TAPinto launches a mobile app for its 60+ franchisees

This is a big deal for local news in New Jersey

Mike Shapiro has been making waves in New Jersey’s community of local publishers since TAPinto.net first arrived on the scene back in 2008 under the name “The Alternative Press.” TAPinto’s model allows Shapiro to oversee a vast network of independent franchisees that has continued to spread throughout the Garden State and into New York.

His franchisees are essentially free to run their sites however they please — as long as they abide by the SPJ’s code of ethics and a handful of other standard-issue publishing obligations. Meanwhile, they’re able to take advantage of TAPinto’s collective back office services, internal ad network, and range of other benefits that come with the territory.

Late last month, TAPinto announced the launch of yet another service for his growing army of publishers: a mobile app. Each of the network’s 60+ franchisees now have access to a clean and, most importantly, functional mobile platform.

The app comes complete with features like geotagging and location, mobile advertising opportunities, subscription options for multiple towns, and — wait for it — customizable push notifications.

This is a big deal for local publishing in New Jersey.

The introduction of a working mobile app for a single publication would have been a big enough deal in and of itself. Many locals and hyperlocals in NJ aren’t even thinking about mobile innovation. Meanwhile, TAPinto has not one, not two, but more than 60 local news sites that can now “tap into” their respective communities by delivering the news directly to their smartphones.

The most valuable feature, in my opinion, is the ability to send out custom push notifications. As most of us already know from our own experience with social media and mobile apps, most people don’t wake up in the morning and open a particular publication’s app to get their morning news fix, and they certainly don’t go to that publication’s website to browse the latest stories cycling through those awful homepage carousels.

Notifications represent an entirely different approach. Once the user downloads and sets up the TAPinto app, all they have to do is sit back and read the notifications as they come rolling in. The tricky part is knowing how much is too much. For many users, all it takes is one or two ill-timed notifications and the next thing you know, they’ve uninstalled your app forever. This is especially risky if the publisher has a tendency to overuse the “BREAKING” tag in their headlines.

Click here for a list of some of the worst push notifications from 2016, and click here for a crash course on push notification etiquette via WebEngage.

Potential pitfalls aside, however, the introduction of a working mobile app into New Jersey’s local news scene sets a new bar for journalism and media innovation — let alone 60+ apps all publishing and communicating via a standardized network of franchisees.

There aren’t many publishers that have tried something like this yet — certainly not at this scale. Regardless of whether or not it pans out, there will be plenty of lessons to be learned from Shapiro’s latest experiment.

Joe Amditis is the associate director of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University. He can be reached at amditisj@montclair.edu or in his office at (973) 655–5554.