SUMMIT, NJ — Today, all eyes in advertising are on the online market, Michael Shapiro, founder and CEO of TAPinto.net, recently told a local business group during a presentation on the dramatically changing media market.
As hard-copy newspaper circulations have fallen by 58 percent since 2003, online advertising is on the rise, as a growing number of people are getting news on their phones, said Shapiro, whose online news organization has 65 sites across New Jersey and five in New York.
"We are at 5.9 million unique readers," said Shapiro, adding that 67 percent of TAPinto's readership is coming from mobile devices. "We are the only scalable profitable newspaper in New Jersey."
"Local papers are getting bought out — those companies are gutting the newsrooms," said Shapiro. "They are gutting newsrooms to be as profitable as possible." To stay alive, papers are regionalizing their coverage and becoming less and less local, he said. "Their motivation is profit; their secondary motivation is covering the town."
Coverage is becoming less local with fewer journalists on the ground covering the local news, state and county news, Shapiro said. "Most publications covering the Statehouse are down to one reporter. You don't hear as much about what is going on in Trenton."
Out of New Jersey's 566 municipalities, more than 100 municipalities do not have a local paper. "What is impacting media is impacting democracy," Shapiro said. "It isn't just New Jersey, it impacts the whole country."
"What I am aiming to do is to create a nationwide model for sustainable local journalism," said Shapiro. "It's really important for everyone throughout the country to have sustainable journalism — without it, democracy suffers."
TAPinto.net, launched in 2008 as The Alternative Press in three towns — Summit, New Providence and Berkeley Heights — is an all online hyperlocal news source. Since franchising in 2013, TAPinto.net currently has grown to a total of 71 sites.
The company’s goal is to have 250 sites by the end of 2020 with a presence in communities throughout the country, Shapiro said. "It's a matter of time until we break out of New Jersey and New York where we currently are."
Shapiro credits TAPinto for people getting more involved and engaged in their communities. "When you have a good local paper, it brings the community together. It impacts the very fabric of all of our towns."
Shapiro also explained the benefit of marketing through TAPinto -- offering a marketing platform that provides businesses the ability to gain targeted exposure through advertising, content marketing, sponsorship, eNews marketing, eBlast marketing, in-app and push sponsorship, as well as site monetization.