SUMMIT, NJ - Michael Shapiro, CEO of TAPinto.net and also Chairman of the Suburban Chamber of Commerce (SCC), performed a dual role at May's SCC First Friday gathering, where he served as the event's featured speaker and provided unique insights into the changing world of the media. 

Shapiro told the room of 40 local businessmen and businesswomen that the media landscape is evolving dramatically, with hard copy newspaper circulations having fallen by 58 percent since 2003.

Subsequently, advertising dollars are following suit, moving from hard copy newspapers and magazines to online offerings as that is where "the eyeballs are," with consumers seeking and getting their news via digital platforms delivered to their smartphones and tablets.

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Shapiro confirmed that 67 percent of TAPinto's readership is coming from mobile devices. 

As a result,  some newspapers and magazines are ceasing operations altogether or going exclusively digital. "Local papers are getting bought out -- those companies are gutting the newsrooms," said Shapiro. "They are gutting newsrooms to be as profitable as possible."

To stay alive, the papers are 'regionalizing' their coverage and becoming less and less local, he said. "Their motivation is profit, secondary motivation is covering the town," Shapiro added.

Coverage is becoming less local with fewer journalists on the ground covering the local news, State and County news. "There was a time in Union County where there were three reporters from Star-Ledger covering County news -- not anymore. Most publications covering the State House are down to one reporter. You don't hear as much about what is going on in Trenton."

Out of New Jersey's 566 municipalities, over 100 municipalities do not have a local paper. "What is impacting media is impacting democracy," said Shapiro. "It isn't just New Jersey, it impacts the whole country."

"What I am aiming to do is to create a nationwide model for sustainable local journalism," said Shapiro. "It's really important for everybody in this room and everyone throughout the country to have sustainable journalism -- without it, democracy suffers."

TAPinto.net, launched in 2008 as The Alternative Press in three towns [Summit, New Providence and Berkeley Heights]. Since franchising in 2013, TAPinto.net currently has 65 sites across New Jersey and five in New York.  "We are at 5.9 million unique readers," said Shapiro, "We are the only scalable profitable newspapers in New Jersey," 

Our goal is to have 250 sites by the end of 2020 with a presence in communities throughout the country, he said. "It's a mater of time until we break out of New Jersey and New York where we currently are.

Shapiro credits TAPinto for people getting more involved and engaged in their communities. "When you have a good local paper, it brings the community together. It impacts the very fabric of all of our towns." 

Shapiro also explained the benefit of marketing through TAPinto -- offering a marketing platform that provides businesses the ability to gain targeted exposure through advertising, content marketing, sponsorship, eNews marketing, eBlast marketing, in-app and push sponsorship, as well as site monetization.