Spirited Media has reached an agreement to sell Denverite to Colorado Public Radio, and the news organization will operate under new management as of March 11th.
This is not the first ownership change for Denverite: In March 2017, Spirited Media merged with Avoriaz, the operators of the Mile High City’s local news operation. The newsroom, which launched almost a year earlier, in June 2016, was founded and funded by investors Kevin Ryan, Gordon Crovitz and Jim Friedlich, among others.
“We’re thrilled to be able to sell Denverite to a local brand as iconic as Colorado Public Radio,” said Jim Brady, CEO of Spirited Media. “When we acquired Denverite in 2017, we saw then what CPR sees now: A site that talks with its audience, not at it; a site that earns money by building relationships, not just by building scale; one that makes it clear every day that its journalists don’t just report on Denver, they live in and care deeply about Denver.”
“Denverite has become an important source of original journalism, serving a growing community need for news in Colorado’s largest city,” said Colorado Public Radio President and CEO Stewart Vanderwilt. “We’re thrilled to have Denverite join the CPR family, where it will get the enhanced reach and infrastructure of the CPR network, while still retaining the unique voice and focus its audience knows and loves.”
“Denverite provides extensive coverage of what’s happening in the city, giving CPR News even more opportunity to focus on stories with statewide interest,” said CPR Executive Editor Kevin Dale. “The resulting impact of more local and statewide coverage across all platforms will benefit the entire state, particularly at a time when local news needs as much support as possible.”
Now, perceptive reader that you are, you may be wondering what’s next for Spirited Media’s other newsrooms — Billy Penn, which launched in Philadelphia in 2014, and The Incline, which launched in Pittsburgh in 2016. Well, we are also in talks with potential local buyers in those cities as well, and we’re hoping to have announcements on their futures in the coming weeks.
Why? Well, that’s the path that’s emerged for Spirited Media, which has already pivoted a couple of times, as every startup must. The latest pivot reflects the reality of being a startup in these difficult times for the local media business: There is more money out there for companies like ours to earn helping others do what we do via consulting than continuing to raise money to expand into new markets.
We’re now in the second year of an agreement with the Graham Media Group’s digital division to assist their local stations in Detroit, Jacksonville, Orlando, Roanoke, Houston and San Antonio on overall digital strategy. We’re part of Newspack, the Wordpress.com and Google-led effort to re-imagine publishing for small and medium-sized newsrooms. We’re helping WBEZ, Chicago’s largest public radio station, to examine its digital future. And we’re in discussions on a number of other projects that’ll allow us to share what we’ve learned with companies trying to navigate the difficult terrain of digital local news.
That said, this moment is bittersweet. Yes, moving a news organization we’ve operated for years into the arms of local owners is immensely satisfying. We’re also sad to see friends and colleagues moving out of the company. But it is the right thing to do, both for us and for them.
Denverite has been Spirited Media’s most successful newsroom in terms of building a membership program, with nearly 1,200 people contributing to the organization. That’s an impressive feat considering the newsroom launched membership only a year ago. The comments that come with donations have shown us that Denverite has achieved what it set out to do: Build a deep, meaningful relationship with its audience and to ask that audience to support the work that it does so well.
So we wish the Denverite staff all the best in their new home. We’ll miss them, but we’re very heartened that Colorado Public Radio believes in their mission and their work every bit as much as we did at Spirited Media.