While newspapers and the print media continue to struggle, one industry powerhouse just made a bet on digital. Gannett, who publishes USA Today and many other state and local papers, has taken a minority stake in Spirited Media for an undisclosed investment. Spirited Media operates Billy Penn, a ,”mobile-first platform designed to connect citizens to relevant news and information about Philadelphia, and to drive civic engagement via affinity groups and events.”1 Currently, Billy Penn operates exclusively in Philadelphia, but will look to expand to different markets with the investment.
It is hardly a surprise that someone made a heavy bet on Billy Penn, the company is not yet two years old but has a mile-long list of accolades:
In less than two years, Billy Penn was named Philadelphia’s Startup of the Year at the 2015 Philadelphia Geek Awards, was nominated for a prestigious Online Journalism Award for its coverage of the Amtrak 188 disaster, was awarded a $106,000 grant by the Knight Foundation to produce a guide to mobile journalism, became the first digital-native partner of the Pulitzer Prize-winning PolitiFact, and became the first local independent news site invited to participate in Facebook’s Instant Articles launch.2
Jim Brady, the founder and CEO of Spirited Media, told the Philadelphia Business Journal that the company is already looking at five or six potential markets for the expansion:
The money gives us the chance to show what we can do in other markets..We have pinpointed five or six markets but I’m not ready to talk about those markets specifically. But we will be looking for cities where the younger audience is growing quickly.3
Though maybe a few years too late, this move shows that Gannett is beginning to think outside of the box.
- BillyPenn.com, “About” ▲
- Gannett, News Releases, “Gannett Invests in Digital News Outlet Spirited Media,” 21 March 2016 ▲
- Jeff Blumenthal, Philadelphia Business Journal, “Largest U.S. newspaper chain makes investment in local news startup,” 22 March 2016 ▲