Huffington Post raises $25M round
Times are tough for traditional newspapers, with increasing numbers of people choosing to get information online in real time rather than read yesterday's news. Among the chief beneficiaries in the media industry are online companies such as HuffingtonPost.com Inc., which said Monday, Dec. 1, the company has raised $25 million in Series C funding from Oak Investment Partners.
The New York company, which made its name dispensing political news and commentary, has enjoyed soaring readership over the past year by expanding into other types of content. According to comScore Inc., in October the site drew nearly 5 million unique visitors, more than four times the 1.2 million visitors it had the previous year. By comparison, traffic on another well-known politics Web site, The Drudge Report, increased over the same period from 1.3 million visitors to 2 million. A smaller Web site, Dailykos.com, saw the number of visitors on its site rise from 265,000 to 1.1 million.
In addition to political commentary, Huffington Post provides news on business, the media and entertainment, with separate channels for lifestyle news, style and "green" issues. According to a statement, the company will use the new funding to build out its technology infrastructure, expand its content offerings and increase advertising. Its expansion plans could include more localized sites akin to the recently launched HuffPost Chicago, its first channel devoted to politics in Chicago. Huffington Post also plans to make some "select and focused acquisitions."
"HuffingtonPost has proved that it can be a key voice in the current online discourse by continuing to significantly grow its traffic since its inception," said Brad Bowers, founder and managing director of BlackInc Ventures LLC, a San Francisco Internet advisory firm. "They've worked hard to diversify their editorial content and evolve beyond primarily political coverage. This is key, as they'll need this expanded content to help them to attract readers with now that the election is over."
Andrew Lipsman, senior manager of industry analysis with comScore, said Huffington Posts' traffic is likely to level off now that the presidential election is over, but he does not expect a precipitous decline.
Including the latest funding round, Huffington Post, has raised a total of $37 million, including a $5 million Series B round last September. The company has 47 employees.
The funding comes on the heels of some other high-profile deals involving new media companies. In July, London media firm Guardian News and Media Ltd. paid $30 million to acquire media news Web site paidConent.org. In May, Conde Nast Publications of New York acquired technology blog Ars Technica for a reported $25 million. Also, New York Web site Silicon Alley Insider in July raised $1 million in Series A funding in a round that included participation by HuffingtonPost co-founder Ken Lerer.
Michael Maxworthy, partner with New York-based Marlin & Associates, a boutique investment bank for the digital information sector, said companies like Huffington and paidContent that are proven leaders in their field will continue to receive interest from investors or potential acquirers.
"If there are companies in a niche that lead the niche and are still growing top line and bottom line during the correction, they're going to command a very high price," he said.