Subscription-based news website The Ken has raised $1.5 million in a Series A funding round led by Omidyar Network. The round was also included a mix of existing and new investors, although it did not mention the investors, apart from Sid Yog, the founder and Managing Partner of The Xander Group Inc.
The publication made the announcement in a blog post today. “For the April-June quarter, our revenues were up 200% over the comparable period a year ago, and up 100% the immediately preceding quarter,” it said. The Ken also claimed to have become profitable in April.
In February 2017, the raised $400,000 from individual investors including Aprameya Radhakrishna, co-founder of TaxiForSure, Girish Mathrubhootham, founder and CEO at Freshdesk, Pinstorm founder Mahesh Murthy, Shan Krishnasamy co-founder of Freshdesk, Paytm founder Vijay Shekhar Sharma and others. It isn’t clear if any of these investors participated in the present round. The Ken was founded in 2016 by journalists Rohin Dharmakumar, Seema Singh and Ashish Mishra, and Deck App Technologies founder Sumanth Raghavendra.
The publication provides one original narrative story each day, kept behind a paywall; one story a week is made free to read, and it’s worth noting that Paytm was the launch sponsor of the weekly free story.
Note that we had reported in November that the Ken had raised funding from Vijay Shekhar Sharma, disclosed as a footnote to a story on Snapdeal. Vijay Shekhar Sharma has invested his personal capacity in media entities like Deal Street Asia, a publication focused on venture deals in South East Asia, and FactorDaily, a publication focused on “intersection of technology with life, culture and society in India” which raised a part of its $1 million funding from Sharma. Shekhar’s company Paytm has invested in NDTV Gadgets in 2015.
Subscription-based news outlets in India
In May, Rajiv Bansal, the head of the Hindustan Times’s Digital Streams said that the media company will soon launch a paid news subscription product. He indicated that Mint, the financial daily, may be one of the few brands that they will experiment with this year.
The Ken is probably the only company in India which is exclusively subscription-based as of now. The Economic Times recently launched ET Prime, a similar paywalled site that is separate from ET’s print operation, edited by veteran journalist Shishir Prasad.
The Business Standard‘s web edition has a watered down version of the models followed by The Ken and ET Prime — some articles are free to read, and some are paywalled. As an added perk, BS includes a digital subscription to the Wall Street Journal — which otherwise costs over $37 a month in India. VCCircle also has a premium subscription product that includes a digital WSJ subscription, or alternatively, access to the paid tier of digital magazine service Magzter. The Hindu has had a paid e-paper product for many years now, and the company has recently been trying to sell years-long subscriptions to that service in one shot.
While Outlook magazine’s web edition halted their brief experiment with micropayments, The Wire is trying a slightly modified version of that, with an interactive payments banner at the bottom of each article soliciting a user-determined donation for that article (The Wire is run by a nonprofit). Meanwhile, Scroll.in launched an ad-free subscription, Scroll+ recently, and announced that more subscriber benefits are on their way. Both The Wire and Scroll’s models run essentially on reader goodwill right now. Newslaundry moved some of its content behind a paywall early last year.