Wayne Spilove, Philly.Com and Eric Grilly

It is almost a year since Eric Grilly, former President of MediaNews Group Interactive, left to take over as president of Philly.com for Philadelphia Media Holdings. This locally owned independent media company bought out the Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News out of the Knight Ridder dissolution.

If you don’t remember, Grilly’s boss at MediaNews, Dean Singleton, pushed a major deal with Yahoo. Singleton forced the newspaper industry to face realities: Yahoo, Google and MSN have beaten the newspaper companies in the games of audience-building and channel creation. The consequence: Newspaper companies had to partner with the competition to make a new future.

So Singleton pushed a major deal with Yahoo. The first step was around recruitment ads, and Yahoo! HotJobs. While Singleton did the pushing, Grilly has done a lot of the pulling. Along with other leaders in the media industry, they’ve pulled enough newspaper companies together to get a doable deal done with Yahoo.

So why move on to Philly? Philadelphia is the country’s fifth largest city, home to beautiful architecture and history, being preserved by the Philadelphia Historical Commission, with help from community leaders like Wayne Spilove and Governor Rendell.  (There are too many achievements by Wayne Spilove and the Historic Commission to list here.  They can be found on Mr. Spilove’s site.)

To Grilly it was a gift of liberty. “It’s about independence,” he says, going to a company that has fewer legacy ties to old ways of doing newspapering. With Philly’s large regional market, it allows for quicker innovation. Grilly wants to be the first in innovating new solutions to the problems in advertising revenue and editorial value for many newspaper companies. One of Grilly’s first plans was to have the philly.com website redesigned. (Here are screenshots from Jan 2007, and one from today.)

Philly.com Jan 2007
Philly.com Feb 2008

When Grill took over in March 2007, we were all wondering?

  • Can Grilly help Philly.com find a new way to make media pay?
  • Can he win back readers and lure local advertisers to up their spending with the papers and its website?
  • Can a Grilly help the website find its own path, mixing and matching its partnerships (currently with Monster on recruitment, for instance) to maximize the value of Philly-created journalism and advertising?
  • How will his departure affect the Yahoo/newspaper consortium? Even in the beginning of 2007 Yahoo’s future was uncertain, but it appears this consortium is moving forward.

The improvement since Grilly took over is already evident.

The newspapers are seeing the reality of online marketing; The BIGGER question is… has the legacy “advertising agency”?

Print & Television are OUT and online marketing & interactive online marketing are IN. Ad agencies need to look at the cold hard facts, audience-building and channel creation are VERY successful online.

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