This week's feature will focus on TAPinto Plainfield franchisees Jennifer Popper and Carolyn Wellington. TAPinto.net has more than 70 franchised online, local newspapers. Our franchise owners include journalists, hard-copy newspapers, and thanks to Jennifer and Carolyn, non-profit organizations such as the YMCA.
Find out how these local Plainfield, NJ residents are able to sustain their profitable business while getting closer to their community and doing what they love.
Q. When did you join TAPinto.net?:
We officially signed our franchisee contract in June 2016 but did not take over the operations of the site until end of September 2016. We are the fourth owners of the site, and now that it’s had consistent owner- ship, traffic has been on an upward trajectory.
Q. Why did you want to franchise your own TAPinto? What makes TAPinto different or unique?
The Plainfield YMCA’s CEO, Ravenell Williams, met Mike Shapiro at a Union County conference where he first learned about the TAPinto franchise. Upon learning about the marketing opportunities available to local businesses and non-profits, he approached the Board about using the platform to market the Plainfield Y’s many programs as well as provide an alternative revenue stream for the Y. A majority of the revenues are donated back the Plainfield Y.
Q. You guys have a different setup than most at TAPinto. Can you tell us about your team?
After gaining approval from Y USA, we set up a for-profit entity to run TAPinto Plainfield. That entity is Queen City LLC. Our team is small and is managed by Carolyn Wellington, who is the Marketing Manager for the Plainfield Y, and Jennifer Popper who is the Editor. Both of us are local Plainfield residents.
And now that we have been managing the site for over a year, we are hoping to grow the team with more local talent so that we can provide expanded news coverage of city events. We have been very lucky to have Bernice Paglia, a respected reporter who also had a blog about all things Plainfield, write for our site.
Q. What do you enjoy covering the most in Plainfield?
Carolyn: For me it has been fun to meet new people who are so passionate about the city, and everyone has a story to tell. It has also pushed me to become more engaged with Plainfield since moving here ten years ago.
Jenn: For me, it’s the human interest stories because they are unique to that person, and you get to tell a larger audience about them. One of my favorites was a “Hometown Hero” story on a young woman who is the first African-American woman to fly helicopters for the Coast Guard. Another was when I got to “meet” George and Martha Washington at an intimate gathering at The Drake House. More recently, I went to a mosque to meet Muslim and Jewish women who were going to serve food to the hungry.
Even when you cover less exciting things like City Council or Board of Education meetings, you more often than not run into someone who shares something that leads to another fun story.
Q. What did you do before you franchised your Plainfield site?:
Carolyn: I am currently employed at the Plainfield Y.
Jenn: My career was spent working in the magazine publishing world, but I worked on the advertising side. I had been the Research Director at titles like Rolling Stone, Us Weekly, Soap Opera Digest, and TV Guide Magazine. Additionally, I had owned a yoga and Pilates studio in Warren, but due to the economic downturn, after about five years, I closed the business in 2011.
Q. Is TAPinto full time for you or do you still work outside of the journalism world?:
TAPInto Plainfield is part-time for both of us. The relationships we developed in other jobs and volunteer activities had helped us as we started on the site, i.e. creating content opportunities. But now, people seek us out because we are TAPinto Plainfield, and they know that we can help them engage with a larger audience.
Q. TAPinto allows businesses and users to post content on our sites, either for free or for a small fee. How do you think they can best utilize TAPintoPlainfield.net? What sort of advantages do you have that other advertising platforms lack?
It’s been challenging to get users to post directly to our site but we are trying to educate them. There are several very active community groups that are beginning to recognize our reach, both locally and into other TAP towns, and they see how they can utilize our site to spread positive news about Plainfield.
A big advantage of the TAPinto Plainfield site compared to other outlets is immediacy. We live here, so we can get to a scene quickly, and post a story quickly. Other news outlets tend to share only the bigger stories about Plainfield, and often, ones that reflect badly on the city. There are so many people with inspiring stories, and we have been able to give them an outlet to share their stories and visions.
Q. What are some of your business strengths? Your weaknesses?
Our local presence is our strength; we know a large number of people because we live and play here.
Our market is unique and different from many New Jersey towns as we have a very diverse population; trying to appeal to all is a challenge. That diversity can hurt us from an advertising perspective, too. English is not the predominant language for a large percentage of people in Plainfield, so they aren’t reading our site, and therefore, are not likely to advertise their services.
We are working to find someone who can write for us in Spanish, and we are the first site to create a “Bilingual” section. And we have just recently broken our first Hispanic account.
Q. Describe the TAPinto culture as a franchisee.
The TAPinto culture is very supportive. The ongoing training provided is invaluable, and the corporate team is very responsive to issues that may arise. The ability to share stories across towns helps to provide relevant, interesting content in a timely manner.
Q. What are your goals at TAPinto? Any future plans for TAPinto Plainfield?
Carolyn: I cannot be more proud of the progress we have made to date. Each month our stats have grown and we are on a great path. My goal is to grow the team so that TAPinto Plainfield becomes the #1 independent news source for Plainfield.
Jenn: Better sports coverage. A larger team of reporters and / or freelancers. Greater coverage for our Hispanic community, and hopes for advertising that appeals to that demographic.