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Expand chart
Data: Axios research; Chart: Harry Stevens/Axios

The exclusive club of companies that have built billion-dollar content distribution businesses has a new member: SmartNews, the Japanese news discovery app that has amassed 20 million subscribers in the U.S., and raised $28 million in its latest funding round.  

The big picture: It's a small club, mainly because the media industry is in turmoil as Facebook and Google siphon ad dollars. Companies have struggled to maintain their highest valuations amid issues like missed revenue goals, layoffs and management changes.

Be smart: Private company valuations exist only because certain investors say they do at a certain point in time. There's no guarantee an acquirer or the public market will agree. 

Yes, but: It's notable that in today's bleak news market where U.S. tech giants like Google and Facebook dominate most news referral traffic online, a Japanese startup has been able to gain such traction.

What's next: Around the world, news aggregation as a business is exploding.

  • China: Toutiao, which is owned by TikTok's parent company, ByteDance, raised $2 billion in funds at an over $20 billion valuation in 2017. Qutoutiao, the 3-year-old news and video aggregation startup backed by Tencent, received a $171 million convertible loan from Chinese tech behemoth Alibaba.
  • India: DailyHunt, NewsPoint and others have also gained traction in recent years in India. DailyHunt has raised $98 million to date. InShorts, a news app that provides 60-word summaries of top stories, has raised $29 million to date.
  • Europe: Axel Springer's news aggregation app Upday is now profitable and gearing up to scale further and drive more revenue, Digiday reports. The app has 25 million users, in part due to its pre-install partnership with Samsung.

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  3. Economy: Conference Board predicts economy won’t fully recover until late 2021.
  4. Education: Surge threatens to shut classrooms down again.
  5. Technology: The pandemic isn't slowing tech.
  6. Travel: CDC replaces COVID-19 cruise ban with less restrictive "conditional sailing order."
  7. Sports: High school football's pandemic struggles.
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Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 7 hours ago - Economy & Business

Dunkin' Brands agrees to $11B Inspire Brands sale

Photo: Alexi Rosenfeld/Getty Images

Dunkin' Brands, operator of both Dunkin' Donuts and Baskin-Robbins, agreed on Friday to be taken private for nearly $11.3 billion, including debt, by Inspire Brands, a restaurant platform sponsored by private equity firm Roark Capital.

Why it matters: Buying Dunkin’ will more than double Inspire’s footprint, making it one of the biggest restaurant deals in the past 10 years. This could ultimately set up an IPO for Inspire, which already owns Arby's, Jimmy John's and Buffalo Wild Wings.

Ina Fried, author of Login
9 hours ago - Technology

Federal judge halts Trump administration limit on TikTok

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

A federal judge on Friday issued an injunction preventing the Trump administration from imposing limits on the distribution of TikTok, Bloomberg reports. The injunction request came as part of a suit brought by creators who make a living on the video service.

Why it matters: The administration has been seeking to force a sale of, or block, the Chinese-owned service. It also moved to ban the service from operating in the U.S. as of Nov. 12, a move which was put on hold by Friday's injunction.