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Dec. 10, 2015, 9 a.m.
Mobile & Apps

The Philadelphia news site Billy Penn said Thursday that it’s releasing an online guide for mobile journalism, aimed at helping other news organizations navigate the ever-changing world of mobile-focused news. The project is being supported by a $106,000 grant from the Knight Foundation.

Billy Penn, launched in 2014, is a mobile-first site that aims to reach Philadelphia’s growing population of millennials. Billy Penn founder Jim Brady, who is also the CEO of its parent Spirited Media, said he wants the guide to provide a definitive take on what it means to be a mobile-first news organization.

“This would define best practices for user experience, but also which tools people are using, whether it’s video, audio, social, data viz,” Brady said. “What are people using to produce journalism to be consumed on mobile devices? Then, what are different sites doing to monetize mobile journalism? [We’ll] then put that together in some kind of document where people can spend time looking through it to get information, rather than just in a conversation at a conference or over a beer with somebody.”

Thirty-nine of the top 50 trafficked U.S. news websites receive a majority of their traffic from mobile, according to Pew‘s most recent State of the News Media report. (Pew’s research was conducted last January, nearly a year ago, so surely that number is higher now.) And as mobile becomes an increasing priority for virtually every news organization, it’s easy to forget how quickly the space has evolved in just the past few years.

“While many newsrooms and content creators are learning from their own experiments with mobile, this knowledge isn’t typically shared widely. There is little comprehensive, hands-on guidance about how to function in an increasingly mobile-first environment,” Shazna Nessa, Knight’s director for journalism, said in a statement. “Billy Penn will help answer this call by spreading learning about mobile news experiments and helping journalists better engage and inform their audiences.”

Billy Penn expects to debut the guide this spring, and it will regularly update the site to keep up with the pace of change in mobile news. It plans to use the funding from Knight to hire designers and developers to build out the guide. (Disclosure: Knight is also a funder of Nieman Lab.)

Much of the information in the guide will come from Billy Penn’s own experiences as a startup, and the site’s six-person staff will contribute to it. Billy Penn will also solicit outside contributors and ask others to share their perspectives on the mobile landscape.

“We’ll kick it off, we’ll maintain it, and we’ll be the curators, but we don’t want it to to just be us pontificating about what mobile first is, because people have different and equally valid opinions about what that means and everyone should be reflected in there,” Brady said. “That’s sort of the idea: To put all the arguments forward, to put all the opinions forward, all the tools and tactics to use, and let people using the guide make their own calls depending on their needs.”

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