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March 06, 2019

Billy Penn is for sale as Spirited Media pivots, sells local news sites

Business Journalism
Carroll - William Penn Statue Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

The statue of William Penn atop Philadelphia's City Hall, Wed. Oct. 18, 2017.

Billy Penn, the first web-only local news site started by Spirited Media in 2014, is up for sale as Spirited looks to sell its websites and pivot to consulting.

Spirited announced the moves in a Medium post on Wednesday, in which the company's VP Chris Krewson announced that Spirited has sold Denverite, its Denver-based site, to Colorado Public Media.

Billy Penn, based here in Philadelphia, and The Incline, based in Pittsburgh, are both for sale, according to Krewson, who said Spirited is in talks with buyers in both cities. Spirited hopes to have announcements about the future of both news sites in the coming weeks, Krewson said.

It seems the latest move for Spirited is a dollars-and-cents decision.

“That’s the path that’s emerged for Spirited Media, which has already pivoted a couple of times, as every startup must,” Krewson wrote. “The latest pivot reflects the reality of being a startup in these difficult times for the local media business: There is more money out there for companies like ours to earn helping others do what we do via consulting than continuing to raise money to expand into new markets.”

Back in October, Spirited announced it had laid off five people as part of a "major expense cut."

Jim Brady, Spirited’s CEO, addressed the news Wednesday on Twitter:

Billy Penn Editor Danya Henninger gave this statement to PhillyVoice regarding the news:

"We're proud of what Billy Penn has become under Spirited Media, and sad to be leaving. That said, our newsroom and our relationships with other Philadelphia organizations are stronger than ever — from the businesses we partner with on events and promotions to the news outlets and nonprofits we collaborate with on reporting and social impact projects."

"I'm hopeful Billy Penn will soon find a good local home."

Last February, Billy Penn launched a membership program with a tiered rewards system, and the site brought on Max Marin last July as Political Editor.

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