Business

News aggregator SmartNews raises $ 230 million, valuing its business at $ 2 billion

SmartNews, a Tokyo-based news aggregation website and app that has gained popularity despite stiff competition from built-in aggregators such as Apple News, announced today that it has closed $ 230 million in Series F funding. Round brings the total SmartNews increase to date to more than $ 400 million and values ​​the business at $ 2 billion, or as the company touts in its press release, a “double unicorn.” (Say ah!)

Funding included new US investors Princeville Capital and Woodline Partners, as well as JIC Venture Growth Investments, Green Co-Invest Investment and Yamauchi-No.10 Family Office in Japan. Existing investors that participated in this round included ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital.

Founded in 2012 in Japan, the company launched to the US in 2014 and expanded its local news presence early last year. While the app’s content team includes former journalists, machine learning is used to choose which articles are shown to readers to personalize their experience. However, one of the key differentiators of the app is how it works to pop users’ “filter bubbles” through its “News from All Sides” feature, which allows users to access news from a variety of of political perspectives.

It has also developed new products, such as its COVID-19 Vaccine Dashboard and US Elections Dashboard, that provide critical information at a glance. With the additional funding, the company says it plans to develop more features for its US audience, one of the largest, in addition to Japan, which will focus on consumer health and safety. These will be rolled out in the coming months and will include features for tracking wildfires and crime and security reporting. It also recently launched a hurricane tracker.

The aggregator’s business model is heavily focused on advertising, as the company has previously said that 85-90% of Americans don’t pay to subscribe to news. But the SmartNews belief is that these news consumers still have the right to access quality information.

In total, SmartNews has relationships with more than 3,000 global publishing partners whose content is available through its service on the web and mobile devices.

To generate revenue, the business sells online ads and video ads, where the revenue is shared with publishers. More than 75% of its publishing partners also take advantage of its “SmartView” feature. This is the speed reading mode of the app, an alternative to something like Google AMP. Here, users can quickly upload an article to read, even if they are offline. The company promises publishers that these mobile-optimized stories, which are marked with a lightning bolt icon in the app, deliver greater engagement, and its algorithm rewards that type of content, attracting more readers. SmartView partners include well-known brands such as USA Today, ABC, HuffPost, and others. Currently, more than 70% of all SmartNews page views come first from SmartView.

The SmartNews app has proven to be very sticky in terms of attracting and holding users’ attention. The company tells us, citing data from the Annie app from July 2021, that it sees average time per user per month on US mobile devices higher than Google News or Apple News combined.

Image Credits: App Annie data provided by SmartNews

The company refused to share its monthly active users (MAU), but had said in 2019 that it had grown to 20 million in the United States and Japan. Today, he says his US MAUs have doubled over the last year.

According to the data provided by Apptopia, the SmartNews application has had around 85 million downloads since its launch in October 2014, and 14 million of them took place in the last 365 days. Japan is the largest market for installations, accounting for 59% of downloads for life, the firm said.

“This latest round of funding further affirms the strength of our mission and fuels our drive to expand our presence and launch features that specifically appeal to users and publishers in the United States,” said SmartNews Co-Founder and CEO Ken Suzuki. “Our investors both in the United States and globally recognize the tremendous growth potential and value of SmartNews’ efforts to democratize access to information and create an ecosystem that benefits consumers, publishers and advertisers,” he added .

The company says the new funds will be used

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