TAPinto is a network of locally owned and operated, objective local online and mobile newspaper franchises. TAPinto provides high-quality, non-partisan, hyperlocal news and information to the public in real time in an environmentally friendly format. It is also a community resource that helps to raise awareness about towns, clubs/organizations, religious institutions and local businesses.
We recently spoke with CEO and Publisher of TAPinto, Michael Shapiro, to find out more about the franchise. Shapiro shares the secret to its success, where he sees the franchise headed and what he looks for in potential franchisees.
What’s special about the franchise?
TAPinto is a network of award-winning all-online local newspaper franchises. We are the only sustainable and scalable local journalism model in the country. TAPinto is rapidly expanding and filling a void created by hardcopy newspapers that are getting thinner and thinner or going out of business altogether.
What is the idea behind the franchise?
TAPinto franchisees cover the news in their town and sell advertising to local businesses in their town. TAPinto provides the infrastructure for the franchisee, from the site and hosting to services such as invoicing and credit card processing of all advertisers, enabling the franchisees to focus on covering the news and selling advertising. Through the TAPinto network, the franchisees can share content with each other and can sell advertising into each other. Meanwhile, as the network of franchisees grows, regional and other large advertisers can advertise throughout the network of sites. By doing so, TAPinto is forming a content and advertising network that results in high readership and significant revenue for each of our franchisees.
How does it compare to its competition?
TAPinto’s main competition are the traditional hardcopy newspapers, most of which have not transitioned to a significant online presence. Those that have are still stuck in their old “bricks and mortar” mentality. TAPinto’s other competition is one-off sites that typically fail because they do not have the infrastructure, training and support TAPinto provides to its franchisees.
What do you look for in a potential franchisee?
Franchisees should have a good business head on their shoulders and should be connected in their communities. They should also be good networkers and be community-minded. Above all, they should be honest and trustworthy.
Where do you see the franchise in five years?
TAPinto will have over 200 franchises throughout the country in five years and will be a household name in most states. Our local sustainable journalism model will be taught in entrepreneurial journalism classes.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of a franchisee?
We have several models of a typical franchisee. About 70 percent of our franchisees work with a content or sales partner or both. Approximately 30 percent of our franchisees both report on the news and sell advertising to local businesses themselves. If the franchisee works with a content or sales partner or both, the time commitment can range from 5 to 25 hours per week. If the franchisee is reporting on the news and selling the advertising, the time commitment is more like 35 hours per week. So depending on the business model they choose to operate, a typical day either involves covering a local story or two or attending networking events and speaking with local businesses about how TAPinto can help market their business, or both.
What’s your background?
I am an attorney. I practiced law in New York City for about five years. When my son was one, we found out he needed open heart surgery. After his successful surgery, I started TAP and a few months later, left my job in the City to work on TAP full-time.
What motivates you to keep going?
TAPinto is not only my business, it’s my passion. At a time when newspapers are cutting back on coverage or going out of business, it is critically important for democracy itself for residents to be able to have an objective local newspaper that informs and involves them in their community and government.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would have made better hiring decisions early on and when choosing vendors. I also would have started franchising earlier in the company’s life.
Please tell us your secret to success…
Thinking outside of the box. Being approachable, flexible and encouraging ideas and suggestions. Running the company from the bottom-up instead of top-down. Handling criticism constructively. And above all, empowering our people to succeed.
What is the worst job you have ever had and what did you learn from it?
When I was in high school, I worked for my local library carting around books during the summer. The cart was really heavy and it was very hot on the upper floor of the library where I was usually working. I learned to really appreciate all of the people who have to perform back-breaking work every day and to be thankful for the opportunities I have been given to do what I’m doing.
What is one trend that really excites you?
The thirst for news, particularly on the local level, is as high as ever. Meanwhile, mobile and digital are both growing at a tremendous pace and the sky’s the limit. Both of these factors are good indications for the future success of TAPinto.
What are your three favorite online tools or resources and what do you love about them?
Facebook enables to me to stay in touch with my friends while being a busy entrepreneur and keep abreast of news.
LinkedIn allows me to stay connected with all of my business contacts.
Google for Business is my email system and I couldn’t live without it.
Do you (or did you ever) have a mentor?
Yes, my mentor in high school was my photography teacher, Mr. Schwartz. He was not only hard-working, he always went above and beyond in everything he did and he was always the first to lend a helping hand.
Any final words for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster of very high highs and very low lows. Don’t let it get to you. Focus on your business, take the good with the bad and always move forward and learn from your mistakes.
Where can people get more information on TAPinto franchise opportunities?
Visit the website here.
Where can people find TAPinto on social media?
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