Mayor Announces $1.5 Million Bailout Plan for City’s Media and Tech Industry

Take heart, laidoff print, TV, and new media-oriented New Yorkers. Mayor Michael Bloomberg has a $1.5 million bailout plan that he hopes will create and retain between 6-8,000 media jobs. He announced today eight new initiatives for MediaNYC 2020, an arm of his Five Borough Economic Opportunity program, including a new affordable co-working space designed for freelancers, a new media research center modeled after programs at MIT and Stanford, and even a “boot camp” and apprenticeship program to teach “traditional” media workers how to adjust to the new media landscape.

“Today’s media sector is experiencing sharp and often painful changes,” he said at the glass-walled lobby in Barry Diller’s IAC/InterActiveCorp tower in Chelsea. “Many mainstay firms have been hard-hit by the recession and the rapid pace of change in media technology. Growth in these traditional media companies is stalled.” 

But new technology companies like social networking sites, mobile apps, online gaming and user-generated content are all innovating, Mr. Bloomberg said, just in other parts of the country (like Silicon Valley) and the world.


“We can’t do a lot here in the city about the short term phenomenons on the health of the industry,” Mr. Bloomberg said. “Newspapers are having trouble because other companies aren’t advertising. What we can do is make sure newspapers are still here. Same thing for all the mainstream media–radio and television, cable television. As important, if not more important, is those new media companies get started here because, in the end, they will employ an awful lot of people.”

Mayor Bloomberg took the chance to promote his own financial media company’s paid service as a new media model. “All of the different mediums can survive if what you transmit over it is something people want,” Mr. Bloomberg said.” And I think it’s much too easy, I’ve always thought, too easy to blame new media versus old media and say well, we’re not in the right media. If you’ve got something that people want, they will pay for it.”

“People aren’t buying, maybe you’re not printing what people need to have,” Mr. Bloomberg told reporters.

As part of his plan, Mr. Bloomberg said that this fall, a new program, called JumpStart New Media, will assist about 50 “displaced” entrepreneurs and mid-level employees from traditional media companies and help them discover new media and digital jobs. The city plans to offer a new media training “boot camp,” followed by a 10-week, unpaid apprenticeship opportunity with a new media company.

Mr. Bloomberg also plans to build a NYC Media Lab, a research center modeled after programs at MIT and Stanford. The collaborative research center, set to open in January 2010, will be a space for academics, nonprofit researchers and corporate partners to conduct research and host lectures and workshops. The economic development department will ask for proposals later this month from “select partners” to develop the lab.

New York University’s ITP Program and Polytechnic Institute have been incubators for the city’s young entreprenuers, but some community members think the city needs to focus on high-tech education like MIT or Stanford or even Harvard, from which bright young minds like Mark Zuckerberg have emerged.  

“Universities are really at the heart of creativity at any city,” said Lee Bollinger, president of Columbia University, who noted that he wants to make Columbia a leading engineering and computer science institute.

Finding affordable office space among the city’s tech startups has been an ongoing struggle for many entrepreneurs and freelance new media bloggers in New York, too. New Work City on Varick Street, a co-working space for freelancers and startups, offers memberships for $50 to $500 per month. But discounted office space, with enough juice to power computers and servers, is in high demand. So the city is also partnering with economic and business advocacy organization Downtown Alliance to build “hives,” or coworking spaces. The first, called “Hive@55,” will be an affordable co-working space for up to about 50 freelancers at a time in a 5,000 square foot space at 55 Broad Street, the high-tech highrise built to attract more tech companies to the city.

“By creating new ‘freelancer hives’ targeted to specific sub-sectors within the industry, the city has created an environment where that community will have an opportunity to thrive, in spite of the difficult economic climate,” said Huffington Post’s new chief executive Eric Hippeau in a prepared statement.

The city’s department of information technology and telecommunications will also host regular Gov2.0 Tech Forums to help entrepreneurs learn about the city’s evolving use of technology and how their company can provide IT solutions for public services. On July 9, the city IT deparment, Google, DFJ Gotham Ventures and IBM will host the first forum with a panel discussion at Digital Sandbox in Lower Manhattan.

Other initiatives include bonds for rehauling old buildings for more high-tech wiring and features; a new tech and media fellowship with mentoring, networking and legal aid assistance for 20 “rising star” entrepreneurs annually; and the NYC BigApps Contest, previously announced at Personal Democracy Forum last week, to encourage the community to play with city data.

Mr. Bloomberg’s plan also calls for more recruits from foreign media companies in Asia and the Middle East and helping city-based companies expand overseas.

He announced the initiative in February, and planned specific programs after conducting more than 200 interviews and testimonies with the city’s traditional and new media executives, as well as tech entrepreneurs. Charlie O’Donnell, 29, co-founder and chief executive of Path 101, a New York based start-up focused on career discovery on the Web, and founder of nextNY, a grassroots New York tech company,  testified before the city council in October as part of the MediaNYC 2020 plan. He suggested that the city create a point person to act as a bridge between the government and the existing tech community, and have more city workers involved in netowrking events, like nextNY, the NY Tech Meetup, Digital Dumbo, and the Entrepreneurs Roundtable.

“At the end of the day, longer committments and more people on the ground are needed because innovation comes not from technology, but from people–and New York City technology has a people problem,” Mr. O’Donnell said at his testimony.

Mr. O’Donnell, an adjunct professor of entrepreneurship at Fordham University, has been an advocate of city schools and universities getting more involved in educating students about entrepreneur opportunities–not just IT jobs on Wall Street. “You can build all the incubators you want–unless you’re seeding students as early as high school or junior high with the idea that they could build the next Google here in New York, and giving them the learning tools to accomplish that, it’s never going to happen,” he said.

Mr. Bloomberg said the MediaNYC 2020 program is an “ongoing” process and welcomes feedback on the program’s site. “We’ve never had a strategy with the exception of film and advertising, mainly film, we’ve never had a strategy of trying to pay companies to come here or grow here or stay here,” said Mr. Bloomberg, who is running for a third term as mayor. When an attendee at the press conference asked Mr. Bloomberg what the entrepreneur and freelancer community could do to help relieve taxes for small businesses, Mr. Bloomberg said, “Keep the pressure on Albany, although I think at the moment they’ve got other things to worry about.”

Mayor Announces $1.5 Million Bailout Plan for City’s Media and Tech Industry