Brooklyn, New York has long been a Mecca for publishing types. From Walt Whitman to the Daily News and beyond, the borough continues to breed hungry writers, artists and businesses that can use them.
Last month, news broke that media conglomerate VICE would be expanding its headquarters and its personnel within the Williamsburg area. According to The Wall Street Journal, the move could result in a $6.5 million tax break for the company if it were to meet “its job targets.” VICE plans to add 525 new employees to its already hefty payroll of 400. In 2013, Forbes.com reported that the “hipster Bible” was valued at $1.4 billion after Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox purchased a 5 percent share in the company for $70 million.
VICE and its holdings (VICE NEWS, noisey, MOTHERBOARD, MUCHIES, VICE SPORTS, the creators project, thump, i-D, FIGHTLAND, and VICE on HBO) have been headquartered in the Williamsburg neighborhood since 2001. The company has called 90 North 11th Street home since 2004. VICE’s offices currently take up 30,000 square feet of space. The current headquarters sits nestled in a neighborhood teeming with as many boutique shops as it has options for nightlife. It has many. Twenty- and 30-somethings spill out of coffee shops and charming haunts all around. VICE’s new digs will have 60,000 square feet of space, and the new location is only 10 minutes away from the current location on foot.
Though The Wall Street Journal, New York Magazine and The Observer all published stories about VICE’s big move last month, many of the media conglomerate’s neighbors were blissfully unaware of its pending transition.
After hearing the news, Gabe Barry, a manager at the Brooklyn Brewery, which sits directly across the street from VICE’s old locations, seemed indifferent. She said, “Though I’m always sad to lose a neighbor, the company needs to do what’s best for them.”
VICE is not the only publishing company that is seeing under-the-radar success in Brooklyn. Book publishing houses like Melville House and Akashic, both located in Brooklyn, continue to publish best-sellers year after year.
Journalist, entrepreneur, and media executive Steven Waldman says the media’s love affair with Brooklyn actually started with the novelists.
“A crazy percentage of Pulitzer Prize winners live in Brooklyn,” Waldman explains. “Then major concentrations of talent in music, art, design, cooking—and then the digital revolution. The sheer concentration of talent, especially young talent, makes it a natural for a place like VICE. And the vibe is very VICE.”
Following naturally, another Brooklyn publishing trend seems to be picking up steam. Brooklyn has seen an increase in the popularity of independent zines. Though still regarded as an underground industry, zine publishing has evolved from its 1980s and 1990s inception.
Last year, The New York Times published an article that noted an increase in “zine fairs that have popped up across the country.” Today, zine creators continue to push the boundaries of what is to be expected from print and online media.
For some, it was no surprise that Brooklyn would evolve so gracefully into a publishing gathering place. According to NYU professor and author of Notes From Underground: Zines and the Politics of Alternative Culture, Stephen Duncombe, the rise of independent publishing practitioners in Brooklyn may not be as romantic as it seems.
“Independent publishing follows where independent publishers can afford to live,” Duncombe explains. “At one time that was the East Village, now it’s in Brooklyn. Ten years from now it may be in Queens or the Bronx. I’m betting against Staten Island any time soon. In other words: it’s not something in the water.”
He may be right. Perhaps there is no magic serum.
Though many of Brooklyn’s new and established publishers are enjoying years of success, the media business is notoriously fickle.
As quickly as they started, companies like the hyper-localized BlockMagazine.com (a magazine that covered the Williamsburg and Greenpoint neighborhoods) fold. At the time of this article, representatives of BlockMagazine.com could not be reached for a statement on the challenges of publishing in Brooklyn.
In 2014, it may be safe to say that many of Brooklyn’s artists are no longer starving in areas like Brooklyn Heights and Williamsburg. Yet, the public can continue to look forward to increased populations of creative people and creative outlets as the publishing industry continues to expand throughout the city.