SmartNews, a Tokyo-headquartered news aggregator website and app that is gaining popularity despite stiff competition from integrated aggregators like Apple News, today announced the closing of a $ 230 funding round. million Series F dollars. The round takes SmartNews’ total increase to date to over $ 400 million and values the company at $ 2 billion – or as the company touts in its press release, a “double unicorn”. (Ha!)
The 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 participating in this cycle included ACA Investments and SMBC Venture Capital.
Founded in 2012 in Japan, the company launched in the United States in 2014 and expanded its presence in local news early last year. While the app’s content team includes former journalists, machine learning is used to choose which stories are shown to readers in order to personalize their experience. However, one of the main differentiators of the app is the way it works to pop users’ “filter bubbles” through its “News from all sides” feature, which allows its users to access the news. news from different political perspectives.
It has also developed new products, like its COVID-19 vaccine scorecard and US election scorecard, which provide critical information at a glance. With the additional funds, the company has announced plans to develop more features for its American audience – one of the largest, besides Japan – which will focus on consumer health and safety. These will be rolled out in the coming months and will include features for forest fire tracking and crime and safety reports. He also recently launched a hurricane tracker.
The aggregator’s business model is largely focused on advertising, as the company has previously said that 85 to 90 percent of Americans don’t pay to subscribe to news. But SmartNews’ belief is that these news consumers always have the right to access quality news.
In total, SmartNews maintains relationships with more than 3,000 global publisher partners whose content is available through its service on the web and mobile devices.
To generate revenue, the company sells online ads and video ads, where the revenue is shared with publishers. More than 75% of its publisher partners also benefit from its “SmartView” functionality. This is the app’s browsing mode, an alternative to something like Google AMP. Here, users can quickly load an article to read, even if they are offline. The company promises publishers that these mobile-friendly stories, which are marked with a lightning bolt icon in the app, deliver higher engagement – and its algorithm rewards this type of content, bringing them more readers. SmartView partners include well-known brands like USA Today, ABC, HuffPost and others. Currently, over 70% of all SmartNews pageviews come from SmartView first.
The SmartNews app has proven to be very sticky, in terms of attracting and retaining users’ attention. The company tells us, citing data from App Annie from July 2021, that it sees an average time spent per user per month on U.S. mobile devices that is higher than Google News or Apple News combined.
The company declined to share its monthly active users (MAUs), but said in 2019 that it had grown to 20 million in the United States and Japan. Today, he says his US MAUs have doubled in the past year.
According to data provided by Apptopia, the SmartNews app has registered around 85 million downloads since its launch in October 2014, and 14 million of them have taken place in the last 365 days. Japan is the largest install market, accounting for 59% of lifetime downloads, the company noted.
“This latest round of funding further confirms 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 the co-founder and CEO of SmartNews, Ken Suzuki. “Our investors in the United States and around the world recognize the enormous 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 to invest in further growth in the United States and to expand the company’s team. Since her last fundraiser in 2019, where she became a unicorn, the company has more than doubled its workforce to reach around 500 people worldwide. it now plans to double its workforce to 100 in the United States, with additions in engineering, product and leadership roles.
The Wall Street Journal reports that SmartNews is considering an IPO, but the company declined to comment on this.
The SmartNews app is available on iOS and Android in over 150 countries around the world.