42Freeway.com : Updated August 2022!
I am Mark Matthews. I am a Deptford resident, and I write the 42Freeway.com website.
Commercial development news mostly. New buildings, new stores or restaurants. Even covering big road projects. Started 8 years ago in the towns of Route 42, I’ve since expanded and plan on expanding further.
The intent is to inform people. I don’t bash projects, I just explain what is planned very fairly and more clearly than a legal notice does.
Plus I find a LOT of stories out on my own or via tips from readers.
That store coming to an existing strip mall isn’t going to be in a public notice. But I try to figure out what’s coming, write about it, and then when the store opens they are typically flooded with customers. For free!
Many times people are incredibly excited “Dave & Busters! Wow!” and other times people are not happy “They are taking out all those trees to build a storage facility?”
That reaction is up to the public.
For years 2019-2021 the 42Freeway website has achieved over 1.5 million page views each year… as a part-time effort in a relatively small geographic area.
And it’s gotten some big attention. In 2019 Kevin Riordan of Philadelphia’s largest newspaper (The Inquirer) wrote a feature on me and 42Freeway! (Link: May be paywall)
A major cable network has a documentary episode coming out on the Direct Connection wall collapse and they brought me in as an expert! I am a little worried about that one. ha
So In the summer of 2022 I decided to make 42Freeway my fulltime thing. Let’s see where we can take this!
Amidst my neutral positivity, I am also a firm believer in Open Government and get frustrated when towns don’t follow the rules in making Town decisions easily accessible to the public. I may get a little testy in that regard!
Oh, I am also a certified FAA drone pilot and regularly use drone images in my reporting to give an angle on the story that rarely anyone else is offering.
42Freeway covers new commercial projects such as retail/restaurants, to larger road projects… as well as government development projects or even large residential developments.
I am also starting to add more articles on cool and interesting places to visit in South Jersey.
Well most of that is mostly true. In my part-time writing world I had to make tough choices on what to write. Now I have more time to fill in all of those story coverage gaps!
People have an innate desire to understand what is happening in their communities, and with the slow decline of traditional local media coverage, sites like 42Freeway are filling an important gap.
Small-talk is part of human nature and I think most of the 42Freeway stories have people saying to friends and families “hey did you hear…” as they tell those with them the latest tidbit from 42Freeway.
I love the thought that in bars and dining room tables around South Jersey, groups of people are talking about things they learned from my site!
Sometimes the news is exciting like when a new restaurant is coming. Other times its disdain when its a less exciting project. “Another Mattress store! ugh!”
And sometimes it motivates communities to say something about a project “That land should be made a park!”
Story Sources and Style
Some of the articles come from legal notices. If you are building something new it typically needs town review and approval. A notice of that upcoming meeting is required.
I also drive ALOT in South Jersey, so sometimes I just notice things and then research.
Loyal readers are a very big part of my finding stories. They see something “someone is in that empty store on Main” or they hear rumor mill in the town… and share with me and I try to track it down.
I write in a conversational style. I use ellipses too much… just to indicate a pause as if I was telling you the story instead of writing it.
My default writing tone is to be neutral, and to provide additional details to help the reader to understand the project or business better.
That being said, when it’s a new retail store or restaurant I do hype them up a bit especially if locally owned. So many of the new businesses opening are regular people just like all of us who put everything on the line, so I’ll put some extra effort into calling out what makes that new business awesome and unique.
And the 42Freeway fans love new places to try as much as I do.. we frequently flood new businesses with customers those first opening days and weeks with people eager to try something new!
Fulltime Effort Should Equal More, More, More!
As mentioned this was previously a part-time effort.
In the summer of 2022 I moved into full-time capacity at the site and will be expanding the towns I cover as well as the content types.
42Freeway Growth Areas:
- More towns, beyond the core 42Freeway area
- Core coverage area. When this was part-time, I missed a lot of thing. Just didn’t have time!
- Large Residential: Simply with prior time constraints I would miss most large residential projects.
- Road Projects: I am also the guy putting out a lot of coverage out about the massive Bellmawr project. I will be increasing coverage on road projects, mostly at the County level.
- Events: I will be increasing my coverage of larger town events, both ahead of the events and at times a summary of the event (or a live stream at the event)
- Fun Places: realizing my fanbase I see that posts on interesting places in South Jersey are very popular. So I will be in your communities covering cool things!
The 42Freeway Facebook page is like no other in South Jersey.
The fanbase is very strong and interactive.
The number of comments, “likes” and shares of my articles can get to be very high! There are few South Jersey pages like it.
If you are on Facebook please go like the 42Freeway page!
Facebook Page Commenting Rules!
I created a separate page to list out rules at the 42Freeway page. Check it out here
Money and Website Ads
Free To Read: The site is free to read. There are no paywalls or subscriptions.
No Charges to New Businesses: I also do not charge businesses for the posts… which some find surprising.
Sure… absolutely when it’s opening weekend most businesses are eager to get the word out to future customers. But so much of my reporting is very early in the planning stages… well trust me, most business owners would prefer those early stages to be quiet. When I reach out in those early stages “I am the 42freeway guy” I rarely get a response.
