News startup Billy Penn to create mobile journalism guide with $106,000 from Knight Foundation

Press Release

December 10, 2015


Mobile-first Philadelphia site hopes to help journalists and newsrooms excel across platforms

PHILADELPHIA – Dec. 10, 2015 – Billy Penn, a mobile-first news site based in Philadelphia, will create an interactive, real-time mobile journalism guide to help newsrooms stay current on emerging mobile storytelling tools and technologies with $106,000 in support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Related Link

"A new roadmap for mobile" by Jim Brady on Knight Blog, 12/10/2015

According to a study by Pew Research Center, 39 of the top 50 news sites now get more traffic from mobile than desktop, creating a need for new ways to present stories across platforms. Because these tools emerge so quickly, it can be tough for already-busy newsrooms to keep up.

Philadelphia-based Billy Penn has been focused on mobile since its launch in October 2014, designing its site for tablets and phones and focusing on a heavy integration with social media and storytelling designed for the on-the-go consumer. The news organization has experimented with both original reports and curated stories from other sources to understand what is meaningful to its audience.

For this project, Billy Penn will produce an interactive, real-time guide for other news organizations, local news sites and content creators on creating mobile journalism, designing mobile websites and addressing the needs of the mobile reader. The guide will share lessons learned from the organization’s own work as well as from others, and will include descriptions and reviews of tools to gather, publish and monetize on mobile. While many digital journalism guides lose their value quickly because of the rapidly changing state of distribution and tools, Billy Penn will update this guide on a rolling basis and allow any newsroom to contribute new information on tools, workflows or strategies. In addition, Billy Penn will build a community around the platform and eventually invite other people to contribute their own knowledge.

“While many newsrooms and content creators are learning from their own experiments with mobile, this knowledge isn’t typically shared widely. There is little comprehensive, hands-on guidance about how to function in an increasingly mobile-first environment,” said Shazna Nessa, Knight Foundation’s director for journalism. “Billy Penn will help answer this call by spreading learning about mobile news experiments and helping journalists better engage and inform their audiences.”

“It’s obvious that the move to mobile is not a temporary one,” said Jim Brady, CEO and founder of Spirited Media, which operates Billy Penn. “We hope to provide a platform for us and other publishers to share their successes – and failures – in order to rise all tides in this ever-swelling digital sea.”

Funding for Billy Penn is part of Knight Foundation’s efforts to support journalism excellence and audience engagement by helping news organizations, local online news sites and content creators share learning about mobile news experiments, in order to engage and inform communities.

About Billy Penn

Billy Penn is a mobile-first platform designed to connect citizens to relevant news and information about Philadelphia, and to drive civic engagement for a better city. The site – created by veterans of The Washington Post, Philadelphia Inquirer, Digital First Media, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Patriot-News, Tribune Co. and WHYY’s Newsworks — launched in October 2014. To learn more, visit Billy Penn, or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

BillyPenn and the mobile journalism playbook is fiscally sponsored through its partner, the Philadelphia Independent Media Commons (PIMC), a program of CultureTrust Greater Philadelphia. PIMC is experimental platform dedicated to developing shared support resources for independent journalism and media in Greater Philadelphia and beyond. CultureTrust is a 501(c)(3) charitable trust with the mission “to provide a charitable home and affordable shared management resources for arts and heritage programs of diverse disciplines and cultural traditions” in the Greater Philadelphia region.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit


Jim Brady, CEO and Founder, Spirited Media, 571-723-4813, [email protected]  

Anusha Alikhan, Director of Communications, Knight Foundation, 305-908-2646, [email protected]