Moving new media rural


#1

I don’t know that they are the future - but I know what isn’t - crafting headlines and stories to generate a click for the entire purpose of getting ad revenue.

The ads that generate the income were always there - and there was always a unease between the content room and the ad room over who ran the paper - but the inmates control the ship lately because they lost the understanding of how to keep the money flowing - and in the panic they took over.

Well that kept things afloat for a bit - but it’s a downward spiral. The truth is there is no reason for some of these places to be so bloated. Honestly there is no reason for a new media company to be based in any large city (like New York or London) when they can setup shop in Elmwood, IL (population est. 2,570 - cost of doing business 1/10000th of New York city) and do the same job on the ‘internet’ - this thing where physical locality doesn’t matter a hill of beans.

We may even see businesses do this too - someday - when they realize they can setup in some podunk down for a fraction of the cost - get cherry access to all the best tax breaks for doing so - move all their people and it would still save money - because a digital product doesn’t need to be made in San Fransisco - and thus can reap the benefits of cheap housing and infrastructure.

When this happens (I really believe it will at some point) - ‘rural’ America will have it’s rebirth, and the deeply blue demographic of the cities will disperse outward - turning the country mostly blue - and moving those 3 million votes to the places they would be 1000% more powerful (like south dakota perhaps).

The wake up call that digital means anywhere needs to happen.


Oh please let zines be the future of media!
Oh please let zines be the future of media!
Oh please let zines be the future of media!
Oh please let zines be the future of media!
#2

Well there is one reason: you want people to work for you. Unless you’re comfortable with everyone working completely remote then no, there’s no way you’re getting people to move to Elmwood, IL, population 2,570 to work for you. The reason you base yourself in NYC, SF, LA, Chicago, etc. is to entice people.


#3

Let me explain - keep the salary the same. Now tell someone they can keep 99% of it because the rent/mortgage is going to be like 400 a month (not 3000+) and see if you can convince people to move.

Given the cheaper rates for electricity and land - use the savings to pay people to move.

Honestly you got me - having to move to a city where the rent starts at over 2 grand for a shoebox is … so enticing.


#4

The problem with that plan is that if a large number of high-salary workers move into a small town, rents won’t stay at 400/month for very long.


#5

I agree, but not completely. I think too much importance is given to New York, LA, and San Francisco, but I don’t think that just any other location is a given. You can’t just uproot a company, move it into the middle of nowhere, and expect employees will move with you. It has to be somewhere that people want to live, which can be as simply consumerist as having a diversity of shops, to being close to friends and family.

New York gets too much attention, but it’s pretty undeniable, a lot of people want to live there, and that’s a big reason so much is done there. Maybe if remote work is embraced fully as something an employee can reasonably expect at most jobs, the choice of location can be much broader.


#6

Landlords being landlords. the rents will at least double. That won’t be so great for the longtime residents of Elmwood, IL who don’t know how to code or have an MBA (or a post-secondary degree for that matter). The other question is whether the salary will be kept the same; startup founders and their investors look for everything they can do to cut the labour line item, so “this isn’t the Bay Area so we’ll pay a coder 1/2 of what he’d get there” would be a statement you’d likely hear in board meetings. I suspect in the end that $400/month rent will turn out to be $800/month, on a $50k/annum salary instead of a $100k one.

That math might be workable, and there’s probably a way to entice young workers to startups in boring small towns: tell them at the start of their careers they’ll be spending 80hrs/week at the office anyhow,* so it’s not like they’d get to enjoy the cultural and culinary and dating amenities of a big, diverse and exciting city like SF or LA or NYC anyhow.

Really, though, what’s going to happen is that such new media companies will keep their executive offices and sales offices in NYC or SF or push as much as possible of the tech work to the hinterlands for remote work or low-cost satellite offices. At that point, though, the hinterlands won’t be Elmwood, IL but Bangalore or Hanoi, because if you don’t need those employees on-site in NYC then you don’t need them on-site in the U.S. (and I guarantee that most of the American artists and writers and videographers and musicians will be in pricey major urban areas, because that’s where young creative class types go).

[* how’s that big baller salary looking on an hourly basis now, techbro?]


#7

Rent would go up, but you’d also have to pay me more. Yeah, that money goes farther in bumfuck, nowhere, but you still have to convince me to live in bumfuck nowhere, know what I mean? If you’re going to go that route you want a modest city, like Twin Cities or something, low cost of living but I actually have access to things. Especially because, and there are companies that do this, moving into a town in the middle of nowhere is a trap. There’s a company called CGI, they do consulting in my field, and one of their places is in the middle of nowhere in Virginia? Why? First, it’s cheap, and second, if you want to quit you have nowhere to go; there’s no competition, so if you take a job you need to move either to the DC area or somewhere else, creating a lot more friction.


#8

Lets pretend (as we are) that the idea of keeping the salary the same stays to entice people to the small town.

Rents can’t double. Unlike San Fran there is no shortage of land to build. You can’t charge me double for rent when I have the money and means and available land to build something 10x as nice for less than double the rent price.

So no - rents won’t double. Now you could assume that all these high priced workers will want ‘better’ - so they build new houses… but that’s fine - existing rents may go up a bit - but honestly now the town has investment - and new tax dollars for higher priced homes - existing residents see the quality of life go up - and stores and stuff are built because ancillary business is attracted to the money.

