Hundreds pack Sienna Mercato for The Incline’s official launch party

Our mannequin challenge was 🔥🔥🔥

Jasmine Goldband / The Incline

Hundreds of Pittsburghers came together Thursday night for The Incline’s Official Launch Party at Sienna Mercato’s rooftop beer garden Il Tetto.

Our guests included publisher Ann Belser of Print; Councilman Dan Gilman; Pittsburgh Tribune-Review Editor Luis Fábregas; co-founder of Duolingo, Severin Hacker; Kit Mueller, director of strategic and community development for Trade Institute of Pittsburgh; and I heart PGH’s Lindsay Patross.

We ever so briefly interrupted the connections being made and the meatballs being eaten for brief speeches from Jim Brady, founder and CEO of Spirited Media, which runs The Incline and Billy Penn in Philadelphia; Gilman; The Incline’s VP of Sales and Events Ryan Croyle; and (me) Editor Lexi Belculfine.

Boos — and then cheers — followed Brady telling the group that Spirited Media’s second mobile-first local news site *almost* was going to be in Baltimore.

“A lot of what you’ll see that we try to do is we try to connect with the audience in a way that a lot of traditional media have struggled with. We try to talk to them. We try to meet with them. We try to focus on news brands that people really love, as opposed to a news brand that they [only] respect.

“We feel like in the new age of media people have to have a connection to you that’s a little deeper than reading you or watching you. They need to feel like they are a part of what you are doing,” Brady said. “Every time I came to Pittsburgh, all I picked up on was the passion that everybody who lives here has about the city. … The passion of the city is why we’re here.”

When he came to Pittsburgh for the first time to scope it out, the first person Brady talked to was Gilman.

“I get 99.9 percent of my news about Philadelphia from Billy Penn. That’s how I learn about what’s happening in city council, happening in the neighborhoods, what are the policies in Philadelphia that we want to emulate or not emulate. And the reason is, it is such the perfect model for exactly what my need and knowledge and interest is in Philadelphia,” Gilman told the crowd.

He continued by talking about “a gap” he saw in local media here reaching his friends. “I told [Brady], you can fill that gap in such an amazing way.”

Gillman went on to praise one of The Incline’s very first stories, Pittsburgh rent maps: Where it’s up, where it’s down.

“It was new information, different than anything I’d seen. You can read lots of things about housing in Pittsburgh, affordable housing and rental rates, but there was this incredible, data-driven story, that was summarized in 140 characters or less, caught my eye instantly, taught me something new about the city, provided me new talking points for both promoting the city and highlighting where we have trouble and need to work,” Gilman said. “It was in the first couple days, and I knew The Incline was going to succeed here.

“It is a complement to the great journalism we have in this town. … But it is going to feed into this changing city so well.”

Wanna hear more from Croyle and me? Check that out here: