The featured TAPinto franchisee for October 2019 is John Mooney of TAPinto Scotch Plains/Fanwood. John, a public relations professional, has been able to utilize his skills to create a successful, profitable business for himself and one of TAPinto's most widely-read sites.
Q. You have an interesting background. Can you tell us about it a little bit?
I've worked in the public relations business for more than three decades and most of my assignments involved media relations. It's interesting to be an editor and on the receiving end of the pitches from p.r. people. That experience has helped immensely in running TAPintoSPF. If a press release is written well enough, it can be made into a compelling news story. If you do something long enough, you get good at it.
I have a communications degree and always had done some freelance writing on the side for newspapers and magazines. I also had worked in radio, which actually was better training for an online news site. In radio, the stories have to be quickly, yet accurately. That's what the radio news audience wants. The same holds true for online news sites. You're never going to see New Yorker-length articles on my site. People won't invest the time it takes to read them. Most stories on TAPintoSPF are 3-5 paragraphs and filled with pictures and sometimes video. That's how people consume news today.
Q. What do you enjoy covering the most in Scotch Plains and Fanwood?
It is fun to know what's going on in town. You can learn a lot about the history of a town by attending town meetings. There are lots of great events that happen here: Fanny Wood Day and the Halloween Parade in Fanwood, July 4th fireworks, summer concerts and live karaoke in Scotch Plains. The students in our school system are very accomplished, and many of our sports teams have done well since I took over the site. It's also rewarding to have people tell me that they read the TAP every day and appreciate what we do. In the five and a half years I've been doing it, the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. Given the heated political world in which we live, I'm most proud that the compliments have come from both Democrats and Republicans. I try to give everyone that opportunity to have their say. That's how I was trained. Not every outlet -- take a look at cable TV -- operates that way, but I do.
Q. Is TAPinto full time for you? If not, what do you also do?
That's a loaded question. Technically, it's part-time for me, but it takes much more time than the average side gig. When you are doing something you like doing, it doesn't feel like work.
Q. How do you think businesses and readers can best utilize TAPinto Scotch Plains/Fanwood? What advantages does TAPinto have that other marketing platforms lack?
TAP can reach a business audience in many different ways: on the website itself, in the daily Newsletter, on our Facebook page and Twitter, and on town-specific groups on Facebook. We offer the opportunity to have sponsored content, which is much more likely to be noticed than a traditional ad. Because the site is multimedia, we can load pictures and video and can link to sponsor web pages.
Our audience is 60% women, age 25-54 with an average household income of $155,000. Advertisers like Coca-Cola and P&G spend millions of dollars trying to reach that target audience. Page views on TAPintoSPF have almost doubled in the past year, and we just surpassed our 1 millionth page view this month. Sites in other towns have seen similar growth. The internet has changed the way people consume news. Fewer and fewer large media outlets have the resources to cover towns on a local basis. Our hyper-local news coverage is what people want. If they want to know what's going on nationally or internationally, there are other outlets for that.
Q. What are some of your business strengths? What’s something you would like to work on?
I know what my audience wants to read about and what they should read about. They like community events, education, and local sports stories. They LOVE restaurant stories. The challenge is taking some of the less entertaining happenings (debates on public policy, town meetings, political in-fighting) and presenting them in a format that is easy to read and easy to understand so that people understand the important issues in Fanwood and Scotch Plains.
Q. Describe the TAPinto culture.
Every town is franchised, and each franchisee has gotten into this business for different reasons. Some have spent a lifetime in journalism and find selling advertising the hardest part of the job. Others are business people who are looking for a good investment but don't necessarily want to be covering town meetings and the first day of kindergarten. Others are community-minded folks who are driven by more altruistic reasons. It's a diverse group.
Q. Why did you want to franchise your a TAPinto site? What caused you to choose Scotch Plains/Fanwood as your TAPinto location?
The opportunity was first presented to me by a former staff member at TAPinto. I run a p.r. firm, and we met at lunch one day. He asked if I could write content for the site. My response was: "I'd be interested, but I really don't know how to charge for doing that. How would I bill it -- by the hour? By the story?" He called back the next day and asked if I'd be willing to own and run the site and sell the advertising. I decided to take a chance. I knew I could handle the writing part, but selling can be intimidating. Since I already owned another business and had to pitch prospective clients, it's almost the same thing. I took over TAPintoSPF in 2014 and haven't looked back.
Q. What are your goals at TAPinto? Any future plans for TAPinto Scotch Plains/Fanwood?
I will continue to do the site the best way I know how. I'd like to incorporate more video into stories. I'd also like to be able to work with high school students who plan in going into communications fields. My first sports intern, Tyler Dencker, just graduated from college and landed a job at ESPN. Josh Axelrod has gone on to write for the Jerusalem Post. Others have gone on to other media-related fields. It's nice to see them do well and rewarding to have played some small role in their career development. Anyone who is interested can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say?
I want to thank all the readers who follow TAPintoSPF every day and let them know I appreciate their feedback. I also want to thank our sponsors. If it were not for them, there wouldn't be a daily local news source in town. I hope when people need a professional service, or are considering a private school or are looking for a new restaurant that they will support the local advertisers who make it possible to continue publishing daily.