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Politico founder to shut down struggling tech site Protocol

Protocol, the two-year-old technology news website launched by former Politico owner and publisher Robert Allbritton, is shutting down.

Staffers were informed at an all-hands meeting Tuesday that the site will stop publishing on Thursday, CNN first reported.

Protocol’s flagship newsletter, Source Code, will continue to operate for “several more weeks,” but its various other newsletters will shutdown immediately, CNN said.

The site’s roughly 60 staffers will be let go after Dec. 16 and will be eligible for eight weeks of severance, sources told CNN.

A rep for the company confirmed to The Post that Protocol will shut down.

Media mogul Allbritton launched Protocol in 2020 as a companion to Politico, which he funded with $50 million in 2018.

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

Robert Allbritton
Robert Allbritton launched Protocol in 2019 in the hopes of replicating Politico’s successful business model.
Getty Images

But Protocol, which covers tech-related news from streaming and artificial intelligence to gaming and electric vehicles, never gained traction. The site faced massive headwinds, launching during the global pandemic, a time when advertising budgets were squeezed and spending was curtailed, which led to job cuts.

In 2021, Allbritton sold Politico to German publisher Axel Springer, which resulted in Protocol being folded into Politico Media Group. Since then, Politico Media’s CEO Goli Sheikholeslami has been working with Axel Springer on a long-term review of the company to grow its footprint.

Sources told CNN that they’ve planned to double the size of the company by 2027, but that weakness in the tech sector had dampened Protocol’s future.

“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,” an anonymous source said.

Protocol “significantly” missed revenue targets in 2022 and the economic outlook for 2023 is looking tough, sources said, explaining the decision to shutter the site.

The company said that Politico will beef up its tech coverage instead. As part of the plan, Sheikholeslami said the company will also combine Politico US and EU to form one operational company with one single executive team.

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