Longform journalism startup Byliner is in trouble and says its future is unclear

It’s no secret that I was bullish on Byliner, the e-singles startup that launched with a splash in 2011 with bestselling author Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit.” That e-single, which exposed Three Cups of Tea author Greg Mortenson as a fraud, briefly became the #1 bestselling nonfiction title on Amazon and remained on the Kindle Singles bestseller list seven months later.

Byliner went on to launch new initiatives like subscriptions and signed deals to bring its works into print. The company’s innovation — and partnerships with companies like the New York Times — was one reason I declared 2012 the year of the e-single. The hiring of Deanna Brown, the former CEO of Federated Media and Inside.com, as president in 2013 also seemed as if it could be promising.

But it looks as if I was moving too fast: In recent months we haven’t heard much from Byliner, and news emerged Tuesday that Byliner emailed its authors telling them the future of the company is unclear.

In an email obtained in full by PandoDaily, Byliner writes, in part:

“We’ve struggled to reach the level of growth we’d been hoping for the business, and thus we’ve begun conversations with possible partners about the future of Byliner. We’re working to find a good home for our platform and your stories, and we’ll be in touch shortly with specifics about your titles. If you have immediate questions about your revenue reports and payments, please use [email protected]

The email follows a report in The Information late last month that Byliner co-founder Mark Bryant, a former editor of Outside and Men’s Journal magazines, had stepped down.

I’ve asked Byliner CEO John Tayman for comment and will update this post if I hear back.