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Nov. 13, 2017, 1:43 p.m.
Business Models
LINK: medium.com  ➚   |   Posted by: Ricardo Bilton   |   November 13, 2017

Spirited Media — the much-watched local-news startup with sites in Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Denver — is providing a bit more clarity on its future plans, a week after the dispiriting news that it laid off five staffers.

In a Medium post this morning, Spirited Media strategy VP Chris Krewson said that version 2.0 of the company will include three major changes to the network of sites’ revenue model. One will be the addition of membership programs, which it plans to introduce to all of its cities starting next year. To develop the effort, the company is working with the News Revenue Hub, which has previously worked with sites like Honolulu Civil Beat, The Intercept, and PolitiFact.

Spirited Media is also exploring ways that it can get into the consulting business, which would let it work with companies looking to reach young, engaged readers. Krewson said that the company has already “gotten a handful of unsolicited requests for services like these in recent months, and believe it’s an opportunity worth exploring.”

Last, the company says it plans to redouble its events efforts, where it has already found success.

To fund the new efforts, the company’s raised $1.8 million from investors including Gannett, Patch, and Horan MediaTech Advisors, as well as Spirited Media founders Jim and Joan Brady. That funding, however, wasn’t enough to stave off the recent layoffs.

At the same time as it’s pushing into new revenue streams, Spirited Media is jettisoning old ones. The company says it will no longer offer direct-sold advertising, opting instead for display ads coming in via programmatic channels. Display advertising will be a “secondary revenue stream,” said Krewson. The move makes sense given that selling ads directly can be a costly, time-consuming process for media companies, particularly small local news organizations. Local news isn’t easy to scale, and neither is selling ads against it.

Krewson explained that the layoffs were a product of Spirited Media having less runway than its previous revenue projections led it to believe. Here’s how CEO Jim Brady explained the layoffs when we contacted him last week:

I’d just say it was a combo of not hitting revenue goals and thus needing to extend runway by reducing expenses. I don’t think it portends anything larger, to be honest. Everyone’s got a slightly different model and strategy. I just think local is still a complicated space, period. We’re done a lot of good things and I’m proud of where we are, but nothing in life comes easy…

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