The News Lens, an independent news site based in Taipei, has scooped up its Series A. The exact amount of the funding was undisclosed, but the startup tells TechCrunch it was between $1 million to $2 million.
Participants include returning investor North Base Media, a firm created by former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editor Marcus Brauchli and Media Development Loan Fund founder Sasa Vucinic to support independent media in emerging markets, as well as 500 Startups; Lionrock Capital founder and chief executive officer Hari Kumar; venture capitalist Herbert Chang; and angel investor Jim Wu.
The capital will be used to launch an iOS and Android app next month and continue The News Lens’ expansion into markets beyond Taiwan. The site was originally launched in 2013 to provide an independent and analytical alternative to the country’s newspapers, which are known for their strong political biases and obsessive coverage of minor celebrity gossip.
Since then, it has expanded its operations to Hong Kong, where it now has an office, and Southeast Asia. The News Lens currently claims five million monthly unique visitors, with nearly one million from outside of Taiwan. Its audience skews young, with 75 percent between the ages of 18 to 35.
The News Lens publishes its own news and analysis, and also has content-sharing agreements with publications such as The Wall Street Journal, GQ, and Malaysiakini, an alternative Malaysian media organization. Its Hong Kong office will contribute original coverage about mainland China.
Founder Joey Chung says that The News Lens, which is planning a bilingual edition, eventually hopes to become one of the most trusted sources of news for Chinese-language readers in the world.
A key part of that goal is The News Lens’ multimedia and mobile strategy. In order to increase its reach and brand recognition, the company began producing original video content soon after its launch, and striking partnerships to show its clips on screens in malls, taxis, buses, and convenience stores in Hong Kong and Taiwan.
Its site is already mobile-responsive, but the company hopes to attract more readers with its new app. The News Lens also has content designed for people, including second-generation immigrants (like me), whose Mandarin-speaking skills outpace their ability to read Chinese. These include its own video content, as well as audio narration for many of its stories.
“We don’t want to be just an Asia-specific news site, but a global international player,” says Chung. “At least until the end of this year, we’ll be taking one baby step at a time, but if there is one platform to watch in terms of originating from Asia but being able to go global, then we want to be that site.”