Investing / Media

Parent company of Billy Penn gets investment from media giant Gannett

The funding will help Spirited Media launch in new markets. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

City Hall during the Hack for Change kickoff. Photo by Mark Headd.
Full disclosure: cofounder and editorial director Christopher Wink is married to Billy Penn community manager Shannon Wink.

Billy Penn, the local news startup geared toward millennials, is apparently eyeing new markets.
Spirited Media, the parent company of Billy Penn, plans to launch in other cities and will do so with an undisclosed investment from media corporation Gannett, according to an announcement this afternoon. Gannett is taking a minority stake in the company.
Spirited Media was founded by media bigwig Jim Brady, who’s had a storied career at the Washington Post, AOL, TBD and most recently, Digital First Media, so it’s not entirely surprising that Gannett would invest in the industry veteran’s new company. Brady is also currently the ombudsman of ESPN.
“The enthusiasm that young news consumers in Philly have shown for Billy Penn has been inspiring,” Brady said in a statement on Billy Penn. “I can’t wait to bring that enthusiasm into new cities.” The company has yet to announce where it’s going next, but perhaps somewhere in the mid-Atlantic? Brady is based in suburban D.C.
Billy Penn employs eight full-time in Philadelphia, as of today (they just hired reporter Danya Henninger), and plans to add four more roles, editor Chris Krewson told us. The company works out of Center City coworking space Pipeline.
We’re trying to suss out how much this funding will affect Philadelphia. It’s not entirely clear yet. Each market will have its own editorial and sales teams, Krewson told us, but the markets will share product and dev teams. Billy Penn is hiring for product and dev roles (job listings TK), and while a Philadelphia hire is ideal, it’s not necessary, Krewson said. It’d be a nice addition to the local tech scene if Spirited Media’s engineering team is here, à la NYC companies Vistar Media and Drama Fever. (Spirited Media currently has one developer on staff: Chris Montgomery, who interned at during his time at Temple.)
Last time Gannett made moves in the local tech scene was in 2005, when it bought PointRoll for $100 million. Ten years later, it sold the company for a fifth of the price.

Companies: Billy Penn
People: Jim Brady / Chris Krewson

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