Spirited Media is growing, so we’re making some changes

When we launched Billy Penn in October 2014, Spirited Media — its parent company — had five employees. Today, our company also operates Denverite in Denver and The Incline in Pittsburgh, and we now employ 26.

That kind of growth inevitably comes with operational challenges, and Spirited Media is no exception. We’ve always run lean, meaning we’ve had someone running the company (me) and a lot of people with very specific daily focuses (news, sales, events, product, etc.) But as my own focus has increasingly moved toward fundraising and managing relationships with investors and our board, it’s become clear that I need more help managing areas of the company such as product, communication, partnerships and audience.

So, today, I’m happy to announce that I’m filling this void by appointing two of our longest-serving employees to new roles, and bringing on another accomplished digital media executive to Spirited Media.

First, Chris Krewson — Billy Penn’s editor since launch — will now become Spirited Media’s vice president of strategy and reach. Chris’s outstanding editorial instincts are no surprise to those who read Billy Penn, but his personnel decisions have been just as key. One of those decisions was to bring on Shannon Wink as his deputy, and I’m excited to announce she will now succeed Chris as Billy Penn’s editor. Finally, I’m thrilled to announce that we’ll be bringing on Brian Boyer — who’s been with us on contract since last November — on a full-time basis to become Spirited Media’s vice president of product and people.

I’m excited to see what Chris and Shannon do in their new roles, and to have Brian with us on a permanent basis. The needs of startups constantly evolve, and I am confident these moves will help us better attack the current needs of Spirited Media.

Chris was my first hire when we launched Spirited Media, and he was key to Billy Penn’s immediate impact in Philadelphia. His knowledge of the city — he was the executive editor of online at The Philadelphia Inquirer from 2007–10 — and his willingness to experiment with storytelling and engagement forms made all the difference in those early days of Billy Penn.

Prior to Billy Penn, Chris had spent four years in Hollywood, running the digital editorial efforts of both Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. Those roles helped him understand on an even deeper level how important it is to be relevant each and every day in a competitive media environment.

Under Chris, Billy Penn was a 2015 Online Journalism Award finalist for its coverage of the 2015 Amtrak crash outside of Philadelphia, and he also led teams that won awards at the Hollywood Reporter (a National Entertainment Journalism Award in 2013), the Inquirer (a National Headliner Award for Journalistic Innovation in 2009) and the Allentown Morning Call (Sigma Delta Chi award for Public Service and an NAA Digital Edge Award).

In his new role, Chris will tackle a variety of tasks, including helping us explore and manage key editorial partnerships, pursuing foundation funding opportunities, overseeing our internal and external communications, devising new editorial products for use across our sites and making sure we’re building audience across our sites as intelligently as possible.

There’s no one more deserving and better equipped to replace Chris than Shannon. She’s been with Billy Penn since launch, and, at every step, has shown herself to be a strong leader and manager, and, without a doubt, possesses the vision to lead Billy Penn into the future. Shannon originally served as the site’s community manager, but, from the start, played a key role in almost all facets of Billy Penn’s operation, including outreach, events operations and story editing. As a result, she was promoted to managing editor in 2015, where she helped manage the growth of our editorial staff and its relationship with our sales and events colleagues.

Shannon joined us from the NewsWorks team at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR affiliate, where she worked to better connect younger audiences to public media. There, she led the site’s social media strategies to align with marketing and membership goals and developed individualized social strategies for each reporter.

Shannon is a lifelong Philadelphian, and I can honestly say I have never met anyone who cares or knows more about Philadelphia. And I think it’s crucial to have site editors who love their cities, even while acknowledging their flaws, and the work needed to make them better.

In 2008, Shannon founded NEast Philly, a daily hyperlocal news website focused on Northeast Philadelphia’s ever-changing population. In 2010, one year after graduating from Temple University, she began teaching as an adjunct professor in the school’s Department of Journalism, where she also serves on the advisory committee.

In her new role, Shannon will be tasked with continuing to produce the outstanding local coverage the site has become known for, while expanding its reach farther into the city and the surrounding areas.

When Brian joined us on contract late last year, the idea was always that he’d eventually come aboard full time if both sides desired that outcome. Happily, both did, so I’m thrilled to make this the next stop on his exciting career path.

Brian’s most recent role was at NPR, where he built its news applications team. That team soon merged with the multimedia team, forming NPR Visuals — a combined photo, graphics, data, interactives, and video group. Among the dozens of accolades for Brian’s team were Online News Association, Society of News Design, Picture of the Year, DuPont, Scripps and Emmy awards.

Prior to NPR, Brian led the first team in the country with the label “news applications” — now used liberally in the news business — at the Chicago Tribune. His team was also one of the first newsroom development teams to heavily open-source a large portion of their work, and to blog, in great detail, about their methods.

At Spirited Media, Brian will be responsible for all facets of product, including design, conception, execution and analysis. He’ll also help us assure that we’re meeting company goals and living up to our values by helping to create more effective processes around employee onboarding, documentation and communication.

I’m excited to have reached this next phase in Spirited Media’s history, and can’t wait to see where Chris, Shannon and Brian — not to mention the rest of Spirited Media’s dedicated staff — take us going forward.