Protocol, the tech news-focused site, will shut down and lay off its entire workforce – CNN | CarTailz


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Protocol, the technology news site launched in early 2020 by former Politico owner and publisher Robert Allbritton, will shut down later this week and lay off dozens of employees, people familiar with the matter told CNN on Tuesday.

Staff were told at an all-staff meeting on Tuesday that the news organization would stop publishing on its website on Thursday. The outlet’s flagship newsletter, Source Code, will continue to be published for a few more weeks, but all other newsletters will be discontinued after Tuesday.

The closure of the news organization will affect about 60 employees, people familiar with the matter said. They will remain active employees until Friday, December 16, when they will be entitled to an eight-week severance package, the people added.

Allbritton announced the launch of Protocol in late 2019 to much fanfare. The Washington media mogul told Vanity Fair at the time that he wanted to replicate Politico’s winning model for the tech industry.

“I’d love for this to be as big, if not bigger, than Politico is right now,” Allbritton told Vanity Fair in 2019.

But Protocol never had much luck. Shortly after launch, the global pandemic unleashed brutal economic headwinds for the media industry, leading to some staff cuts. Finally, when it looked like the outlet might be able to regain a foothold as the pandemic’s hold on the economy began to unravel, German publishing giant Axel Springer struck a deal to buy Politico. This acquisition resulted in Protocol, which had previously operated independently, being merged into Politico Media Group.

Goli Sheikholeslami, the CEO of Political Media Group, has been working with Axel Springer for months to conduct a long-term strategic planning process to optimally position the company. The company is set to double in size by 2027, people familiar with the matter said.

But it comes as big tech companies have faced particularly difficult economic conditions, making it particularly difficult for Protocol to generate revenue from advertising sales to the sector, people familiar with the matter said.

“The reality is that the ad market is tight, particularly in the technology space, which has exacerbated some existing challenges that are typical of a new startup,” explained one person.

People familiar with the matter said that Protocol will again fall significantly short of revenue targets in 2022. And the outlook for next year looked bleak given the deteriorating economy and battered tech industry in recent months.

After considering several options, executives finally decided there was no point in continuing to operate Protocol, people familiar with the matter said. Instead, the decision was made to close it down and increase technology coverage at Politico, where some displaced Protocol employees may be able to find new assignments.

“We greatly appreciate the impact of journalism that Protocol has produced, and I would like to personally thank each of them for the unique talents they have brought to Protocol,” Sheikholeslami wrote in an email to staff Tuesday afternoon . Sheikholeslami reiterated that Politico “sees a great opportunity in technology reporting” and “wants to win the conversation about the future of technology the same way we do politics”.

As part of the long-term strategy review, Sheikholeslami was also scheduled to announce additional changes at Politico Media Group on Tuesday. Specifically, Politico US and EU will combine to form one operating company with a single leadership team.

This team consists of Mark Dean, Chief Operating Officer; Matt Kaminski, Editor-in-Chief USA; Jamil Anderlini, Editor-in-Chief Europe; 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 Business, US; Meredith Jolivert, Vice President and General Counsel; and Brad Dayspring, vice president of marketing and communications.

Sheikhholeslami said Claire Boussagol, CEO of Politico Europe, will also be leaving the company.

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