WHYY acquires Billy Penn digital site


WHYY  has acquired the assets of  Delaware Valley news outlet Billy Penn from Spirited Media.

“WHYY has consistently grown its journalism capacity to fortify the local news ecosystem. Research affirms that the news and information services WHYY provides are second to no other in terms of trust,” said WHYY CEO Bill Marrazzo. “With the addition of Billy Penn, we’ve taken yet another step to serve the next generation of public media consumers.”

Jim Brady, Spirited Media CEO stated, “I’m thrilled to have found such a perfect home for Billy Penn at WHYY, and I’m excited for what that combination will bring to Philly journalism.”

Spirited’s investors included News Journal owner Gannett, which is now struggling with a possible corporate takeover from an entity  of  aggressive cost-cutting newspaper chain Digital First 

The exact terms of the sale are confidential but include a limited amount of future revenue considerations. The asset transfer became effective on April 15. WHYY plans to maintain Billy Penn as a separate brand.


Billy Penn is joining WHYY’s existing FM, TV and online news services, including PlanPhilly and Keystone Crossroads. In the last decade, WHYY has been able to increase the percentage of its budget devoted to content and grow its membership support and philanthropic support. The newsroom staff has tripled in size and reach in recent years, a release stated. 

WHYY maintains a presence in Wilmington.

Billy Penn launched in Philadelphia as a startup in late 2014, but saw layoffs in 2017.

Earlier this year, Spirited Media, the parent company that formed around Billy Penn and grew to include newsrooms in Pittsburgh and Denver, announced it was selling the three sites. Pittsburgh’s The Incline is now part of the  Whereby.us  local news network. Denverite is now part of Colorado Public Radio.

Spirited struggled to find a niche in a crowded online market in the region that includes multiple TV stations, the Philly.com website of the Inquirer and Daily News, and Phllyvoice.

Billy Penn was aimed at millennials with an active presence on Twitter. Offerings included a blend of serious and light news and events, with a more breezy style than most media outlets.

“Billy Penn will be an important addition to WHYY’s media platforms, further building the necessary changes in media infrastructure to accommodate the ongoing shifts from broadcast to digital distribution platforms,” Marrazzo stated.