Bloomberg Tries To Strengthen Dying Media Industry

pressconf.pngToday, Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced eight new initiatives under his MediaNYC 2020 program, designed to promote innovation in the media industry and draw talented media companies and employees to New York in the hopes of strengthening the dying industry that was once at the core of the city’s success.

“New York City is the media capital of the world, but — with the industry undergoing profound changes — it’s incumbent on us to take steps now to capitalize on growth opportunities and ensure we remain an industry leader,” Bloomberg said.

Bloomberg’s administration said the initiatives will create around 8,000 jobs in the sector and support its growth for the next 10 years. Currently, the media industry employs 300,000 New Yorkers, or nearly 10 percent of the city’s private workforce, accounting for $30 billion in annual revenue. However, although the city is chock full of huge traditional media companies like The New York Times Co., Conde Nast, Hearst and Time Inc., to name a few, now almost half of those employed by media companies currently work for small to mid-sized outfits with less than 500 employees.

Bloomberg and his staff developed the eight initiatives after speaking at length with members of the media and technology industry, including CEOs and other execs. They are broken down into three areas: increasing collaboration between press outlets as well as with universities; attracting and training qualified workers; and recruiting foreign media companies or helping New York companies expand abroad.

The new initiatives include a few things that we think might help expand and grow the dying industry. For example, the Media Tech Bond Program, which will help companies pay for large IT purchases — essential for start-ups. There’s also the NYC Start-Up Procurement Initiative, which will encourage start-ups to bid for City IT contracts, the Media and Tech Fellowship, which will give “training, mentoring, networking opportunities with venture capital firms, and support services such as legal aid” to 20 “rising star” media and technology entrepreneurs, and the NYC BigApps Competition, which will challenge NYC software companies to develop applications that can use City data.

In the attracting and training area, there are also a few good ideas, like JumpStart New Media, an intensive boot camp that trains candidates — seemingly laid off media workers — with skills in digital and social media so that they can get a job at one of the new and emerging new media companies in the city. The program is similar to one Bloomberg implemented to help those laid off from finance jobs, but we’re skeptical about it’s implementation on the media side, since it promises that its 50 participants “will be offered a 10-week unpaid apprenticeship with a new media company and the potential of converting to full-time employment.” Anyone who has ever held an internship at a magazine or newspaper knows that it very rarely leads to full-time employment, but the promise of that sure looks good on paper.

Here are the descriptions of the initiatives provided by the Bloomberg administration:

Fostering and Promoting Entrepreneurship and Innovation

NYC Media Lab: NYC Media Lab, a research center for media companies and universities, will create a collaborative environment for innovation by connecting companies looking to advance new media technologies with academic institutions undertaking related research. New York City is home to 10,000 media companies and more than 100 universities and colleges, many of which independently pursue media-related research. Like similar initiatives at Stanford University and MIT, NYC Media Lab will maintain a database of projects to facilitate the interaction between academic and other nonprofit researchers and corporate partners, serve as a physical hub for networking events, and provide space for industry lectures and workshops. NYCEDC will release a Request for Proposals (RFP) in July to select partners to develop the lab and create a framework for the services it will offer. It is expected to be in operation by January 2010. Interested parties should email:

Media Tech Bond Program: NYCEDC has created the Media Tech Bond Program to help companies purchase new manufacturing, research or production facilities, retrofit existing building to accommodate hi-tech servers, or make large IT purchases. The tax-exempt bond program was made possible by a recent change in Federal law that now allows tax-exempt financing for facilities that are used in the creation or production of intangible property, including patents, copyrights, formulas, processes, designs and other similar items. Media Tech Bonds may be utilized to finance projects in the range of $1 million to $10 million. Interested companies should contact:

