The featured TAPinto franchisee for the month of June 2020 is Brett Freeman, CEO and Publisher of Halston Media Group. Halston Media Group owns and operates five hardcopy newspapers and utilizes TAPinto as their online platform for their newspapers. Halston Media Group's five TAPinto franchises are TAPinto Mahopac, TAPinto Somers, TAPinto Yorktown, TAPinto North Salem, and TAPinto Katonah/Lewisboro.
Q. Why did you want to franchise a TAPinto site?
We’re not the typical TAPinto franchisee. TAPinto was the perfect website solution for our newspapers. Their content management system is very easy to use, which is half of our battle. But most importantly, the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is second to none. We went from a tiny web presence to a huge online presence overnight. TAPinto’s support is invaluable, and even though we are an independent business, being a part of TAPinto makes us feel like we are part of a big team.
Q. You have an interesting background. Can you tell us about it a little bit?
My undergraduate degree was in political science, and I have a master’s degree in the social sciences from University of Chicago. My master’s program was intended to be a pre-Ph.D. program, where I was entering a life of academia. That’s when I realized that academic writing was the opposite of what I wanted to do. The intention of academic writing is to take a topic and purposely make it more complicated for an audience of a dozen people. Meanwhile, journalism is the opposite. Journalists often take complicated topics and present them in a format so that everyone understands it. Once I realized my life choice, I became a reporter for the Mahwah and Ramsey Suburban News with North Jersey Media Group. I then worked my way up to editor of Town Journal in Saddle River, Upper Saddle River, Ho-Ho-Kus and Allendale in New Jersey. Then, in 2010, at 30 years old, with an infant at home, I launched Mahopac News. I spent the next decade launching four more newspapers: The Somers Record, Yorktown News, North Salem News and The Katonah-Lewisboro Times. Each newspaper has a corresponding TAPinto website.
Q. What do you enjoy covering the most in your area?
I personally enjoy the human interest stories. As caught up as we can all get with inside baseball in local issues, it’s the human interest stories that drive most of our traffic.
Q. Is TAPinto full time for you? If not, what do you also do?
We have a full time staff of 14 people, including sales, editorial, design and administrative. Together, we publish five weekly newspapers that are mailed to 27,000 addresses. Our newspapers are free requesters with voluntary subscriptions.
Q. How do you think businesses and readers can best utilize your TAPinto sites? What advantages does TAPinto have that other marketing platforms lack?
TAPinto has an immediacy that helps us fill in the gaps with publishing a weekly newspaper. Back in March when news about coronavirus was changing by the minute, we found that our stories became dated within hours of going to press with our newspapers. TAPinto gave us a platform to update our print stories. In March, our traffic tripled, with our five sites achieving over 1/3 of a million pageviews.
There is also limited space in our newspapers. We’ve been publishing sponsored content in our newspapers for years, but we only have so much space for it. TAPinto gives us unlimited space for editorial and sponsored content.
Q. What are some of your business strengths? What’s something you would like to work on?
Our journalism is top notch and our high school varsity sports coverage is top notch. Our focus has always been on our print product, but TAPinto has become far more important during this pandemic. Before coronavirus, our efforts were print first, TAPinto second. Over the last couple of months, our editors have been putting an equal effort into our TAPinto coverage, and their efforts have shown. Likewise, our salespeople have always focused on our print product, but we’re doing a better job educating our clients on the importance of our massive online audience.
Q. Describe the TAPinto culture.
The TAPinto culture is one of learning and growth. I appreciate that it’s always evolving with constant improvements.
Q. What are your goals at TAPinto? Any future plans?
As we grow our print footprint, our plan is to grow with TAPinto at our side.
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
Believe it or not, but I hope our print competitors would consider purchasing a TAPinto franchise. It would give us a way of playing nicely together in the same sandbox. I see all the cooperation between the TAPinto sites in New Jersey, and I think it would be a real benefit to see the growth of sites in New York.