Billy Penn, after running out of runway, now under WHYY umbrella

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Good afternoon,

When I first encountered BillyPenn.com, I thought the digital start-up was on to something.

Its breezy approach and its heavy use of Twitter seemed to be a good match for the growing population of millennials in Philadelphia. Early on, it did some impressive work in covering an Amtrak accident.

I always thought the company should have looked at northern Delaware as a testing ground in offering a reliable “mobile first” news presence that would go beyond “scanner news” that we now see among legacy and new media outlets.

Billy Penn founder James Brady knew his way around digital and start-up went on to establish a similar enterprise in Pittsburgh while acquiring a Denver site under the Spirited Media umbrella.

Alas, Spirited could not ramp up its business model and make a profit fast enough. As one Spirited exec noted, the venture “ran out of runway.”

Its three outposts have been sold and the remaining company will do consulting work for public TV and radio stations.

In the case of Philadelphia, WHYY agreed to acquire assets and retain its staff.Billy Penn will retain its identity and may serve as a way for the public radio and TV station to reach young people.

With deep pockets (at least by public radio and TV standards) WHYY has a chance to see if Billy Penn can live up to its early potential.

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