Lately I’ve been thinking about media publishing startups (think Semafor and Puck) and their fundraising rounds.
Semafor recently raised a $44 million seed round, and Puck raised a $7 million Series A in 2021. The Messenger, among the newest in the industry, recently raised $50 million. Publishing media jobs are uncertain, pushing those with an entrepreneurial spirit to start their own companies, giving them more ownership over their work. But compare their experience to that of Dana Amihere, who is still trying to find support and funding for her news media startup.
She launched AfroLA News in 2022 to cover the Black community in Los Angeles. So far, she won’t even touch venture capital. The outlook is bleak for people who look like her, she said. People in the startup world keep telling her things are getting better, but “Who are things improving for?” she asked.
“Knowing what the landscape looks like, it almost feels more worthwhile to dedicate the limited time I do have to other things,” she told TechCrunch+. “I don’t think backing Black news outlets is seen as inherently risky. Rather, I think it’s not seen [at all]. Investors don’t see it as a viable or worthwhile investment unless it’s splashy or fits their idea of what Black news should be.”
Part of the problem is that the pool of investors who like investing in media, specifically publishing, is already small. The industry is risky, and not in the startup sense where one might strike big returns one day. Last year the media sector raised a healthy $15 billion, according to PitchBook; within that, publishing raised just $298 million.
Charles Hudson, a managing partner at Precursor Ventures who invests in new media, said that the funding landscape for most media companies, B2B or B2C, is limited when it comes to venture. “What dollars do get invested tend to go to categories that feel big, like national news, industry-specific vertical pubs like Skift or The Information or B2B media companies,” he told TechCrunch+.