Theater Session: A Conversation with Jim Brady

Apr 10, 2017, 1:15 PM
2:00 PM
Jim Brady is a longtime innovator in local and digital news, as editor of, founder and general manager of, editor-in-chief of Digital First Media and ombudsman for ESPN. His latest venture, Spirited Media, is building regional websites, starting with Billy Penn in Philadelphia and The Incline in Pittsburgh. These groundbreaking sites combine small reporting staffs with aggressive aggregation, a focus on mobile, unique marketing and a business plan built around revenue-producing events rather than advertising. In this one-on-one conversational session, Jim will discuss the philosophy behind Spirited Media, learnings from more than two years of operating Billy Penn, and his thoughts on the future of local coverage and media business models.
2017 Session Recap: 

- Focus on Mobile
o   Design for mobile first.
o   Design for the desktop homepage last (due to rise of mobile and sideways traffic from social and search, no longer the most important).

- Invest in alternative forms of revenue.
o   Banner display only accounts for 45% of BillyPenn’s revenue
o   Events are the primary source of income

- On-Demand Events (based around current events in the news) are hard to design and execute.
- Focus on social events.  BillyPenn has had success by highlighting leaders within an industry.
- Staff accordingly and pull the entire organization (editorial and sales) into the development process.

- Build an interesting and authentic brand
o   “Someone coming to BillyPenn should find interesting stories,” written by BillyPenn or shared from other local sources (don’t be afraid to link out).
o   Capture the spirit of the city you are in and build a relationship with your readers.
o   Consider the lifetime value of your readers (pageviews matter, but unique users matter more).
o   Avoid a heavy ad experience.

- Make use of a small staff by writing stories with a long shelf life
- Build a newsroom that is willing to change and adapt