For those in the local media industry who aren’t aware of what TAPinto is, give us a brief overview.
TAPinto is a network of almost 100 franchised online local news sites in New Jersey, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania. We have no paywall and it is also free to receive our newsletters. Our revenue model is 100% advertising-supported, and we have been profitable four straight years now.
Each TAPinto site is locally owned and operated and produces its own original, objective local news reporting every day. Through our network of sites, our owner/publishers can collaborate with each other to seamlessly share content with each other, in addition to selling advertising and marketing services into each other, creating a local news model that can scale both on the content side and the advertising side of the business.
We talked with you in 2020, what has changed since then?
Since we last spoke, franchisee revenue is up 67% and we have grown to 98 local news sites, an increase from 84. We hired a full-time director of content, increased our full-time development team to four developers, from one, and expanded our customer service for our site owner/publishers from one to a team of three people. We also hired Kristina Behr, former news anchor at News 12, to launch Now in New Jersey, an online daily newscast that features the best reporting and stories from TAPinto local owner/publishers every day. Kristina also reports for News Around New Jersey, a state news section that provides state news content for free to all of our New Jersey owner/publishers. In addition, we have significantly upgraded our technology including our DIY content marketing platform.
What has not changed at TAPinto is our content is free to read. There are no paywalls for any of our news stories.
How did COVID impact your business — the good and the bad?
COVID did not negatively impact our business. Our readership increased and our advertising increased. It did negatively impact morale because our local owner/publishers truly told the story of COVID from a local perspective, which involved a lot of tragedy and hardship that was difficult to report on.
What is on the road map for the next 1-3 years for TAPinto?
The roadmap ahead is smart and steady growth on the franchising side while we continue to work to increase revenue for our owner/publishers and the quality of our local news content. We are in the process of doing a full front-end redesign, which we expect to finish in early 2023, and then we will be undertaking a backend redesign. We also plan further expansion of News Around New Jersey, our state news section, to provide even more value for our owner/publishers.
Tell us about the importance of diversity of ownership at TAPinto.
Diversity at TAPinto is very important. Here at corporate, the majority of our employees are women and 40% are nonwhite. More than 60% of our franchisees are women; 20% of our franchisees are nonwhite and approximately 5% of our franchisees identify as LGBTQ.
Some of your sites are non-profits, and some are for-profits. Can you explain how you come to those decisions?
Nonprofit organizations can own and operate a TAPinto local news site in their town/area. Should they do so, they can decide whether the TAPinto site will be a nonprofit or for-profit entity. Any of our owner/publishers can similarly choose to operate as a non-profit or for-profit. There are pluses and minuses to both, so they are advised to speak with their financial advisor and legal professional to determine the best model for them.