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Midtown’s empty offices could be turned into affordable housing

(REAL ESTATE MARKETING) With remote work quieting Midtown, there are plans to create affordable housing in Manhattan’s high-income business neighborhood.

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New York Midtown, where office buildings may turn into affordable housing

Since the start of the pandemic, Manhattan’s business districts have become something of a ghost town. With almost no one going to work at the office — or going out to eat or drink after work — entire blocks that were once busy and bustling have become empty. With so many New Yorkers currently struggling to pay the city’s famously high rent prices, this begs the question of whether or not Midtown should be rezoned – should some of the city’s (now obsolete) high-end office buildings be converted into affordable housing?

As someone who has always wanted to move to New York (but also values having affordable rent!), this potential rezoning plan sounds utopic. Imagine: A live-work-play neighborhood with fantastic transit, top-notch restaurants that cater to locals, and all the amenities you’d imagine for a residential area in NYC. I’m packing my bags as you read this.

And yes, it may seem far-fetched to reimage Midtown as a place to raise your family if you aren’t multi-millionaires, but, at this point, the city is trying to be creative.

Since September, only 10% of New York’s workforce has returned to their Manhattan offices. Essentially, office and hotel buildings (the former being notoriously easier to convert into affordable housing than the latter) have been collecting dust – and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, as work from home has proved itself to be a viable, economically sustainable option.

Historically, there have been major tax breaks for commercial-to-resident conversions, as was seen in the mid-1990s 421-g program, which revitalized Lower Manhattan. This is part of the incentive for developers, who would ultimately be rewarded for taking a risk during the economic uncertainty COVID-19; building permits in NYC during the first half of 2020 have hit historic lows.

And that’s not the only incentive. Did you know that many of the city’s older buildings still run on steam heat, which is extremely inefficient? Converting these buildings into residential units would result in a massive environmental win for the city, as they would need to abide by the city’s strict new building code. Cheap rent for me and lower emissions for the city? Sign me up!

It will be interesting to see how the city ultimately decides to react to the COVID-induced ghost-townification of Midtown. I do believe, however, that the vain in which they decide to rebuild will be defining of the next decade of NYC. The city will never die, that’s for sure. How it continues to live is the question.

Anaïs DerSimonian is a writer, filmmaker, and educator interested in media, culture and the arts. She is Clark University Alumni with a degree in Culture Studies and Screen Studies. She has produced various documentary and narrative projects, including a profile on an NGO in Yerevan, Armenia that provides micro-loans to cottage industries and entrepreneurs based in rural regions to help create jobs, self-sufficiency, and to stimulate the post-Soviet economy. She is currently based in Boston. Besides filmmaking, Anaïs enjoys reading good fiction and watching sketch and stand-up comedy.

Social Media

This habit tracker shows you insights you may not want to know

(SOCIAL MEDIA) The Haptic Life Tracker app documents your (good and bad) habits. But how much do you want to know?

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Haptic, a habit tracker app for Apple, shows you almost too many data points.

Ah, Facebook. We hate you for being a massive time suck. We love you for documenting our lives (seriously, that memories feature toys with my emotions daily).

If that time suck becomes too sucky and you need to break up with your feed – but you want to keep a list of what you’ve been doing – check out the brand-spanking-new app Haptic Life Tracker for iOS.

The benefits, according to the makers: “Track your habits and activities in one timeline and get insights based on your actions. See what your life looks like at a glance.”

This habit tracker lets you track useful things like how many glasses of water or cigarettes you’ve had, music you’ve listened to, or what books you’ve read. If you need another reason to feel bad about yourself, you could also track how many times you got wasted last week vs. how many times you worked out – information you may or may not want to see in the cold, hard light of your phone screen (Hey, single people. It’s COVID-19 Time, so can we all just agree not to track the number of days since we’ve had a date? Thanks).

The free version of the habit tracker starts you off with seven preset categories, including music albums, games, and flights, and lets you add five customized categories. You can also auto import data from the iOS Health app.

Paid membership ($1.49 monthly or $12.99 for a year, with a seven-day free trial) gets you a virtually unlimited number of areas to obsess over. The membership also includes more ways to get insights and parse your daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly data.

With any tracking app, the big question is privacy and who gets to see your data. The app makers address privacy right off the bat. According to them, all content lives only on your phone and is not synced with external servers. So, hopefully, Google won’t learn how abysmally low your water intake is compared with your wine log (Am I projecting a lot onto this app? I think I’m projecting a lot onto this app).

Having all that data in one place could let you delete some of the more specialized tracking apps. By way of comparison, take a look at The Muse’s “The Top 50 Apps for Tracking Everything in Your Life.” There should be at least one habit tracker you could cut to whittle down your list. Although maybe not PooLog, which tracks your bowel movements by “type, time and volume” to help identify health issues. The Muse adds: “Or it’s just great for poo aficionados.” I did not know, nor did I need to know there are “poo aficionados.”

Haptic Life Tracker was recently featured on tech-product watch site ProductHunt.com, where comments from maker Alexey Sekachov reveal they’re working on versions for Apple Watch and Android, as well as potentially adding a social component.

