Pop City

Article excerpt

Don't look for negative vibes about Pittsburgh and its environs to turn up on "Pop City," a weekly Internet publication known as a Webzine.

"Pittsburgh really is beautiful place, and we are really trying to make people see that," says real estate developer Eve Picker, who signed on as the local publisher of the endeavor launched here in March 2006.

Pop City actually is the brainchild of Brian Boyle, a Detroit businessman, who two years ago joined co-founder Paul Schutt in launching their initial publication, "Model D," in the Motor City.

Much like the original publication, Pop City -- on the Internet at www.popcitymedia.com -- has a goal of calingl attention to "cool" happenings in the region.

"We tie our editorial calendar to a concept we call TIDE," said Boyle, who serves as group publisher. "It stands for talent, innovation, diversity and environment. We see ourselves as a highly localized online magazine that combines a lot of new urbanist elements ... with new economy elements. It's a really localized look at urban transformation and transformation to the new economy."

Their company, Issue Media Group LLC, is parent to five similar Web-based publications -- in Detroit, Grand Rapids and Lansing in Michigan, and in Pittsburgh -- that stress a forward-thinking tone in viewing development.

After starting Model D in 2005, the idea for a similar publication in Western Pennsylvania came via a suggestion from Louis Massanti, a Pittsburgh-based consultant who happened to be working on economic development issues with state government officials in Michigan, Boyle said.

In subsequent conversations, a search for a publisher eventually connected to Picker, a real estate developer whose nowallproductions company since 1997 has developed more than 130 loft-style residential units in 13 buildings, and 70,000 square feet of renovated commercial and retail space Downtown and in urban neighborhoods.

"The more we got involved with Eve, the more she felt this was a tool she could use to add value to what she was trying to do to bring more bodies to Pittsburgh and kind of re-frame the conversation about Pittsburgh," Boyle said. "So we formed a relationship so she would run operations there."

Picker, who works under contract with Boyle's firm, heads a small staff of similarly contracted employees, including Managing Editor Tracy Certo, who among other things is editor of Columns, a monthly magazine for the Pittsburgh Chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

But most of the original content for the publication comes from 20 to 30 freelance writers who are paid for each story that is published.

Boyle declined to disclose financial details of the operation, but said that Pop City started out costing about $200,000 to run, with advertising sponsors asked to pledge $15,000 and $40,000 to have their names listed on the Web site.

"That's still relatively accurate, but as we add content and do enhancements, the publication becomes more expensive to run," he said. "For example, since we launched Pop City, we've added the Innovation and Jobs news section and continue to add more neighborhood guides."

Boyle said Pop City receives about 150,000 visitors a month, and based on domain names and e-mails, they include what he said is "a pretty good mix" of the development community, members of the so- called "creative class" and an increasing number of business leaders.

Content is syndicated nationally, according to Boyle.

"So if someone signs up with Google Alerts for Pittsburgh, every Wednesday you will find a number of Pop City-related stories on the national Google alert feed," he said.

"More and more, we're getting a lot of feedback from people outside Pittsburgh," Boyle said.

That should be good news for developers, neighborhood associations, economic development organizations and government agencies who are trying to get more people to Pittsburgh. …