The story of digital media in the last two decades has been one of both promise and pessimism.
Many of the companies established since the turn of the millennium continue to thrive with large turnovers and in many cases profits. Others have come and gone, casualties of a digital age in which competition for online advertising revenue is fierce.
Below we rank 25 media companies established since the year 2000 based on revenue. We’ve focused on news media companies and start-ups involved in the news media space and have a big impact on it, such as Facebook and Twitter.
As our ranking reveals, the biggest media start-ups of the new millennium are the tech giants of Silicon Valley and beyond – although with revenues in the 11 or 12 figures, it would hardly be apt to call them start-ups anymore.
Topping our list is Facebook owner Meta, which along with Google has turned the news industry on its head. Tiktok owner Bytedance comes in second, while Spotify, Snap and Twitter round out the top five. This reflects the multi-faceted role that these platforms play as conduits for news, partners for publishers and serious competitors for revenue.
One of the most talked about shifts in the news industry in recent years has been the emergence of Facebook. The platform has been both a blessing and a boon for post-2000 media start-ups.
Some of the biggest new names of the millennium such as Buzzfeed and Vox Media built a significant chunk of their businesses around viral Facebook content, which led to large influxes of VC capital and eye-watering valuations. Changes to Facebook’s algorithm, which downgraded content from publishers in favour of posts from family and friends, hit such businesses hard.
Nevertheless, despite recent layoffs at both Buzzfeed and Vox, both companies still rank in the top ten of our list for revenue. Buzzfeed comes in at ninth position, while Vox, which in a bid to compete with the tech giants recently merged with fellow digital publisher Group Nine, comes in at seventh.
Despite the challenging environment for the industry, many companies continue to generate tens or hundreds of millions in revenue. BDG (formerly known as Bustle) brought in a reported $165m last year and ranks 12th, while Ladbible publisher LBG Media is set to see year-on-year revenue growth in 2022.
Other post-2000 companies such as Red Ventures continue to successfully operate some of the better-known specialist information brands on the internet such as Healthline Media and CNET. Last year the South Carolina-based company brought in a reported $2bn.
Google and Facebook’s dominance of advertising revenue has also led to a new crop of digital media start-ups that have decided to instead base their models on reader revenue. Among them are news and magazine curation app Readly (rank 18) and politics news newcomer Punchbowl (rank 25).
Since many companies are privately held and chose not to disclose revenue data themselves, we have also included companies for which we found reputed revenue information in reliable third party sources – such as articles in quality media outlets.
This inevitably means that some interesting and potentially very lucrative media companies set up in the last 20 years are excluded from our list as there was no revenue information available, whether via company channels or other reputable reports. Tokyo-headquartered news aggregation app SmartNews, which was valued at $2bn in 2021, may for example have made our list. Newsbreak, another news aggregator set up by Yahoo co-founder Jeff Zhang, might also have been featured.
In cases where we have had to rely on revenue information cited from third-party sources, we contacted the companies concerned to check our figures. In most cases, we did not receive a response. However, if you think that the data or information in this article can be improved in any way or if there is a company that you think should be included in our ranking, please email email@example.com.
Other companies such as newsletter platform Substack narrowly missed our list based on reported revenue despite making a big splash on the new media scene in recent years. Substack turned over $9m in 2021 according to a report in the New York Times, despite its hefty $750m to $1bn valuation by investors.
At the end of the article, we have also included a number of big-name companies established post-2000 that did not make the main list as they are now subsidiaries of pre-2000 businesses having been bought out. Since these companies are now owned by larger entities most do not break out their own revenue figures. We have used reliable third-party sources for these companies’ revenues.
Among them is Huffpost, which built up a name as a go-to left-of-centre news site not long after its launch in 2005 under its original name Huffington Post.
Another is Politico, which specialises in politics and policy. Set up in 2007, the company was brought under the wing of German publishing giant Axel Springer in 2021. Its Playbook series of newsletters are indispensable reading for followers of politics.
Another Axel Springer acquisition, Insider Inc, also makes this list, as does Axios which was bought out by US cable and telecommunications provider Cox Enterprises in 2022 for $525m six years after it was founded.
