New digital media startup incubator launches in Philadelphia

Incubator to be operated by Ben Franklin Technology Partners – and funded by Knight Foundation – in conjunction with the Philadelphia Media Network; Partners include Drexel University, DreamIt Ventures and Philadelphia Foundation

PHILADELPHIA (July 11, 2011) – A new digital media incubator announced today will help foster the growth of startups in Philadelphia and inject a new culture of innovation in the media space.

Ben Franklin Technology Partners has received a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to launch the incubator with Philadelphia Media Network, Inc. (PMN), owner and publisher of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and philly.com. The strategic partnership will also include Drexel University, DreamIt Ventures and the Philadelphia Foundation.

Set to begin operation in September, the program will provide four startup or early stage technology companies with a minimum of six months of office space -- at PMN’s offices at 400 North Broad Street – technical and administrative support, mentoring, and access to the Philly.com platform for launching their digital media “apps” or related products.

“Hosting this technology incubator will enable PMN to identify and develop some of the newest, most creative mobile technology applications, social media and e-commerce ventures,” said Gregory Osberg, PMN President and CEO. “We are embracing the changes that are occurring in our industry, and our goal is to take the lead in shaping the way our readers – our customers – will do business with us in the future.”

While Philadelphia Media Network will host the incubator and provide Philly.com as a platform for launching the new products, Ben Franklin Technology Partners will provide mentoring and strategic business counsel to the startups. Drexel University will provide graduate and undergraduate students with the unique opportunity to work with and move freely between the startup companies and PMN’s established media business. BFTP also will work with DreamIt Ventures, a nationally-renowned Philadelphia-based startup accelerator program, on a secondary seed and support program that will be ideal for providing a stream of potential qualified candidates. The program is being made possible through a $250,000 grant from Knight Foundation to Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

“Knight Foundation is excited by the prospect of a trusted local media brand partnering to produce innovation,” said Michael Maness, Knight Foundation’s vice president for journalism and media innovation. “Through funding more than 200 community information experiments, we’ve found that the models with the best success are nurtured. We hope this incubator will help produce models that can be used both here in the fourth largest media market, and industry wide, in order to strengthen both journalism and our communities.”

“Project Liberty is a tremendously innovative way to fuse print and digital media while stimulating new enterprise formation. Ben Franklin Technology Partners is proud and pleased to be part of this initiative,” said RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, President and Chief Executive Officer of Ben Franklin Technology Partners.

“Startup companies will receive office space, equipment, and support, as well as entrée to our media platform for launching and testing their products,” said Osberg. “By hosting this incubator, PMN will also benefit by incubating a culture of entrepreneurship and innovative thinking throughout the company. This collaboration is an opportunity to immerse PMN amidst the latest technological innovations, as well as share years of corporate and media experience with the entrepreneurs selected to take part in the incubator program.”

In a demonstration of the company’s commitment to digital, Philadelphia Media Network also announced today that it will begin to provide digital subscribers to the Philadelphia Inquirer with Android tablets to read the daily digital editions of the newspaper, with further details of the initiative to be released within the next several weeks. Osberg noted that digital subscriptions represent a growing market for PMN and that more and more customers are turning to the digital format to receive their daily news.

About Philadelphia Media Network

Philadelphia Media Network, Inc. (PMN) is the owner of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Daily News, and Philly.com. With its multiple brand platforms and integrated print and digital products, PMN is the region’s largest media network and the industry’s technological leader and innovator. The Philadelphia Media Network reaches an average weekly audience of 2.2 million adults – more than the combination of the three evening television news shows or the combination of those radio stations ranked in the top ten during drive-time programming.

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged.

Media Contacts

Mark Block, Vice President, External Relations; Philadelphia Media Network, Inc. (o) 215/854-5640, (c) 202/494-0450, mblock@phillynews.com

Marc Fest, Vice President/Communications, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation (o) (305/908-2677; fest@knightfoundation.org

About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation

Knight Foundation supports transformational ideas that promote quality journalism, advance media innovation, engage communities and foster the arts. We believe that democracy thrives when people and communities are informed and engaged. For more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.