DataSphere Technologies, which has developed a hyper-local news and advertising software platform for publishers, today announced that it has closed a $10-million Series C financing round led by OVP Venture Partners and will be using the funds to expand its operations into more local communities. The company was previously financed by Ignition Partners and Fisher Communications, and has now raised a total of $26.5 million since it was founded in 2006.
DataSphere, which used to be known as SecondSpace, has a network of over 750 neighborhood websites that carry local news and information, both from community residents and from journalists who work for its media partners: a group that includes Gannett Co., Raycom Media, LocalTV LLC, Fisher Communications and Hubbard Broadcasting. DataSphere launched 10 local sites running on its platform with Gannett’s TV arm in June.
Based in Bellevue, Wash., the company provides all the software to run local sites for new companies, and also handles local advertising sales, which is a critical element for many publishers. It functions as a plug and play Software-as-a-Service platform for newspapers and TV stations that want to set up neighborhood news sites. DataSphere handles the design and management of the site, the search-engine optimization, the content management, and has an analytics suite that allows publishers to see how their content is doing in terms of engagement.
DataSphere president and CEO Satbir Khanuja, a former vice-president at Amazon, says the company has launched over 300 neighborhood news websites in the past two months, and by the end of the year, it expects to be in more than 1,200 communities. The network currently provides neighborhood news to 40 percent of the population of the U.S., Khanuja said, and reached over 12 million unique visitors across its advertising network in August. The company said it hired 150 new employees last month and expects to hire another 150 by the end of the year.
DataSphere and its publisher partners could soon run into a giant competitor on the hyper-local scene, if they haven’t already: AOL has committed to an ambitious expansion for its Patch.com local network — the company recently launched its 100th site, and said that it plans to hire more than 500 local journalists and open neighborhood sites in 500 communities in more than 20 states by the end of the year. AOL has said that it expects to spend $50 million on Patch this year. Other services going after the hyper-local news and advertising market include Outside.in and Topix, which is owned by a group of publishers including Gannett, Tribune and Knight-Ridder.
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