1. Meta 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp
Total revenue: $116.6bn
News/information/ media revenue: $113.6bn (all advertising revenue)
Source: Full-year 2022 results
Since Facebook‘s early origins as a social media network popular among students and other young people, the company has grown to become the biggest digital media company started since the turn of the millennium. (The world’s biggest media and information company, Google parent Alphabet, did not make this list as it was set up in 1998). Known as Meta since its rebrand in 2021, the company’s platforms, which now include Instagram and Whatsapp, are estimated to be used by around three billion people.
While all of Meta’s platforms remain an important source of news and information, Facebook began moving away from news in 2015, showing less journalistic content in its News Feed, subsequently hitting the traffic of several digital media businesses built on the back of Facebook. This year, Facebook will retire Instant Articles, a proprietary mobile format to quickly load news articles on the Facebook app, while in 2022 the company terminated Bulletin, its newsletter platform for journalists.
Despite this, the company, along with Google, dominates online advertising and continues to pose a threat to news industry revenues prompting pushbacks in places such as Australia and the EU.
2. Bytedance 🇨🇳
Top news/information brands: Tiktok
Total revenue: $58bn
News/information/media revenue: $58bn
Source: 2021 data reported in Reuters
Video-sharing app Tiktok is one of the world’s fastest-growing social media networks. Owner ByteDance saw its total revenue grow by 70% year-on-year to around $58bn in 2021, according to Reuters – although growth had slowed compared to the previous year.
Initially shunned by some big names in news including the BBC, publishers are increasingly turning to the platform in a bid to win over coveted Gen Z audiences. While there has so far been no clear path to monetisation for news outlets on Tiktok, the company is expected to start sharing ad revenue with publishers on its platform later this year.
3. Spotify 🇸🇪
Top news/information brands: Spotify, Gimlet, Anchor, Parcast, Ringer
Total revenue: $11.7bn
News/information/media revenue: $11.7bn
Source: Full-year 2022 results
With over 489 million monthly active users (including 205 million paid subscribers), the audio streaming and media services provider remains one of the largest music streaming service providers in the world.
Since 2019, the company has made a big move into podcasting, hosting major news podcasts while it also owns podcasting networks Anchor and Gimlet. Among the company’s big-name podcast sign-ups have been Prince Harry, Joe Rogan, and Louis Theroux. At the same time the company has laid off podcast employees and cancelled some shows as, despite hefty revenues, the company has also reported large losses.
4. Snap 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Snapchat, Discover
Total revenues: $4.6bn
News/information/media revenues: $4.6bn
Source: Full-year 2022 results
Another digital media company popular with younger users, Snap is the parent company of social media platform Snapchat. In 2015, the company launched Discover, the section of the app that features curated content from Snapchat’s publisher and creator partner bringing on board US publishers such as Vice, CNN, Cosmopolitan and DailyMail.com as early partners.
While Snapchat is still not a major platform for news, data from social media management platform Hootsuite shows that 39% of Snapchat’s audience is aged between 18 and 24, making it a big draw for advertisers. The company has, however, faced stiff competition from Tiktok which has eaten into its market share with Snap announcing a net loss of $1.4bn in 2022.
5. Twitter 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Twitter
Total revenue: $5.1bn
News/information/media revenue: $4.5bn (all advertising revenue)
Source: Full-year 2021 results
There has been no shortage of controversy surrounding Twitter since Elon Musk’s purchase of the platform in 2022. While Musk’s takeover of the platform has cast doubt on how useful it might be for journalists and other news purveyors and consumers in the future, it still remains a major source of news and information for the industry.
6. Red Ventures 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: CNET, Healthline Media, Lonely Planet, ZD Net, The Points Guy
Total revenue: $2bn
News/information/media revenue: $2bn
Source: 2021 data reported in the New York Times
Originally a digital marketing company, today Red Ventures is one of the US’s biggest digital media companies, although its name remains relatively unknown.
