephanie is a talented woman, and as part of the marketing team, she reported to our Chief Brand Officer, formerly head of marketing at Citibank. We currently have 300 people at the Company and continue to grow. Naturally, we have had a small amount of attrition over that time.”
Regarding advertising revenue, the spokesperson added: “We have several large advertisers on board with dozens of brands joining us in Q4 and 2024.”
And on Wakeford’s leadership, the PR rep wrote: “Every editorial staff member is inducted into the Company with an understanding of the mission from our editorial playbook and from Dan. Dan holds daily meetings with senior staff who manage the execution of the editorial mission. To allege a lack of communication is ludicrous.”