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Boston Globe Loans Space to Startups

For The Heights

Published: Thursday, January 31, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 31, 2013 00:01

It’s no secret that newspapers have been suffering lately—with the digital age upon us, print sources of media lose their readers to free online databases dangerously often. As a result, newspapers like The Boston Globe are forced to make layoffs, and consequently, find themselves with unoccupied and unutilized office space.

When Christopher Mayer was named publisher of The Globe in 2010, however, he started to make a series of changes in an effort to dig one of Boston’s oldest papers out of debt by pursuing new business relationships. One of these changes comes in his recent decision to put the office space of nearly 100 former employees to use by redecorating it to resemble a living room and offering it as a productive space—free of charge—to anyone from startup brands, new technology companies, entrepreneurs, and everyone in between.

 “You don’t want to underutilize an asset,” said Mayer in an interview with The New York Times. “I have a building here that we can use for a variety of things. Bringing bands in, bringing events here, it reminds us and folks in the community what we do.” In doing so, Mayer hopes, he can get the staff of the Globe excited about what they do and, as a result, get the readers excited, too.

To Mayer, then, the purpose of employing the second-floor vacancy in this way is twofold. Not only will it foster new business relationships and create buzz surrounding the paper, but it will also have an enlivening effect on what has become a regrettably arid work environment.

Perhaps more important, though, is the potential this space has to become a source of revenue for a paper suffering from a serious lack of income, staff, and prospects for the future. By offering emerging innovators, musicians, and other business prospects space in which to work free of charge, they encourage what might end up being successful ventures to join The Globe in partnership, as well as offering them a chance to be featured in what is still a prominent news source.

Oftentimes these partnerships do not involve a monetary transaction.

Jeff Moriarty, the vice president for digital products at The Globe, told The New York Times that many projects involve “mutual benefit with no money exchanged.” For example, an app-building company called TapWalk is in the process of creating an app for The Globe in exchange for access to a workspace. There is also a radio station that operates out of the space on the second floor called RadioBDC, as in Boston Dot Com, an homage to the website that founded the station, The station, which is owned by The Boston Globe, is comprised of four DJs that play indie and alternative rock tracks for listeners in the Boston area. It went on air in August of 2012 and has since become the broadcast that serves as the playlist for background music for The Globe’s online readers while they look at articles on the website. When they can, the radio’s staff brings in bands to perform live on the show, including the Lumineers, who performed on RadioBDC last year. This helps both the show’s ratings as well as the bands’ reputations.

The Boston Globe is not the first newspaper to try to be productive with the space vacated by staff cuts. The Daily News transformed an empty office building into a condominium complex, and the Los Angeles Times opened up their offices to house movie production for big titles such as Argo, Dreamgirls, and Moneyball. Even airports and churches have advertised empty spaces as community areas during tough economic times, allowing it to be used in innovative ways similar to those used by The Globe under Christopher Mayer.

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