Outdoor Advertising Gets a Facelift

See you later phone kiosks; New York City is going digital.

At the end of last year, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the approval of the LinkNYC proposal that will replace payphones around the city with free Wi-Fi hotspots. These hotspots, called “Links,” will not only provide free Wi-Fi, but also free U.S. calls made on your cell phone and charging stations for your devices.

What’s funding the $200 million dollar project? Advertising. Digital ads that display on a panel on the side of the Link will be replacing printed phone kiosk ads and are expected to bring in $500 million for the city over the next 12 years.

Phone kiosks have been a huge part of Broadway and Off-Broadway outdoor campaigns for years, so this could mean big changes in the world of theatrical advertising. Will ads share space? Will they cost more or less? Will these new and improved phone hubs create greater competition for ad space? Will the ads attract more attention by simply being attached to the new, cool thing on the sidewalk?

Only time will tell. And it looks like that time is upon us. 500 Links (of what will eventually be 10,000 across all five boroughs) are expected to be operational by the end of the year.

But don’t worry, it’s not like you’ll never see a phone kiosk again. You’ll still be able to visit three original phone kiosks on the Upper West Side that will remain for nostalgia purposes. Or, hey, you can always use the free Wi-Fi at a new Link to Google “old phone kiosk from way back in 2014.”