Long before Spirited Media was created in 2014, many of us who now work here had been thinking about — and worrying about — the future of local news. For more than a decade now, local news organizations have been fighting for continued relevancy in a world where consumers have an endless array of media options but no more minutes in the day to consume them.
Because of this disruption, we knew Spirited Media’s approach had to be built around proving to the consumer we were worth those minutes in their day. That meant delivering sites via their platform of choice — mobile. That meant developing a voice that felt intimate, not institutional. That meant helping consumers better understand their cities by sharing not just our work but any work worthy of their time. That meant getting to know them by throwing awesome events and being social on, well, social media. It meant making the sites friction-free by not including pop-up ads, pagination, interstitials or slideshows created purely to generate empty page views.
The result of those efforts, we think, are sites that keep you fully informed about what’s going on in Philadelphia (Billy Penn), Denver (Denverite) and Pittsburgh (The Incline), while also providing tons of information on where to go, what to do and how to help make those cities better places to live. Simply put, we think we’ve proven that we’re essential to those who visit us. Like with any startup, the ride hasn’t always been smooth, but along the way, we’ve learned a ton about what local news consumers want in this new world and how to best deliver it.
So when we announced late last year that we were pivoting away from advertising and doubling down on events and membership, we also decided to offer consulting services for others trying to win the battle for the future of local news.
So we’re excited to announce that we’ve kickstarted that business by partnering with Graham Media Group to work with its television stations in Detroit, Jacksonville, Orlando, San Antonio, Houston and Roanoke, Va. We’re spending a day in each market to talk about overall digital strategy, with a specific emphasis on writing with voice, user experience, headline ideation, e-mail newsletters and push alerts.
We’re thrilled to be working with Graham and to be able share what we’ve learned during our exhilarating four-year ride. While our core business remains operating our three sites and seeking opportunities to expand into new cities, we also know that what we’ve learned about the future of local news is valuable and relevant, and we’re happy to share it. Like with any good business, we want to be compensated to do that, but there are no lessons — hard won or hard lost — we’re not willing to share.
The Graham Media Group consulting work is being performed by three Spirited Media employees: Jim Brady (that’s me), former executive editor of washingtonpost.com, founder of the late TBD.com and former editor-in-chief of Digital First Media; Chris Krewson, our vice president of strategy and the former chief digital editor at Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and The Philadelphia Inquirer; and Brian Boyer, our vice president of product and people and the former head of the visuals team at NPR and former data guru at the Chicago Tribune.
Between the three of us, we’ve spent more than 50 years in digital journalism — and have the scars to show for it — and we’ve led groups that span editorial, product, revenue and, well, just about everything other part of a digital business you can think of.
Opening new revenue lines is an exciting step for any young company, and consulting is our third of the year. We signed the first licensing deal for our newsletter-and-membership focused content management system in January, and then launched a membership program in February. Adding these to the existing revenue lines of events and advertising now gives us a wider variety of options on which to build our business.
One of the things I’ve loved most about my 23-plus years working in digital journalism has been the willingness of almost all of us to share. While Spirited Media expects to continue to expand into new markets, there are a lot of cities in the United States, and the more important battle is for a future that includes vibrant local journalism ecosystems in every market. We’re glad to help anyone who’s seeking guidance on how to do that.
If you’ve got any interest in talking to us about how we can help, feel free to drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.