Media and Tech Fellowship: To increase opportunities for successful start-up companies in new media and encourage innovation in emerging sub-sectors, NYCEDC has established the Media and Tech Fellowship to be awarded to approximately 20 “rising star” media and technology entrepreneurs on an annual basis. Fellows will be provided with training, mentoring, networking opportunities with venture capital firms, and support services such as legal aid. Selection will be based on several criteria, including: demonstrated professional experience with a record of sustained business success and innovation; a business plan or early-stage start-up with the potential for significant New York City-based job creation; personal commitment to a continued investment in the culture and economic development of New York City; and an indication that the Fellowship will increase the entrepreneur’s probability of success. NYCEDC will release an RFP this week to identify a manager for the program to launch by October 2009. Parties interested in receiving the RFP should e-mail:

NYC Start-up Procurement Initiative: The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications will encourage local start-ups and established firms to team up on bidding for City IT contracts, and promote other City contracting opportunities for start-ups. The Department of Small Business Services will administer a “Prepare for Success” program which is a package of services to assist and encourage start-ups companies to expand through government contracting. City agencies will also host Gov2.0 Tech Forums — regular briefings on topics including City procurement and evolving IT processes. Special sessions will be organized for large contractors looking to interact with small technology companies that could act as subcontractors on City projects, providing an opportunity for both parties to network and foster future partnerships. The first Gov2.0 Tech Forum — with the Mayor’s Office of Contract Services, the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications, the Department of Small Business Services and private sector companies including Google and IBM — will take place July 9, 2009 from 3:00 PM to 7:00 PM at Digital Sandbox at 55 Broad Street in Lower Manhattan. Interested companies should RSVP to:

NYC BigApps Competition: Last month, Mayor Bloomberg announced the launch of NYC BigApps, an annual software competition for individuals or companies with operations in New York City to develop functional digital applications that utilize City data. Start-up and venture capital companies participating in MediaNYC 2020 expressed significant interest in utilizing City data to create new digital applications, and NYC BigApps will serve to stimulate innovation in the technology information and business media sub-sectors and attract and support developer talent in the City and surrounding communities. Winners will be selected in early 2010. NYCEDC released a Request for Expressions of Interest in June to garner interest among developers and the public regarding data content and a RFP for a competition partner on July 1.

Maintaining New York City’s Competitiveness By Attracting and Training Top Talent

Media Freelancer Hive@55: The lack of affordable workspace and the prohibitive cost of specialized equipment for emerging sub-sectors such as gaming and social networking can impede the growth and sustainability of start-ups and small businesses in the sector. To address these issues, the City is partnering with the Downtown Alliance to launch a center for media freelancers at 55 Broad Street in Lower Manhattan. The Alliance will lease and fit out a 5,000-square-foot space to suit the needs of media professionals and others who need quality workspace on a daily or short term basis and access to services such as contract editing, news feeds, and conference space. NYCEDC is providing a $100,000 grant to assist with start-up costs. The “Hive@55” will provide workspace for 50 freelancers at a time, and will provide workspace and services for as many as 1,850 part-time and drop-in workers per year.

JumpStart New Media: To ensure that traditional media professionals have the skills necessary to succeed in a new media marketplace, the City will launch JumpStart New Media, a training program to assist displaced or entrepreneurial junior to mid-level employees in exploring opportunities in new and digital media. The program, to be launched in September, will also provide the City’s media firms and entrepreneurs a pre-screened pool of high-quality candidates. JumpStart New Media will consist of a training “boot camp,” after which the first class of 50 participants will be offered a 10-week unpaid apprenticeship with a new media company and the potential of converting to full-time employment, building on Mayor Bloomberg’s successful JumpStart NYC program designed for workers laid off from the financial services sector. NYCEDC will release an RFP this week to identify an operator for the program.

Attract the Next Generation of Successful Companies to New York City

International and Domestic Recruitment: New York City is home to 29 multi-billion dollar media companies, more than any other city in the nation. To keep it competitive within the global marketplace, and to increase representation among emerging international and domestic media players, the City, along with executives from New York City-based media enterprises, is embarking on a recruitment campaign in emerging markets across Asia and the Middle East, and in Silicon Valley and the greater Boston area.

(Photo credit: Spencer Tucker/Office of the Mayor)