Introducing Billy Penn: Welcome to version 1.0

Joan Brady

In 1681, William Penn launched the beta version of what has become the modern-day Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Today, we’re proud to launch the beta version of Billy Penn, a mobile platform serving the largest city of that commonwealth: Philadelphia.

Like the city it hopes to serve, this initial version of Billy Penn is imperfect. We’ll be adding new features and functionality — as soon as next week — with much of it focused on building communities of interest and finding new ways to deliver news of relevance to you when and where you want it.

Of course, while today is the official launch of the web site, Billy Penn has been publicly active for a bit. We’ve been on Twitter and Facebook for a few months, and have been producing a weekday newsletter for the past five weeks (sign up here). We hope those who have followed along have been enjoying how we’ve chronicled and curated what’s happening in Philly. We’ll continue to do that in ways that may be different from other sites. Here are a few of our approaches:

  • We will link to other sites, not over-aggregate: Our opinion is that, when covering a city and a region this large, it’s a waste of valuable resources to rewrite the hard work of others. A wise man once advised newsrooms to “cover what you do best, and link to the rest.” We’ve built our site around that ethos; there are hundreds of excellent professional journalists reporting on Philadelphia’s neighborhoods, sports teams, government, zoning, schools and a host of other topics. There are also an army of smart, interesting, funny and trenchant Philly residents and visitors, all quick to contribute to the social conversation. We are hoping to amplify those voices, as well as write original articles when we can contribute something unique to this robust ecosystem. So what you’ll see on are either links to our own original work or direct links that will take users to another page altogether. In fact, in the beginning, we will be linking to others in the majority of cases. We’re fine with that; it’s worked OK for Google so far…
  • We’ll let you follow specific stories: You’ll see opportunities on to “Follow this story.” This is a way for you to keep up with developing stories, or topics of interest (Philly’s bid for the 2016 Democratic National Convention, or the School Reform Commission’s dismantling of its contract with the Philadelphia Teachers Union). If you enter your email address, we’ll let you know when relevant news breaks.
  • We need your feedback: Lots of sites say they “want” feedback. We’re different. We don’t just want it. We need it. The present and future of media is collaborative. Without useful feedback, we won’t get better at serving your needs. There are plenty of ways to deliver that feedback. You can e-mail the staff collectively at or reach us individually via the e-mails on our staff bios. You can give feedback on Twitter or Facebook.
  • We won’t have comments — at least to start: One of the (many) things we’ll soon be adding is a way to host an informed, intelligent discussion that doesn’t expire in 24 hours. We’d even like to host some of those discussions in real life. It’s our opinion that interaction is moving into a “post-comments” period. Comments on articles are often limiting, sometimes maddening and frequently frightening. We’re working on a way to assure that conversations about topics people care about are effective at generating debate and — more importantly — action.

So, yes, there’s much still to do.

But, for now, we’re just hoping our site provides a quick way to catch up with the best of what’s being written, Tweeted, Instagrammed and Vined about the City of Brotherly Love. We hope you follow along with us and help make it better each and every day.

More to come soon.

Jim Brady, Founder & CEO

Chris Krewson, Editor

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Chris Krewson is the executive director of LION Publishers, a national nonprofit association that serves local journalism entrepreneurs build sustainable news organizations, and the founding editor of Billy Penn. He lives in Havertown.