LinkNYC kiosks helping to power up small businesses with ‘instrumental’ advertising space

A LinkNYC kiosk showing an advertisement for The Nourish Spot in Queens.
A LinkNYC kiosk showing an advertisement for The Nourish Spot in Queens.
File photo

Local businesses are getting a big boost from LinkNYC kiosks, as the sidewalk-based internet hubs provide free advertising space to entrepreneurs across the Big Apple.

LinkNYC, the company that provides free public WiFi using its omnipresent kiosks on city street corners, launched the Link Local program in 2017 — turning their large screens into advertising for small businesses, community groups, and local events. 

“It’s an opportunity for small businesses, nonprofits and community groups to advertise for there, on the Link kiosk,” said Nicole Robinson-Etienne, the company’s Director Of External Affairs. “They are given a template and they are granted the opportunity to have advertisements up near their location, to advertise their business or their special event that they are hosting. And it’s been going on tremendously well.”

Started as an effort to provide free internet to New Yorkers in 2015, LinkNYC has become a ubiquitous presence, with their 9.5-foot-tall kiosks on sidewalks that replaced payphones. 

In addition to providing internet, the hubs also feature USB charging ports and built-in phones to make domestic calls — along with the digital displays on either side of the kiosk. 

While the screens often show useful information like maps or updates on city services, the Link Local program allows businesses to create simple advertisements, which cycle in-and-out of an endless rotation. 

The program allows small businesses to place their ads at the nearest two Link kiosks, free of charge, and provides entrepreneurs with a template that makes creating the images extremely simple. 

Since they launched, local businesses have jumped at the opportunity to use the space, said Robinson-Etienne.

“We started in 2019, with only 213 businesses. And last year, we had over 2,000,” she said. “And it’s really only growing, commendably each month.” 

If businesses want to use more than two kiosks, the company also offers the Link Local Plus option, which gives them access to 10 kiosks for just $300. That paid tier also provides special features to help boost the ads even more. 

“They’re able to add their website, their logo. They can add a QR code,” said Robinson-Etienne. 

And entrepreneurs that use the program have seen positive results, including Dawn Kelly, who owns The Nourish Spot — a healthy food and beverage restaurant with locations in Queens and Brooklyn.  

“It’s been instrumental,” Kelly said. “People walk into the store, and they tell me that they saw the post. They were waiting for the bus stop, and they saw it, and they came in.” 

A purveyor of customizable smoothies and natural juice blends, along with healthy salads and wraps, The Nourish Spot first opened in Jamaica, Queens in 2017, and recently cut the ribbon on their new location in Brooklyn.

Without the advertising of big-budget businesses, Kelly says the LinkNYC ads have 

“I mean, small businesses…I’m challenging myself to run a small business, with a lot of bills to pay. So we’re always looking for the most cost effective ways to do things,” she says. “The Links have been a great way to get our name out there.” 

While most ads that people see for her smoothie bar feature basic information about the business, Kelly also runs ads on the kiosks that are unique to a particular time or event. 

“There was one about the Super Bowl, and then there’s another one up right now about Valentine’s Day,” she said. 

With over 2,000 kiosks, and plans to install more across the city, the ads can be seen by thousands of passersby each day — providing a perfect opportunity to capture the attention of potential customers. 

“Pretty much at almost every bus stop, there is a Link tower where people can plug their phones,” Kelly said. “And there’s information on both sides of the towers, so a lot of people see it.”