Protocol Closes Its Doors and Lays Off All of Its Staff after a Failure to Reach Revenue Goals

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on November 16, 2022

Technology news website Protocol closes its doors: Protocol started in February 2020 with the goal of covering the “evolving power center of tech.” However, in just under three years, the publication is coming to an end as it closes its doors and lays off all of its staff, which includes dozens of people.

Protocol’s beginnings: Protocol was founded by Politico owner and publisher Robert Allbritton in 2020. However, he announced the launch one year prior, stating that he wanted to replicate Politico’s model with a focus on the tech industry. “I would love for this to be as big as, if not larger than, Politico is right now,” he told Vanity Fair.

  • Allbritton’s ambitions never came to fruition. The rise of the global pandemic hit the media industry hard, and the startup was forced to cut staff early on.
  • As Protocol seemed poised to regain its footing, a deal closed involving Politico. The deal saw the startup, which operated independently, being folded into Politico Media Group.

Closure announcement: The announcement regarding Protocol was revealed to staffers at an all-hands meeting on Tuesday, where they were informed that the company would stop publishing articles on its website come Thursday. The company’s newsletters also came to a halt Tuesday, with the exception of Source Code, the flagship newsletter that will continue for a few more weeks.

  • Protocol said its farewell in a post on the website, which revealed its plans to wrap up everything, including Source Code, by December.

Challenging economic conditions: Behind the scenes, Politico Media Group has been working to create a plan to best position the company. The desire was to double the size by 2027, but firms have faced difficult economic conditions. That is especially so when it comes to Big Tech, Protocol’s primary focus.

Because of the tough times, the startup has found itself struggling to generate revenue. In part, that is because it relied on ad sales. With the ad-driven model failing, it put a lot of pressure on Protocol, ultimately leading to the startup’s failure to hit revenue goals. The startup is reportedly coming in well under 2022 revenue goals as well.

  • According to one individual, “The reality is that the ad market tightened, particularly in the tech space, which exacerbated some existing challenges that are typical of a new startup.”
  • With the outlook for next year being just as grim, if not more so, executives decided against continuing operations at Protocol.

What will happen to employees? The entire staff of Protocol was laid off with news of the startup’s closure. However, there is a possibility that some of them will be taken under Politico’s wing. The decision to close Protocol was made with the idea of covering technology news at Politico, so it will likely need new staff members.

“We have great appreciation for the impact of the journalism that Protocol has produced, and I want to personally thank each of them for the unique talents they brought to Protocol,” said Goli Sheikholeslami, the chief executive of Politico Media Group. He additionally stated that Politico sees “great opportunity in technology coverage.”

  • There are also changes happening at Politico Media Group, which include the combination of Politico US and EU. The executive team will become one, forming a single operational company. Claire Boussagol, CEO of Politico Europe, will be leaving the company.

Is the current media model working? Many companies have struggled to make things work with ad-driven models as the economy continues to worsen. The close of Protocol is a single example, and it is a blow to the media industry that suggests that the current media model is broken.

By Spencer Hulse Spencer Hulse has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Spencer Hulse is the Editorial Director at Grit Daily. He is responsible for overseeing other editors and writers, day-to-day operations, and covering breaking news.

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