NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Mike Shapiro, chief executive officer and founder of TAPinto.net, addressed a full room of local businesses about the future of media at the Suburban Chamber of Commerce Pre-Thanksgiving Networking Event on Tuesday evening at Creative Wallcoverings in New Providence. More than 40 local businesses were on hand for the meeting.
"What we [TAPinto] have become, a site dedicated to good honest objective local journalism," said Shapiro, "reporting on town council, high school sports, and town news."
"When I started six years ago, I would cover New Providence council meetings -- there would be three newspapers there. Today, there is nobody there except for TAP," said Shapiro. "In our localities, community news outside of TAP into’s coverage is virtually nonexistent."
The local papers have largely become regional in nature, covering very little news in a given town. The large newspapers, like the Newark Star-Ledger, have significantly reduced staffing in recent years and typically cover only the most controversial of local news. TAPinto has established itself as the go-to place for people to tap into their communities for truly hyperlocal news and information.
Out of 566 municipalities in the state of New Jersey, there are 250 municipalities without local newspapers (no online or print), according to Shapiro. "With the newspapers at the brink of closing their doors, it's a challenge with regard to journalism, it is a threat to democracy. There is a need to report, to be a check on power with government and what is going on in town."
The industry is changing rapidly and TAPinto is at the cutting edge of what is going on. The hard copy newspapers are going online. It is Shapiro's prediction that within the next few years, The Star-Ledger's daily print will be reduced to three times a week and in five years being completely online (although Star-Ledger publisher Richard Vezza has, in the past, insisted that the paper will not reduce the number of days it is printed). It will impact people that are not online, finding out about the state news and beyond.
TAPinto's sustainability has been built through advertisers with click-through ads. "What you will start to see is email marketing through sites like ours," said Shapiro, " through dedicated email blasts, through mobile advertising, through sponsorship of sections and through events."
"A way to survive and to thrive is to stay focused on what their mission is," said Shapiro. "Cover the local news objectively and be that source of what is going on in town -- there is always a place for that. If they can establish them self and stay true to their mission, all of these newspapers out there can be successful," Shapiro said.
"While people are pessimistic about journalism and its future, I'm optimistic," said Shapiro. "We are proving, in terms of TAP, that you can create a sustainable journalism model."
TAPinto.net not only reports and provides the services to the residents in towns and is supportive to local business, Shapiro has created leaders of entrepreneurship by providing jobs for people that want to serve their community and build their own business.
For more information on the Suburban Chamber of Commerce and calendar of upcoming events, visit http://suburbanchambers.org/.