This is how you rebuild ‘rural’ America - and it’s exactly what the factory owners realized way back when - when the manufacturing base moved out of New England (so many mills from the late 1800’s) and into the rust belt.

Cheap land - lets you bring people to the land and rents don’t go up because… cheap land. The reason rents go through the sky high roof in a place like San Fran is because they don’t want to build all that new housing.

Now spread this out and hopefully not every business goes to the same podunk town but another one 30 miles over - etc. and you revitalize our country. I get it - cities are nice - and I do agree - however the consolidation of all the tech work (that doesn’t need a specific area to do their jobs) let alone businesses that don’t need a city at all (like news) in high priced cities is unsustainable.


#9

Yeah rent isn’t everything. Seriously. I just quit a position with IBM mostly because they balked at a written promise to let me work remote after time in small town Iowa. Plus the lack of documentation and lack of proper knowledge transfer + GET THIS SECURITY CHANGE DONE NOW… oh you didn’t get the change record out of draft even though hey I had been working 2 others in draft and was told it will all be good just go get it done. Fuck em.

Seriously when I asked what there was to do I repeatedly got told bars and the casino. If it wasn’t for rerun tv channels I wouldn’t have lasted 3 months. Sure the paycheck could buy a lot more but there was fuck all to do. Plus why should I give up views like this.


#10

There’s available land, but if demand for it goes up and there’s money to pay for it, the price rises. Perhaps not so fast at first, and perhaps it will never be as pricey as a crowded coastal city, but enough that the folks there without the high-paying tech jobs are going to feel the squeeze.


#11

Well yes and no. From all the articles I have read they are more than happy to build all the business parks out in the surrounding areas but everyone is forced to live in the existing housing because even though new CorpPark™ is goodness god forbid they build new housing nearby for people to live reasonably close to work. So duh rents and property prices go crazy.


#12

If the startup wants to get into the property development business that might work, but most housing stock in a small town is controlled by locals who’ll be itching to up their rents and/or build new stock on land they own that they can charge a premium for. The available land is already owned by someone, and that someone will have to get loans to develop on it in the short term and will be looking for a healthy return on investment in the long term. Prosperity in an area doesn’t increase without real estate values and rents doing the same – gentrification isn’t just an urban phenomenon.

On the income side, having been involved in a number of tech startups I can guarantee the salary won’t stay the same as one in SF or NYC. The founders may be rural-loving idealists, but their investors are going demand lower salaries for a company based in an area with lower costs of living before they fund such a company.

There were a lot of reasons besides cheap land that the factories and mills moved to what is now the Rust Belt, and “rebuilding rural America” was low on their list of intentions. The bulk of employees (whose numbers were far larger than those required of a tech startup) of the new mill in the Midwest were born-and-bred locals who were otherwise like the employees of the old mill who stayed behind in New England: blue collar, high school education or less, not very mobile, and tied to where they were born.

Companies that did need to attract new employees to a remote or undesirable location would frequently build new housing stock themselves or through subsidiary or partner businesses. With any luck those building a company town were looking for more than a way to squeeze the employees for every last cent.

All that is to say: comparing a 19th-century textile or steel mill to a 21st-century tech or new media business is a stretch.

The alternate scenario I laid out (based on what happened to the financial services industry in NYC starting in the 1990s) is the more likely outcome for a digital media outlet:

  • well-paid executive staff and sales staff in a scaled-down office in a major global or regional city where they can do their expense-account entertaining, meet with clients, visit with investors and corporate lawyers and accountants, interview upcoming graduates of and tap the basic research expertise of the local R-1 universities, and hop on a direct flight to anywhere.

  • back-office tech and admin staff in a satellite office or data centre in a cheaper suburb or exurb or rural area (not necessarily in the U.S.)

  • the creatives mostly gigging it remotely or living in the same big city where the head office is (with some choosing to live in rural areas).

Where your scenario is more workable is with non-tech startups where remote work isn’t a factor. There are plenty of examples of startups like that, although not as many as there should be.


#13

That policy change by IBM stands as one of the most stupid American business decisions of 2017.


#14

Sadly even though I had given notice my “fuck up” of pushing the change got me out the door a bit early.
If they had asked at an exit interview what could be done my answer would have been ‘Don’t make your workers move to nowhere dead towns for a job’. From what I gathered from the other people there other than a few who were from the area originally they were all just biding their time and hated the location.


#15

Obviously the paycheck isn’t enough for you - it would be for plenty of people.


#17

5x what they were paying me would not make up for ‘THERE WAS FUCK ALL TO DO THERE’. Seriously. Bars and the casino was fucking it for things to do. No amount of extra money can make up for that boredom.


#18

To a point - unless every company decided to move to the same area it shouldn’t happen. There isn’t much that ‘local landlords’ can do if there are a few thousand acres of available land for cheap. This country has a ton of land - and a ton of places looking for new blood - eventually companies will capitalize on it.


#19

Ok - the fact that there are hundreds of people who would not give a crap is the entire reason that Texas is now a hotbed of activity. People move to nowhere - and make things happen. Dallas was just a cow town at one point - oil changed that - the Dakota’s are doing the same thing - because of oil. That’s not because there was anything to do there - it’s because they’ll pay someone 100k a year to drive a truck on an oil field and then the salaries go up.


#20

I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s Iowa!


#23