The featured TAPinto franchisee for February 2020 is veteran journalist Fred J. Aun, owner/publisher of TAPinto Roxbury.  Fred's career as a journalist spans nearly 40 years and includes full-time reporting positions at five publications. He spent about 20 years with The Star-Ledger/NJ.com before moving to Ziff Davis Media and a decade of freelancing.      

Q. Why did you want to franchise your a TAPinto site? What caused you to choose Roxbury as your TAPinto location?

After several decades as a journalist, I pretty much gave up on it as a career after the last recession. The downturn wiped out not only my freelance business writing work but also my Outdoors column with The Star-Ledger. 

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In late 2010, I found a job as an assistant marketing director at a company in Roxbury. I subsequently moved to Roxbury and all seemed well. That job ended after about three years. My other small business - doing vinyl graphics at car dealerships - was then pulled off the back-burner but it wasn't enough. 

One day I was browsing Craigslist and saw the ad for what turned out to be TAPinto. I figured it could be feasible given that Roxbury has a lot of commerce - both small businesses and big corporate entities - and that the journalism part would be easy for me.

Q. You have an interesting background.  Can you tell us about it?

I have an associate's degree in business and a bachelor's degree in communication/journalism. My first paying job as a reporter was for a small weekly while I was in college. 

My first full-time job with a newspaper was in 1982 for the defunct Daily Advance which was situated in, believe it or not, Roxbury. In fact, Roxbury was one of the six towns I covered before being promoted to cover courts in Sussex and Warren counties.

I went on to reporter jobs at The New Jersey Herald (three years), The Times-Herald Record (four years) and The Star-Ledger. I always ended up covering courts, so I've done many homicide stories. Lucky me!

I quit the Ledger in 2000 (before it began laying-off staffers) to take a full-time, work-from-home position covering something I knew nothing about (computer reselling) for a weekly Ziff-Davis Media trade magazine. It was OK, but the magazine shut down a year later, forcing me to begin freelancing. I wrote mainly about technology. 

Then The Star-Ledger hired me to be its Outdoors columnist - a part-time, freelance gig that I enjoyed while I continued the tech writing. That all came crashing down in 2008-2009. 

Q. What do you enjoy covering the most in Roxbury? 

There isn't too much of it here, but I love breaking news. I like the adrenaline rush I get from beating the competition and doing so with information I gather myself, at incident scenes, by having sources or by digging through records. I am very fast writer. Having done this for most of my life, I know up-front what I need to nail down.

Pro tip: Go to the scene and talk to eyewitnesses. Be courteous but don't be shy. Don't rely on the cops and officials for everything.

But, as I said, there isn't a lot of that here.  

I like covering the town government.

I also like the way a TAPinto Roxbury article can help bring lots of money to local campaigns for people needing help. 

 Q. Is TAPinto full time for you? If not, what do you also do?  

It is beyond full-time, given it's 24-7 and I try to have at least one news article every day. 

I also still own my vinyl graphics company (www.mobilegraphicsnewjersey.com) which helps me make ends meet and gets me out of the house and away from the keyboard.

Q. How do you think businesses and readers can best utilize TAPinto Roxbury? What advantages does TAPinto have that other marketing platforms lack?

Business can best utilize the TAPinto platform by taking advantage of its varied offerings (native content, events, etc.)  Educating businesses about marketing is challenging.  

TAPinto platform's advantages over some other marketing platforms comes down to audience access. Nobody covers my town as thoroughly as TAPinto Roxbury, so there's a growing audience of engaged, community-minded people regularly visiting the site.  Marketing options like a promotional post on my Facebook page have the potential of reaching far more customers than does a post on most local business pages.

Q. What are some of your business strengths? What’s something you would like to work on?

A good reporter needs to be honest, to listen and to be empathetic. That crosses over to doing business.

I work - in my other business - with car dealerships, possibly the best horse traders around. I've learned a lot by dealing with them, essentially trying to sell to veteran sales managers. They know all the typical sales tricks. If they like me and my product, they give it a try. From there out, it's up to me to do a good job for them, react quickly to issues, be friendly and fun when appropriate.

This holds for TAPinto sales as well. I answer calls quickly. I spend extra time dealing with concerns. I don't take my advertisers for granted. I try to coach them into doing more with the TAPinto platform.

I'd like to work on doing more to retain customers.  Although my renewal rate is good and higher than other media, I'd like to work to retain every advertiser.

Q. Describe the TAPinto culture.

The TAPinto culture is populated with good folks who support each other and are generally excited by the opportunity TAPinto presents. I am glad management continues to tweak the system to make it solid and more user-friendly. 

Q. What are your goals at TAPinto? Any future plans for TAPinto Roxbury?

I want a Facebook page "like" from every person who's been invited. I want the FB page to grow by 1,000 more likes this year. 

I want to help more local businesses not only survive but grow using our successful marketing options.  

I want TAPinto Roxbury to become the only worthwhile source of news in the town. It's close, but total domination has yet to occur.

If I could find a decent, reliable journalist to hire, I'd consider expanding to another town. But I am a stickler for quality and I don't want to own a site that isn't top-notch in terms of news coverage.

Q.  Is there anything else you'd like to say?  

The bottom line: Without TAPinto, I'd not be doing what I love to do and what I'm good at doing. I've been laid off too many times to want to work for somebody else again. My fate is in my own hands here and I believe TAPinto has built a good foundation for local media growth.