The company owns a suite of specialist media in areas such as travel, tech and health, making its money by taking a cut of purchases readers make through affiliated sellers. According to the New York Times, the company employs 4,500 people, is worth at least $11bn, and averages 751 million visits a month (Comscore).
7. Vox Media 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Vox, The Verge, Now This, Pop Sugar
Total revenue: $700m
News/information/media revenue: $700m
Source: Expected 2022 revenue reported in the New York Times
From its sports media beginnings, Vox has expanded into many other verticals, including technology, general interest news and opinion, pop culture and food. In February 2022, the company completed its acquisition of Group Nine Media bringing Thrillist, The Dodo, Seeker and social-first publisher Now This into its stable of brands.
8. ZPG 🇬🇧
Top news/information brands: Zoopla, Money.co.uk, Uswitch
Total revenues: $469.1m (£387.7m)
News/information/media revenue: $469.1m (£397.7m)
Zoopla owner ZPG is part-real estate company and part-online publisher. It is the best-ranked British company on this list. In 2009, Zoopla acquired property website Thinkproperty.com from the Guardian Media Group and PropertyFinder website from News International.
9. Buzzfeed 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Buzzfeed, Buzzfeed News, Tasty, Huffpost
Total revenues: $430.4m
News/information/media revenues: $430.4m
Established a decade ago, the company was once best known for its viral listicles and cat videos. By the mid-2010s, Buzzfeed and other new digital media startups such as Vice were given hefty valuations and attracted eye-watering VC investments, backed by the promise of digital advertising dollars and Facebook traffic.
Buzzfeed later made a move into more serious journalism picking up a Pulitzer Prize along the way, although the company has since made large cuts to its news teams. In 2021, the company was listed publicly, however, it has been a bumpy ride for the publisher since. Its latest report shows that costs outpace revenue, affecting its market cap.
10. Rightmove 🇬🇧
Top news/information brands: Rightmove.com
Total revenue: $368.9m (£304.9mn)
News/information/media revenue: $368.9m (£304.9mn)
The company operates rightmove.co.uk, the UK’s biggest online property portal. The company generates income by listing estate agents on its website and charging for advertising.
11. Reddit 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Reddit
Total revenue: $350m+
News/information/media revenue: $350m+
Source: 2021 data reported in The Information
The communication and discussion platform relies on users to socially curate and promote content in topic-based forums (subreddits). While not a big platform for news, some publishers such as the Washington Post are experimenting with Reddit as a way of connecting their reporting with audiences and building loyalty.
12. BDG Media (formerly Bustle) 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Bustle. Elite Daily, Mic, Romper, ScaryMommy
Total revenue: $165m
News/information/media revenue: $165m
Source: Company spokesperson
The company publishes a number of well-known brands, mostly targeted at millennial readers. Acquisitions have included Elite Daily, which the company bought from DMG Media in 2017, and Some Spider, parent company of Scary Mommy and Fatherly.
13. Wikimedia Foundation 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Wikipedia, Wikinews, Wikimedia Commons
Total revenues: $154.7m
News/information/media revenues: $154.7m
Source: Full-year results 2021
The non-profit which aims to discover and share information is mostly funded through millions of individual micro-donations. Its flagship project is online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia but the non-profit also publishes Wikinews, a platform which provides free news content that purports to be neutral.
14. Epoch Media 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Epoch Times, New Tang Dynasty (NTD) US
Total revenues: $121.5m
News/information/media revenues: $121.5m
Epoch Media Group, said to be affiliated with the Falun Gong religious movement, publishes a number of print and digital titles including the right-wing print and digital title Epoch Times. The group also runs New Tang Dynasty (NTD), which the company says is the largest Chinese TV network in the US.
15. National World 🇬🇧
Top news/information brands: National World, The Scotsman, The Yorkshire Post and various city sites under the World brand
Total revenue: $104.1m (£86m)
News/information/media revenue: $104.1m (£86m)
David Montgomery’s National World bought JPI, the UK’s third biggest regional publisher by number of titles, in 2021 for £10.2m. National World counts some 150 titles, including seven city websites under its own “World” brand. It also runs the national news website National World and legacy title The Scotsman, the company’s largest sites.
