Protocol, the tech start-up news site that former Politico owner and publisher Robert Albritton launched in early 2020, will shut down later this week and lay off dozens of employees, people familiar with the matter told CNN on Tuesday.
Employees were told at an All Hands meeting Tuesday that the news organization will stop publishing on its website on Thursday. The outlet’s main newsletter, Source Code, will continue publishing for several more weeks, but all other newsletters will cease after Tuesday.
People familiar with the matter said the news organization’s closure would affect approximately 60 employees. The people added that they will remain active employees until Friday, December 16, after which they will be eligible for eight weeks of severance.
Albriton announced the launch of the protocol in late 2019 to great fanfare. Media mogul in Washington said Vanity Fair At the time he wanted to replicate Politico’s successful model for the tech industry.
“I would like this to be as big as Politico now, if not bigger,” Albritton told Vanity Fair in 2019.
But the protocol hasn’t had much luck. Shortly after its launch, the global pandemic unleashed brutal economic headwinds on the media industry, leading to some staff cuts. Finally, just when it looked like the outlet might be settling into full swing as the pandemic’s grip on the economy tightened, German publishing giant Axel Springer struck a deal to buy Politico. This acquisition resulted in Protocol, which had operated independently, being folded into the Politico Media Group.
Julie Sheikh El Islami, CEO of the Political Media Group, has been working for months with Axel Springer to conduct a long-term strategic planning process to best position the company. People familiar with the matter said the plan is to double the size of the company by 2027.
But this comes as big tech companies have faced particularly tough economic conditions, making it particularly difficult for Protocol to generate revenue from ad sales in the sector, people familiar with the matter said.
“The reality is that the ad market has tightened, particularly in technology, which has exacerbated some of the existing challenges that are typical of a new startup,” one person explained.
The people familiar with the matter said that the protocol will again fall significantly short of its revenue targets in 2022. The outlook for next year appears bleak, given the deteriorating economy and the battering of the tech industry that it has suffered in recent months.
After evaluating several options, executives ultimately decided it didn’t make sense to continue operating the protocol, people familiar with the matter said. Instead, the decision was made to close it and boost technology coverage at Politico, where some of the displaced protocol staff may be able to find new roles.
As part of an assessment of the long-term strategy, Sheikh Al Islami was also set on Tuesday to announce other changes at Politico Media Group. In particular, Politico US and EU will combine to form a single operating company with a single executive team.
This team will consist of Mark Deccan, Chief Operating Officer; Matt Kaminsky, US Editor-in-Chief; Jamil Anderlini, Editor-in-Chief of Europe; Callie Baute, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Consumer Business; Nicolas Sinigone, Executive Vice President and Managing Director, Politico Europe; Rachel Loeffler, Executive Vice President and General Manager, Professional Business, US; Meredith Gulliver, Vice President and General Counsel; and Brad Dayspring, Vice President of Marketing and Communications.
Sheikhul Islam said Claire Bouzagol, the chief executive of Politico Europe, would also leave the company.
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