A network of community news franchises: Mike Shapiro on what makes TAPinto click

Mike Shapiro

Mike Shapiro is the founder and CEO of TAPinto, a network of more than 90 online local news sites, most of them in New Jersey and with a few in New York and Florida. Shapiro launched TAPInto in 2008. Back then it was called TheAlternativePress.com, and the goal was to build a network of hyperlocal news sites covering New Jersey towns.

His core idea is relatively simple. Would-be editors and publishers are actually franchisees. They pay a fee to buy into a turnkey operation that gives them access to technology and marketing resources. Shapiro’s team provides training and maintains the infrastructure, but these publishers are responsible for maintaining and growing their readership. Some have journalism backgrounds, but some join because they love their communities and want to become small business owners. The name was changed as the network grew: Shapiro no longer sees it as an alternative to just one newspaper, but as a way to “TAPinto” any community.

I’ve got a Quick Take on a new survey by the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University that finds that news consumers in Chicago aren’t willing to pay for local content, and my co-host, Ellen Clegg, nerds out on a recent NiemanLab report on the importance of local coverage of science.

You can listen to our conversation here and subscribe through your favorite podcast app.