16. Daily Wire 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Daily Wire
Total revenue: $100m
News/information/media revenues: $100m
Source: 2021 revenue reported in Axios
The American conservative news website and media company was founded by political commentator Ben Shapiro and film director Jeremy Boreing in 2015. According to data from social analytics company Newswhip, the Daily Wire is one of the top news publishers on Facebook. The company also publishes well-known US conservative podcasts, including The Ben Shapiro Show, The Matt Walsh Show and Morning Wire.
17. LBG Media 🇬🇧
Top news/information brands: Ladbible, Unilad, Sportbible
Total revenue: $76.2m expected (£63m)
News/information/media revenues: $76.2m expected (£63m)
Source: LBG Media 2022 expected revenue reported in Marketwatch
Manchester-based digital media and youth content publisher LBG Media reported a very successful 2021. Turnover for the group, which was floated on the London Stock Exchange in December last year, soared by 81% while pre-tax profit was almost double that of the previous year. The publisher is also the biggest news outlet on fast-growing social media platform Tiktok with a follower count of 11.6m people on its main account.
18. Readly 🇸🇪
Top news/information brands: Readly
Total revenues: $56.8m (SEK 466.3m)
News/information/media revenues: $44.7m (SEK 591.6m)
Source: Full-year results for 2022
Digital magazine and newspaper app Readly originally launched in Sweden before expanding into markets including the UK and Germany. Revenue and subscribers continue to grow although the company told Press Gazette last year that its key focus is on engagement – Readly’s publisher clients are paid according to reader dwell time. The company has also branched into new products such as podcasts.
19. On the Market 🇬🇧
Top news/information brands: Onthemarket.com
Total revenue: $36.8m (£30.4m)
News/information/media revenue: $36.8m (£30.4m)
On the Market was set up in 2015 by a consortium of estate agents including Knight Frank and Savills as a direct competitor to industry leaders Rightmove and Zoopla. A strong property market in the second half of 2021 helped the relative newcomer turn a profit and increase its revenue last year.
20. A Medium Corporation 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Medium.com
Total revenue: $35m
News/information/media revenue: $35m
A Medium Corporation is best known for its eponymous publishing platform, Medium, developed by Twitter co-founder Evan Williams. The company is in turn co-owned by William’s Venture capital firm, Obvious Ventures.
While the publishing platform can be used by anyone, its foray into quality original journalism has seen mixed success. In 2018, the company made a push into original reporting hiring a team of editors, however by 2020, it had already offered buyouts to all of its roughly 75 editorial employees, according to The Verge.
21. Merit Group 🇬🇧
Top news/information brands: Politics Home, Dods Parliamentary Companion, The House, Civil Service World
Total revenue: $33.2m (£27.4m)
News/information/media revenue: $33.2m (£27.4m)
Source: Full-year results to 31 March 2022
Data and intelligence company Merit Group covers political, regulatory, and business information. Its Dods division publishes well-known political titles including Politics Home and the annual Dods Parliamentary Companion. Merit’s Data & Technology division serves largely UK-based customers with industry intelligence and marketing data.
22. The Skimm 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Daily Skimm, Daily Skimm: Weekend, Skimm Money and Skimm Your Life newsletters
Total revenue: $20m (as reported in media in 2019 so likely to be changed by now)
News/information/media revenue: $20m
The Skimm is a digital media company focused on women. According to its figures, it reaches a cross-platform audience of 12m people. As well as its suite of newsletters, the company also produces podcasts, a mobile app, runs the virtual course series SkimmU and owns Skimm Studios.
23. The Conversation 🇦🇺
Top news/information brands: The Conversation UK, The Conversation US and various other geographic editions.
Total revenues: $14.2m (AUD20.6m)
News/information/media revenues: $14.2m (AUD20.6m)
Source: The Conversation in email to Press Gazette
A not-for-profit network of sites, The Conversation publishes news stories and research reports with opinion and analysis. Articles are written by academics and researchers under a Creative Commons licence. There are 12 editions of the site covering various geographies and languages, including a UK edition.
