May 9, 2016

Can the Steel City support another news organization? We’re about to find out.

Jim Brady, the founder of Billy Penn, announced on Monday he intends to expand the mobile-centric news franchise to Pittsburgh. The city was one of three under consideration, alongside Baltimore and Chicago.

News of the Pittsburgh expansion was reported first by CNN Money.

For Brady, Pittsburgh presents many of the same advantages offered by Philadelphia: A concentrated urban center populated largely by young mobile news consumers. It’s also across the state from Philadelphia and so could offer Billy Penn parent company Spirited Media some business synergies.

It’s also similar to Philadelphia in that it has a comparable competitive environment. Like Philadelphia, Pittsburgh is home to multiple rivals: The Post-Gazette, owned by Block Communications, and the Tribune-Review, owned by Trib Total Media. Both have been diminished by layoffs in recent years and could prove susceptible to disruption from a digitally-minded competitor.

Notably, the city has not yet been colonized by newspaper publisher Gannett, which is helping bankroll Spirited Media’s expansion.

Brady hasn’t yet hired a new editor for the Pittsburgh site, although he told CNN’s Brian Stelter his team has already begun interviewing candidates.

A former news executive at Digital First Media (and a member of Poynter’s National Advisory Board) Brady bootstrapped Billy Penn in 2014. He told CNN the outlet hopes to turn a profit by 2017, largely with revenue from events.

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Benjamin Mullin is the managing editor of Poynter.org. He previously reported for Poynter as a staff writer, Google Journalism Fellow and Naughton Fellow, covering journalism…
Benjamin Mullin

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