July 14, 2015


After local news startup Billy Penn launched in October, its founder articulated a principle that described the kind of readers he wanted to draw. Central to his philosophy: The concept of good traffic and bad traffic, and the idea that news organizations should aim to attract the former.

Specifically, Billy Penn founder Jim Brady objected to shilling for pageviews by using common gimmicks like slideshows, pagination, reblogging and automatic page reloads. So how’s that’s going?

Well, according to a new post from Brady on Medium. Nearly nine months after the site launched, Billy Penn has built a monthly audience numbering in the hundreds of thousands. Since May 1, the site’s traffic has more than doubled, increasing from 92,684 in April to 201,061 during June.

In the post, Brady, who is also on Poynter’s National Advisory Board, attributes the growth to a variety of factors including the startup’s coverage of the May 12 derailment of Amtrak 188. From Brady’s post:

I’m not sure we knew it that night, but that tragic event began a new era in Billy Penn’s short history. The crash gave us an opportunity to show what we could deliver in a pinch: Strong original reporting focused on finding stories away from the pack, excellent curation from both local and national sources and an easy-to-read daily summary of what we knew and what we didn’t. All told, we became a primary source for news consumers along Amtrak’s entire Northeast Corridor.

In his post, Brady also gives a business-side update: The startup has brought aboard Angela Smith as vice president of sales and events to oversee Billy Penn’s mixed model of advertising, live events and membership. Brady has said he’s aiming to make Billy Penn profitable by mid 2016. Writing for Capital New York in March, media business analyst Ken Doctor said achieving profitability would “demand a kind of fanatical execution.”

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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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