24. 1440 Media 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: 1440 newsletter
Total revenue: $10m+
News/information/media revenues: $10m+
Source: 1440 email to Press Gazette
1440’s business is built around a general news daily newsletter that also contains content in several verticals. Although the company counts some subscribers, most revenue is generated from advertising.
25. Punchbowl 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Punchbowl
Total revenue: $10m
News/information/media revenue: $10m
Set up by three former Politico journalists, Punchbowl News is an online political news daily centred on covering developments on Capitol Hill.
In its first year, the company is said to have generated revenues of $10m and has quadrupled its staff from four to 16. Alongside a free morning newsletter and podcast, Punchbowl sells premium membership, which includes access to paid-for newsletters, polling and events hosted by Punchbowl. Looking ahead, the company is planning to focus on growing its revenue from subscriptions.
Major new millennium media startups bought out by legacy media
1. Linkedin 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Linkedin, Linkedin News
Parent company: Microsoft (bought in 2016)
Total revenue: $10.3bn
News/information/media revenue: $10.3bn
The business and employment-focused social media platform was bought by information behemoth Microsoft in 2016, which also owns news aggregation portal MSN.
Last year Linkedin announced that it would be tripling the number of editors it employs in the UK as part of wider investment in its journalism. The platform’s editorial director for international Sandrine Chauvin said the expansion was "part of our ongoing efforts to bring our members quality, useful journalism". While data from analytics firms such as Chartbeat indicates that the site drives low level of traffic to publishers (compared to other referrers), the platform helps B2B publishers in particular connect with niche interest communities.
2. Politico 🇩🇪🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Playbook, Politico Pro, Politico.com
Parent company: Axel Springer (bought in 2021)
Total revenues: $200m
News/information/media revenues: $200m
The Virginia-based company primarily covers politics and policy through a series of newsletters and its website. Its Politico Pro products provide policy intelligence and specialist verticals news aimed at professionals and are priced at premium rates. German publishing giant Axel Springer acquired Politico in 2021 and has confirmed to Press Gazette that it does not share brand-level revenue.
3. Axios 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Axios, Axios Pro
Parent company: Cox Enterprises (bought in 2022)
Total revenues: $100m
News/information/media revenues: $100m
Source: 2022 revenue reported in Digiday
Axios is a newsletter-first business that specialises in local news and around 20 industry verticals, including media. Its newsletters reach an audience of around 2.7 million people. The company has grown quickly since launching in 2016 and generates revenues through advertising, subscriptions to its Pro newsletters, Axios HQ software, events and its content studio.
4. Huffpost 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Huffpost, Huffpost News
Parent company: Buzzfeed (acquired in 2021)
Total revenues: $45-50m (in 2020 so likely to have changed)
News/information/media revenues: $45-50m
Buzzfeed acquired Huffpost from its owner Verizon Media as part of a larger stock deal in 2020. Huffpost remains one of the iconic names of digital media since its founding in 2005 as a commentary outlet, blog, and alternative to conservative news aggregators. The progressive news website continues to publish various local and international editions.
5. Industry Dive 🇬🇧 🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: A suite of Dive specialist newsletters such as Banking Dive, CFO Dive, Food Dive
Parent company: Informa Plc (bought in 2022)
Total revenues: $110m
News/information/media revenues: $105-110m
Another newsletter-first business, B2B specialist Industry Dive was acquired by information giant Informa for $389m (£323m) so does not officially break out separate revenue data. The company covers 25 industry verticals through 28 newsletters that reach around 2.5 million subscribers and is mostly funded through advertising.
6. Insider Inc 🇩🇪🇺🇸
Top news/information brands: Insider, Business Insider
Parent company: Axel Springer (bought in 2015)
Total revenues: $100m (from 2018)
News/information/media revenues: $100m
Source: 2018 revenue reported in Digiday
Acquired by Axel Springer in 2015, American media company Insider Inc started life as a financial and business website. Its best-known brands include Insider and Business Insider. In 2020, Insider Inc acquired a majority stake in another recent digital startup, newsletter-first business, Morning Brew.
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