I had a good laugh yesterday when I read that Yahoo is going to occupy the 9th through 12th floors of the former headquarters of The New York Times on West 43rd Street. Suddenly, being in the Flatiron District, which is supposedly the hub of everything digital, is not of concern anymore. Tumblr, which Yahoo recently acquired for $1.1 billion, is located in “Silicon Alley,” on 21st Street between Park Avenue South and Broadway. Their plan is to remain there.
To that I say phooey. I bet they move uptown very quickly. I have often visited the Tumblr office. Sparse and humble are the best words I can use to describe it. I think I remember seeing a ping pong table somewhere in their office, but when a few of the 175 people see the new Yahoo office, they will never go home again. Yahoo plans to load the joint with the same attractions as in the Google and Facebook offices: outdoor terraces, cafeterias with endless food from around the world, lounge areas, meditation rooms, game areas, and media centers. David Karp, founder of Tumblr, may try to keep his autonomy for a certain period of time, but sooner rather than later, he will succumb to the midtown super-office space.
Personally, I think the whole pitch that digital companies should be strategically located downtown was good PR hype from some real estate developer. Certain companies believe if they are located in the thick of things, they will automatically become a big success. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Several friends of mine set up shop five years ago in Dumbo (Down Under Manhattan Bridge Overpass), the digital/Internet area of Brooklyn. The area is loaded with startups and research centers. They actually believed if one company in Dumbo was successful, they all would be. All five companies went south within a few years. Every time we drive pass Dumbo, I feel so nostalgic that all my pals are gone from that vicinity.
I started noticing late last year that that the digital industry was maturing. Ten years ago most of the kids were in their early 20s. Today, many are married with kids of their own. Interestingly enough, older folks (40s, 50s, 60s) now work for Internet companies. Today, more and more people are interested in making companies successful rather than throwing hoops during office hours.
If you would have told me ten years ago that Yahoo would be replacing The New York Times in that legendary spot, I would have suggested that you were on drugs. I visited that building many times to pitch stories. I swear the building is filled with ghosts of some of the best newspaper people in the business. How fitting that Yahoo, a model of new journalism, would occupy the footprint of the most respected newspaper in the world.
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