Sponsored Posts?: I do have some thoughts of doing special business posts content. 42Freeway has a great following and I think they would love to hear about existing restaurants and experiences that are really awesome. Could I be the next Guy Fieri or Anthony Bourdain? Ha! So maybe there is a model down the road that there is some charge for that. It’s a very common thin in social media… sponsored posts. We’ll see.
Website Ads: As I’ve already stated I do earn revenue from the ads that are displayed on the site. I have no control over the ad content. That’s all “Google Magic”
And while I’ve only had a couple of complaints about the ads, I am fully aware that my ads are a little more “amped up” then other sites.
I am sorry, but not sorry.
Most forms of written local news today are paywall websites. Courier-Post, Inquirer, NJ.com (South Jersey Times) all have subscription models which limit some to all of the articles.
AND THEY STILL GIVE YOU ADS! Even after I paid a local newspaper $60 a month for online access, I still got ads on the website.
And the ad structures are very similar to mine. Along the bottom. A video on the lower right. In content ads.
I think the in content ads are where 42Freeway is heavier in impressions.
But as I said.. the content at 42Freeway is free to read. You can deal with some ads.
In fact I encourage you to spend a little more time looking at my articles and let those ads populate! It does help.
Look we are in this “anti-work, pay me my worth, everyone in this Starbucks is walking out unless we are paid properly” time of the world…
I love being the 42Freeway guy but it’s a bit of a grind constantly chasing the next big story!
I’m simply saying my time is valuable too!
Politics? Are you connected? Why do you write 42Freeway.com?
My intent is to inform the public of impactful changes in their community so that they can form their own opinions and actions (if necessary). End
I’ve never worked for the government. I don’t have a pension or anyone paying my medical benefits. I am paying for COBRA! No one in my family works for a contractor supplying or doing work for any government entity.
Heck the last 25+ years I haven’t even worked in New Jersey. My tech skills led me to opportunities in Pennsylvania.
I’ve never worked for a construction developer. I have no connections to developers in these projects I write about.
My interest in community level reporting started 15 years ago when I heard a rumor about a large and impactful project coming to my town, yet no one really knew about it. I wasn’t for or against it.. just felt people should know.
That lead me to writing articles on community news, mainly Bellmawr at the time.
My efforts after several years of broader single town reporting shifted to the focused 42Freeway.com site in 2014 when my family moved to Deptford.
My coverage is not about politics but the stories do cross into political arenas as most projects are approved by Government entities.
At times I get caught in the middle of multiple groups of people. The old adage of “If you aren’t with me, you must be against me” rings true for me and 42Freeway.
Here’s my deal:
- Politics: I am a registered Independent. I have never been to a political party meeting. I have never attended a Democrat, Republican, or Community activist meeting. I have of course chatted with government officials in understanding projects to write my articles.
- Businesses: I have no connections to any developers or business owners I write about. I have met 100s of amazing business owners while writing the site, but there is no connected agenda for me. I have never taken a penny from a business but will gladly accept a taco or pizza slice if I write about your restaurant opening
- Community: Likewise I have no connection to any community groups who may take issue with project approvals. Heck, I’m not proud of this but I never even coached youth sports! I merely look to inform the public with the website. What the public then does with the information is their right as a citizen. That being said I do have my personal opinions on projects and will sometimes offer a voice of reason “I love animals too. I live in the woods. But this small patch of trees is next to the traffic-choked mall and maybe there are better woods for the deer to live in?”
Sometimes my readers get confused: For example a reader FB comment of “That lot should be a town park”. I will try to explain it takes more than Facebook comments to make that happen. Is the town willing to buy the land? And the reader will think I am supporting the developer. No, just trying to explain.
Sometimes the towns get confused: When I’ve written about the the second “eh” development in a row for a town and the residents are commenting that local leadership is to blame… it seems the town can cast the blame at 42Freeway even when I typically defend the town by replying “it’s up to the business owner how their money is spent”.
So that brings us to 2022/2023. The top projects just aren’t that exciting.
The top projects right now are Storage Facilities, Car Washes, Dollar Stores, Warehouses, and Cannabis Dispensaries. They are popping up all over South Jersey seemingly faster than the Pharmacy mad rush of 15 years ago.
So i think for many towns we may see continued ”not exciting” projects for a while. So remember I am just the mailman delivering a message. ha!
I believe the plans and decisions of the government at all levels should be made available to the public.
Keep the public aware and then they can decide if they want to get involved.
Upcoming meeting agendas, background documentation and then meeting minutes should all be made available to the public.
And in New Jersey it’s required by law.
Yet so many towns and government entities don’t follow the laws or just do the absolute bare minimum.
And today we all see that traditional local news coverage in America is dying. The model isn’t what it used to be when there was no internet, so staffing has reduced and with that… local coverage has suffered.
So I’ve been playing the “nice guy card” through this long About US page…
But I am very passionate about Open Government and following those rules, and this may be an area in the future where I become more of a pain-in-the-@ss to towns and related entities regarding how they are not following proper Open Government laws.
Thank you every one for supporting, sharing and reading the site!
42Freeway.com is part of the Skyzlmt LLC media family