Say Media Says Yes To $27M, Will Build Out Publishing Platform, Buy More Assets

Another milestone for online publishing company SAY Media, just 10 days after it had announced that Time Magazine publisher Kim Kelleher would be coming on board as president in September: today it confirmed that it has raised $27 million in funding, which it will use to make acquisitions and enhance its publishing platform.

The round was led by new investors New Enterprise Associates, Shea Ventures and Correlation Ventures, and also had participation from existing investors August Capital, First Round Capital, Maveron, WPP, Focus Ventures and Neoteny. Paul Hsiao, a partner at NEA, will be joining SAY’s board.

Although much smaller, SAY comes into the category of companies like (TechCrunch owner) AOL, which has looked to leverage its online expertise and ad sales business model with the ownership of online publishing assets, as well as traditional publishers have made moves into online publishing content to go after those same ad dollars. SAY’s approach is to seek out specific verticals (tech, fashion, etc.) and build up audience in these as a way of increasing the value of engagement for the brands that choose SAY for its online ad distribution. CEO Matt Sanchez describes it as “the intersection of Madison Avenue and Silicon Valley” and calls it the “future of media.” “This funding round is a validation of our strategy,” he said in a statement.

NEA, as background, has one of the most successful track records in the VC industry — investing in companies lie Groupon, Millennial Media, Evernote and — and that in itself makes the investment eye-catching.

SAY Media will be using some of its new cash injection to further what it already does by tapping more into new platforms beyond the basic web for expression — a strategy endorsed by NEA’s Hsiao: “The rapid adoption of mobile devices, video and social Web is transforming how passionate editors and global brand marketers create engaging content and community,” said Hsiao in a statement. He notes that the market for ads in this space is worth some $60 billion “as brands continue to shift ad budget from print and TV to next generation media channels.”

It will also be looking at acquisitions. SAY, which was formed from the merger of Six Apart and Video Egg, has already been doing a some of that, buying sites like Remodelista, ReadWriteWeb, XOJane and Dogster; and on top of that has “exclusive partnerships” to sell ads into other sites that include Fashionista, Gear Patrol and Food52 — in all, some 500 publishing sites are in its network, totalling a global audience of 400 million.

The question now, is whether those acquisitions will continue to be in the area of “traditional” blogs, or whether we will see the company following Hsiao’s “rapid adoption” of mobile and other formats to focus attention elsewhere.