Peter Kafka

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NowThisNews Raises a New Round to Help Bring Pregnant Panda Videos to Your Phone

now this newsNowThisNews, the startup that’s trying to create a video news service for the iPhone generation, has raised another $4.8 million.

In addition to earlier investors, who include Lerer Ventures, Oak Investment and Bedrocket, SoftBank Capital has also put money into the new round; SoftBank principal Nikhil Kalghatgi will join the company’s board.

NowThisNews has now raised nearly $10 million in the last year; Eric Hippeau, Lerer Ventures’ managing director, says NowThisNews is still talking to some strategic investors about kicking in a bit more. Danielle Morrill noted the new round earlier this month.

So that’s the money part. How’s the startup itself doing?

Just fine, said Hippeau. He said the company, which launched last fall, has already created 300,000 videos, and that last month it generated 20 million video streams. By comparison, HuffPost Live, Huffington Post’s own version of a video news service, generated 48 million streams in March.

The big caveat with NowThisNews’ video stream numbers is that the conceit behind the service is that it’s “mobile first” and is supposed to reach a new generation of video viewers who live on their phones. But Hippeau said that a majority of the company’s views are coming from the Web, via syndication deals it has with outlets like BuzzFeed, MSN, the Guardian, Forbes and the Atlantic.

“They’re going through the same experience that a lot of people who are trying to do mobile are going through, which is that you’re going to build a mobile audience not only through mobile but from the Web, as well,” Hippeau said.

The big question is whether NowThisNews’ product, which generally leans on quick-twitch, MTV News-style summaries, or found footage with music overdubs, can stand out in a world where there’s a whole lot of that stuff — particularly on YouTube, which pulls in a billion viewers a month, and is increasingly reaching those folks on their phones, too.

Here’s NowThisNews’ take on a pregnant panda story. If you’re looking for a voice-over, there isn’t any. But there is some explanatory text on the video’s homepage: “‘Evolutionarily Challenged’ Panda Is Artificially Inseminated. Dying breed can only mate once a year.”

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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus