March 8, 2017

The company that launched Billy Penn in Philadelphia and The Incline in Pittsburgh is merging with Denverite in Colorado, part of an ambitious quest to create a national chain of local news startups.

Denverite, which was launched last June and has a team of nine, will become Spirited Media’s third digital-first local newsroom in a major U.S. city, Billy Penn’s Chris Krewson reported Wednesday.

Spirited Media CEO Jim Brady, who left Digital First Media in 2014, launched Billy Penn that same year. In September, Spirited Media set its sites on Pittsburgh with The Incline.

Spirited Media, which has already received a seven-figure investment from Gannett, will aspire to be a “faster-growing chain of city news sites, one able to attract a $3 million-plus Series A investment round this spring,” Ken Doctor reported today for Nieman Lab.

While the investment here is small — a couple of million so far — we can look on this merger as part of a larger intent to reinvest in city news. Local news disinvestment has been the decade’s dominant theme in the industry. Too few daily news companies — largely the independents and those still family-owned — have judiciously placed small bets, while most newspapers, especially owned by the big chains, have cut relentlessly. Spirited Media’s new push joins fellow millennials startups Charlotte Agenda and WhereBy.Us and the half-a-generation older nonprofit sites like MinnPost, Voice of San Diego, and New Orleans’ The Lens in trying to redefine city news in the digital era.

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Kristen Hare teaches local journalists the critical skills they need to serve and cover their communities as Poynter's local news faculty member. Before joining faculty…
Kristen Hare

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