RICE, a digitally native news portal engaged, has announced an undisclosed six-figure amount of seed funding from an individual investor to grow its journalistic brand across Southeast Asia.
Co-Founder and current Editor in Chief Mark Tan said, “RICE produces cutting edge culture journalism with an Asian focus. Culture journalism is extremely dynamic and the investment validates the type of content that we have been producing. We are excited to continue to create more content with an attitude, and to grow the brand across the region”.
Notable content pieces that RICE has published to date include a profile on Singaporean personality Steven Lim and a feature story about a bartender who visited 86 cities without using a plane.
The company, which operates out of Singapore, started publishing on ricemedia.co in September 2016 and has grown its organic reach to over 100,000 unique visitors a month.
The media venture describes its ethos on its website as being “Asia’s alternative voice” for communities covering subjects such as contemporary art to street food.
The latest entrant to the digital media space in the city-state comes at a time when internet-enabled distribution channels have disrupted traditional models of news dissemination and revenue for media outlets.
In North America’s media market, this has seen companies in the US such as The New York Times, Walt Disney, Fox, and Comcast/NBCUniversal look to startups such as BuzzFeed, Vice, Refinery29, and others for new models of engaging audiences.
This has spurred consolidation, with media conglomerates either directly investing in or acquiring younger competitors in the digital media space. However, in the more restricted media landscape of Southeast Asia, a focus on niche local content that can attract and retain readers, as well as brand building are needed for media companies to survive.
RICE Media has managed to raise funding at a time when CB Insights data for Q1 2017 suggest that investments in the media startup landscape are on the decline. This category includes content startups and curation/aggregation sites, which face perennial challenges, among them building large audiences, the commodification of news content and compelling content that is not just click bait.