January 19, 2006

Wow the news startup space sure has heated up

by skrenta at 5:18 AM

I count at least 15 news startups trying to tag, aggregate or community-edit the news. And the VC funds sure are flowing. Topix had funding offers back in 2004 when we started but about half of the vc's we talked to were just starting to take an interest in the web again, and some of them hadn't thought much about news as an interesting space. That's obviously changed since there's at least $30M in funding here and we don't have details about everyone.
Newsvine: $5M
Gather.com: $9M, 23 employees
Memeorandum: ? Hints Gabe may have taken some funding
Digg: 2.8M
Associated Content: $5.4M
Jeff Jarvis/Upendra Shardanand/Craig Newmark news startup
Backfence: $3M
Pegasus News
Inform: 55 employees(!)
Bayosphere (dead?)
and of course for completeness topix.net
I haven't counted stuff like Attensa getting $9M or Pajamas Media or blog search like Technorati/Feedster which is in a related space but not focused specifically on news.

When we started we were pretty much alone working on applying technology to news, there was Google News and MSN Newsbot but no startup activity, now the space is really humming. All of this activity makes it much more exciting to work in the space although if Steve Rubel is right and there is a coming Web 2.0 crash it could be ugly. Or maybe it looks like the social software space of a few years back, when there was a lot of press about Friendster/Linkedin/Ryze/Spoke/Zerodegrees/etc. but some unknown upstart MySpace ran away with the prize in the end.

Not included above but worthy of watch are efforts by the existing news industry to build out new cool stuff on their own sites. A lot of web2.0 startups are using fancy open source tech but there are bright creative (and often idealistic) folks at mainstream places applying this stuff too. These folks are using technology not for tech's sake but simply as tools to enhance the journalistic mission to inform and educate the public and shine lights in dark places (if you're snickering you have no business being in the news startup space btw).

Rob Curley now at Scripps is insanely creative and has shrewdly built an open source platform to extend traditional news sites with all sorts of crazy dive-down features. I watched Rob brainstorm up a new product at an industry event and the sand-hill road vc's would make this guy their startup vp product in a nanosecond. But he's a real news guy and is down in florida so you won't see him at xcamp or posting in GFY's comments. Wash Post beat out other bidder's to take one of Rob's previous team, Adrian Holovaty, author of ChicagoCrime.org among other stuff and has set him loose to juice up washpost.com. He even has his own playground domain there to build apps on their site. Keep an eye on these guys too if you want a complete picture of product movement in the space.