Venture capital investors have moved into relatively new territory: the media industry, particularly online media outlets like Refinery29, Mashable, and Buzzfeed. Whereas venture capitalists at one point wouldn’t be caught dead anywhere near a journalistic endeavor, they’re now clamoring to invest in these up and coming media outlets.
According to CB Insights data, digital news and media companies raised $813 million in 2014—up from $331 million in 2013. Big names such as Bezos Expeditions, Time Warner Investments, and Hearst Corp. were the powerhouses behind these deals.
While the big benefits so far have mostly gone to New York-based companies, others outside the area have been a part of notable deals in the past year as well. Vox Media, for instance, secured $46.5 million and the addition of Chris Lanning of General Atlantic to their board.
So why the online media industry? “Suddenly, the market for content just opened up,” said Sarah Lacy, founder of PandoDaily, which has received about $4 million in venture capital since 2012. “It’s dramatically changed….And they’re trying to speak to a very specific audience that’s hard to reach in a deeply authentic way.”
In other words, these sorts of content-creating and/or curating businesses are now seen as profitable and professional. Whereas once the idea of investing in journalism wasn’t appealing, the increasing technological aspects—not to mention the focused expertise on internet community building, social media, and creative use of user-generated content—has changed the game.
Of course, these investments are made only after scrutinizing the media companies on a case-by-case basis. But with technological advancements and the increasing relevance of online interactions in the average person’s life, media sites are becoming a far more solid, appealing investment.
Still, it’s interesting to note that the whole concept of “journalism” can scare off some investors, who seem more likely to focus their attentions on media companies that leverage user-generated content versus creating all content completely from scratch.
In any event, the increasing desire to engage with news, and online content in general, has venture capitalists branching out into the media industry with far-reaching effects, the full nature of which only time will tell.