what’s next?

There’s a buzz about Pittsburgh.  Nearly every day, our onetime “Smoky City” shows up on a Best of the Best  list—best view, best place to raise a family, best place to be an entrepreneur, best place to buy a home, best beaches… OK, maybe we don’t have the best beaches, but clearly something big is happening in our region, and it’s hard to keep up. What’s Next?

That’s the perennial question onetime mtl contributing editor Tracy Certo, Kenforest Drive, addresses in her new online magazine, NEXTPittsburgh. Certo, formerly the publisher of Pop City for eight years, describes the new, image-rich magazine as, “Pittsburgh born, Pittsburgh bred and focused on the city we love.”

nextpittsburghEasy to read on a computer, iPhone or other device as a whole or in sections—Neighborhoods, Your Next Job, Eat/Drink, Events, Kidsburgh, Next Up—NEXTPittsburgh focuses on “the people driving change in our city and the cool things happening here,” says Certo. “But, the challenges, too—we want to write about those.”

Of course there are challenges, but as a developer told Certo recently, “Pittsburgh has never been hotter.  It’s hotter than Portland, hotter than Austin.” And not just the city proper, but the whole region, including suburbs such as Mt. Lebanon that are covered in NEXTPittsburgh’s Neighborhoods section.

“We want to encourage people to explore not just the city but the whole region, to do something different than go to a movie—maybe go to a play or a neighborhood festival,” says Certo, who majored in writing and communications at Pitt, studied writing and photography at UCLA and has lived in Mt. Lebanon since 1992.

Attractive and assertive with a quick wit and unquenchable curiosity, she already knew just about anyone and everyone in town from her years with Pop City.  Though the vision and financial investment were hers alone, she marvels at the broad community support NEXTPittsburgh has received—everyone from the former Pop City staffers who joined her to Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto.  Still, “It has been astounding,” she says.

Mayor Peduto confirms he is a fan of Certo and her work. “Tracy represents what has put Pittsburgh back on the global stage—hard work, intelligence, and the ability to look toward our bright future while keeping a focus on the present,” he says. “She deserves her success.”

Certo admits she was not prepared for immediate success—when the magazine launched on March 4, visitors crashed the site; in their second month they had 55,000 visitors; their Facebook page has 5,800 fans, and by the time you read this she expects to be operating in the black.  “There’s a whole new energy in Pittsburgh,” she says. “It was a good time for a start up.”

She believes the magazine’s quality content is what allows it to thrive in a competitive market: “We stand out among all the noise.”

Producing high-quality content means that, at least for now, Certo needs to be  hands-on, editing every story herself before publishing it and attending charitable and educational events nearly every night of the week.  “Don’t even ask me how many hours I work,” she says.  “I can’t separate my personal from my business life, right now.”

Fortunately her husband, Nick, who works for PNC, is a sociable guy who accompanies her to events as often as he can.  “He’s highly tolerant, highly supportive,” Certo says.  They have two grown sons, Dan, 25, who works for G-Tech in Point Breeze and Andrew, who graduated this spring from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University and is pursuing a career as a glass artist. And Certo can’t help but gush about Stella Artois, the 18-month old  Golden Retriever, who keeps her company in her virtual office (staffers work from their own homes but meet in person regularly.)

Certo’s editorial team comprises four other editors, including Woodland Drive resident Deb Smit, and two photographers.  Freelancers, interns, and IT and marketing consultants flesh out the staff. Like most publications, print or online, she says, “We have limited resources, so we have to work smarter, not harder.”

In addition to the weekly online magazine, which is updated every day, NEXTPittsburgh has raised its profile by sponsoring cool special events, such as Attack Theater’s Dirty Ball and the Mattress Factory’s Urban Garden Party, and it will be one of the media sponsors for Plein Air Mt. Lebanon in October.  In May, the magazine held its own event, “Living the Artist Life,” featuring five successful Pittsburgh artists working in one room and offering guests the chance to talk with the artists while sampling craft beers and local wines. Cost was only $25, and there will be more such fun events to come, Certo promises.

“We work hard, but it’s immensely gratifying.  I meet wonderful people every day, she says.

Find out what’s next at  www.nextpittsburgh.com.