Video News Startup NowThis Raises $16.2M Led By Axel Springer

NowThis just announced that it has raised $16.2 million in Series D funding.

The round was led by German media company Axel Springer — which, in addition to previously investing in the startup’s $6 million Series C, recently bought Business Insider and invested in Thrillist. Previous backers Oak Investments, NBC News Group and Softbank also participated.

“We are increasing our share in a promising journalistic start-up that is focusing on the attractive future market of mobile and social video consumption,” said Jens Müffelmann, CEO of Axel Springer Digital Ventures, in the funding release.

The essence of NowThis’ strategy is illustrated by visiting the startup’s homepage. Instead of featuring news videos, it simply declares, “Homepage. Even the world sounds old.” and links to NowThis accounts on services like YouTube and Facebook. The company takes the “distributed media” model exemplified by BuzzFeed to an extreme, posting short news videos that are optimized for each platform, and not worrying about driving traffic back to its own website. (The BuzzFeed similarity is probably no coincidence — Kenneth Lerer is chairman of both companies.)

I’ve discussed some of the challenges of this strategy with Senior Vice President of Strategy and Products Athan Stephanopoulos in the past, and given the growth of video on Facebook, I also wondered how much NowThis’ fate is now in the hands of a single social network.

“​While we have seen phenomenal growth on Facebook over the past year, we are also seeing significant growth among many of the other social platforms,” Stephanopoulos said. “This funding will allow us to both aggressively lean in on opportunities around video on Facebook, while expanding our content offering on other platforms.”

The company said it crossed 200 million total views in May, and it’s sped past that milestone, now reaching 700 million monthly views. Sixty-eight percent of that audience is between the ages of 18 and 34. It’s also expanding by launching more focused channels, like NowThis Entertainment, NowThis Future and NowThis Weed.