ThinkProgress, the flagship news site of the Democratic think tank Center for American Progress, is up for sale.
Staff were informed on Monday afternoon that the site would be sold off and a CAP official told The Daily Beast that the organization would begin looking for prospective buyers for the website, which has come under severe financial strains during the Trump era.
“Unfortunately, like so many other news outlets that have relied on advertising to fund its work, ThinkProgress has seen a significant drop in revenue in recent years, along with other financial strains. In addition, events over the last few years have underscored the divergent missions of American Progress and ThinkProgress,” said Navin Nayak, executive director of the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
“For all of these reasons, we announced to the ThinkProgress staff today that we are searching for a new publisher for the news site. This is a tough decision since ThinkProgress has been a part of CAP Action almost since its founding. While ThinkProgress' financial challenges are unsustainable for an organization like CAP Action, we are hopeful that there are publishers who would be better able to support ThinkProgress' mission and better positioned to maximize the significant value ThinkProgress has built up.”
Launched 14 years ago during the height of the Bush administration, ThinkProgress made a name for itself over time as an unapologetically progressive source of news and a launching pad for several major progressive luminaries. But the site, which is editorially independent from CAP, has struggled in recent years as advertising revenues have dried up and traffic has dipped. According to internal documents previously reviewed by The Daily Beast, the site was facing a $3 million gulf between revenues and expenses in 2019, with $350,000 of it made up by a shortfall in ad revenue and nearly $180,000 of it coming from a drop in expected online contributions.
ThinkProgress has never been profitable. In the past, it has made up its shortfalls with contributions from CAP and CAP donors. Several ThinkProgress alums told The Daily Beast that they believed that CAP could continue covering the deficit but had concluded that the site was too much of an editorial headache and too big a financial drain for them to rationalize doing so.
The site had already been shaving down payroll to try and close the financial gap, with staff size being reduced from the high of 40 to under 35. But according to a CAP official, the cuts were not enough to make it possible to continue operating the site.
It was not made immediately clear just how long CAP would look for a suitor for ThinkProgress and whether or not the site would be shuttered if no suitor was found. A CAP Action source said that they would “conduct a thorough and diverse search of potential publishers.”
Nor was it made clear how much, if anything, CAP would be asking for in return for control of the site. Despite its troubles, ThinkProgress continues to be a strong draw for progressive readers, with more than 12 million pageviews and 7.5 million unique visitors in June 2019 alone, a CAP official said.
One condition that Nayak did reveal is that CAP would consider the editorial leanings and ideology of prospective buyers.
“We will only entertain serious proposals from publishers and organizations who are genuinely interested in investing in ThinkProgress and supporting its mission,” said Nayak. “Our ideal outcome is for ThinkProgress to continue the important work done by its journalists under the auspices of a new entity.”