NewsLabs Folds, Creator Apologizes for Lost Promises

Romenesko has obtained emails that announce the folding of NewsLabs, which comes less than three months after the start-up’s launch.

“Paul [Biggar, NewsLabs CEO] decided to leave NewsLabs two weeks ago and I gave serious thought to continuing without him. Ultimately, however, I came to the conclusion that it would be better to break cleanly than to continue,” wrote NewsLabs CTO Nathon Chong in an email to NewsLabs freelancers.

NewsLabs jumped into the media scene in March, when it called for freelancers to sign up on its platform. While the journalist provided the content, Newslabs did everything else; at least that’s what the original job posting promised.

We handle everything else: making money, getting readers, online marketing, etc. Whether you are freelancing, laid off, or still successfully employed, now is the time to move online, and we can make it as painless and profitable as it can be.

The business plan was to use ads to earn money, and NewsLabs would only keep 20 cents on the dollar for continued operations, while the writer kept the rest. The ad even specifically said salaries would range from $30,000-$70,000 a year.

But it seemed too good to be true, and in his email Chong apologizes for making promises he and his partner couldn’t keep.

In retrospect, I now believe that we should never have made promises about building your online brand or large amounts of traffic (early email threads about how to deal with large number of comments now seem very ironic). If I could rewind and start again then I believe the pitch for NewsLabs should have been simpler and much more realistic: we will build you a technology platform and strive to work hard for you as programmers… but we cannot magically generate you an online brand or guarantee traffic.