Also on the informational treasure trove that is the Product Hunt comments feature, one commenter nailed the app’s minimalist look and feel: “Both beautiful and creepy. Black Mirror meets black turtleneck (Steve Jobs would be proud).”

The ability to use tech to gain insights into our habits and chronicle our lives is the same: Both beautiful and, if we’re honest, just a titch creepy. Haptic Life Tracker certainly has the potential to help us become more self-aware. Its potential pitfall is becoming another time suck: Obsessing over every detail of our lives. I’m looking forward to user reviews to see which idea wins.

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Real Estate Marketing

Improve your SEO research with this free browser extension

(MARKETING) Ubersuggest makes search engine keyword research insanely easy–and free. This Chrome extension can help you boost your visibility.

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search optimization

Search engine optimization (SEO) research is a fairly gatekept process, and it can be challenging to break into the industry without spending either a lot of time or a lot of money. Ubersuggest, a keyword extension for Google Chrome, disrupts that process considerably.

Ubersuggest Chrome Extension 2.0: The Ultimate Keyword Research Tool is an extension similar, in many ways, to any extension you might use in your Chrome browser: easy to install and largely contingent on browser integration. However, Ubersuggest puts prime keyword research results right in your URL bar, making it both incredibly useful and supremely convenient to access.

And, like most extensions, Ubersuggest is completely free to install and use.

The way Ubersuggest works is relatively simple. After installing the extension, a user simply types a word or phrase into an empty URL bar; Ubersuggest will then display pertinent information about that word–namely how many searches per month it has and the most recent cost per click value.

Upon searching for the word or phrase in question, Ubersuggest will also generate a sidebar chart with comparable terms and the pertinent usage and CPC values for each word, a breakdown of shares, domain score, and the SEO conversion percentage (e.g., how many times users clicked that word) for Google-based searches.

Ubersuggest even works in YouTube and Amazon search bars provided you’re on the pertinent websites, and you’ll notice information about domains appear under search results even when you’re not looking for SEO information.

The only noticeable shortcoming of this service is that it doesn’t necessarily account for searches performed in other engines–Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.–but given that Google encompassed almost 92 percent of search engine activity last month, it’s a minor shortcoming indeed.

Neil Patel, Ubersuggest’s creator, promises to keep updates to the extension coming. “My goal is to make major releases to Ubersuggest every month if possible,” he mentions in a post for the latest release. One such release looks to be a dashboard expansion for the extension icon when clicked.
Patel also wants to ensure that users of prior versions of Ubersuggest uninstall and reinstall the extension in order to utilize YouTube and Amazon keyword features.

Given how expensive keyword research can be, this extension is a godsend for anyone looking to beef up their online marketing for virtually no overhead.

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Real Estate Marketing

Steal this Apple marketing method to crush your competitors

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apple copy

Apple is a $2 trillion monolith of a company, and for countless good reasons. One of the primary reasons is their powerful marketing – one could argue they’re more famous for that than their actual product. Alex Garcia has a clear and concise guide to the process Apple uses to create compelling website copy, and it’s something you should absolutely try in your next round of marketing.

Garcia, a known marketing expert, breaks Apple’s copy down into 13 distinct techniques, the majority of which can be lumped into 3 categories:

  1. Appealing to customers
  2. Appealing to experts
  3. Appealing to the algorithm

Like any good marketing scheme, the majority of Apple’s techniques fall into the first category, but the overlap between these groups is what makes Apple’s copy stand out.

When appealing to customers, Apple tends to make things as simple as possible, sticking to a modern adaptation of the phrase “less is more.” This is a process that involves anything from rhyming (yes, seriously) and using alliteration all the way to creating short, energetic sentences that place the reader in the driver’s seat.

Apple also likes to focus on specific product details – edgeless screens, faster chips, camera abilities – as individual selling points, complete with supporting images. In theory, this makes it easier for the consumer to keep track of the benefits of the product.

And that energetic copy, often stemming from short sentences with the words “you” and “your” appearing organically, always accompanying those product details.

For what Garcia identifies as “scanners,” the most impressive information comes first (and uses the largest font), with the rest of the information following an “inverted pyramid” format in which details taper down from largest benefits to smallest benefits.

Apple’s overlap between experts and consumers is similarly notable. For the casual consumer, mentioning the new chip speed or information about the retina display on an iPhone stands out as impressive. And for experts who know how to read the specs they’re seeing, that first impression means just as much. Apple’s inclusion of those specifications in their copy (often in finer print than the bold, consumer-oriented headlines) makes all the difference.

Finally, search algorithms can flawlessly index Apple’s marketing copy due to copious use of keywords (words that don’t feel like keywords to the average consumer) in order to ensure that Apple products are recommended to as many undecided would-be buyers as possible.

Make no mistake: Apple has a metric truckload of other reasons for their success, many of which are well-outside of the grasp of most companies. But their marketing copy, and the confidence with which it is implemented, is something from which any business can learn. Before your next marketing push, consider how you’re appealing to all three categories, while your competitors only consider one (consumers).

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