What's Open?

Creative Circle releases web app to help publishers solve desperate need for their communities during Covid-19 crisis


Creative Circle Media Solutions has released “What’s open” – a web application built specifically to help communities and media outlets deal with the chaos of the coronavirus outbreak.

“This is a way for local newspapers to become the focal point of which businesses are open or closed during this nightmare of shutdowns and constantly shifting hours,” said Bill Ostendorf, president of Creative Circle. “And it’s a way for publishers to help their business community get the word out to their customers.”

The solution, which can work on any web site, is a self-service module allowing businesses, schools and government agencies to indicate whether they are open or closed using a simple form that then displays that information on web sites using widgets. Newspaper staffs can also create or edit listings through the back end of the app.

“You can literally say ‘Give us one minute and we’ll help make sure your customers know your hours and your status,’ ” said Ostendorf. “It’s that easy to use.”

Free listings include the name of the company, categories, their status, a map and a description of what the business is doing to deal with the crisis.

Upsells allow users to provide adding info like contact information (web, email, social network links and a phone number), visuals (a logo and photo) and a downloadable menu or brochure. There is also an option to offer a deal and one to have their listing published in the print editions of newspapers using it.

While it does provide revenue producing opportunities, “What’s Open” was engineered to be a public service. It’s wired to assure that the initial listings are free. Publishers set the rates for upsells or can offer them for free or skip any of them altogether.

“We’ve all been flooded with emails from stores telling us they are open or closed or how they are adapting to this rapidly changing situation. It’s all over Facebook. But media outlets and their communities need a way to gather all this information in one place,” said Ostendorf. “This is an opportunity for local media to shine and provide essential information – and to remind their communities they are the best and most reliable resource to turn to in an emergency.”

The app collects contact information about small businesses, too, potentially unlocking the potential for future, long-term relationships with new advertisers.

“This disaster is our chance to deliver for our business community and readers,” said Ostendorf. “Web traffic is growing rapidly, and if newspapers could just do this one thing at a platinum level during this crisis, it could have a positive impact on our web traffic and revenue for years to come.”

Publishers can license the app on a month-to-month basis, pay a flat fee for six months, get it free and share revenue or upgrade their web site to Creative Circle’s dynamic web site CMS and get the app for free now to use on their existing site immediately.

“We know this situation is crippling publishers and we wanted to create something to help,” he said. “We brainstormed several concepts last week, built out the app in an intense, four-day push and began releasing it to our clients the following week."

While Creative Circle’s primary emphasis is newspapers, “What’s Open” is a stand alone web app that any web site, radio outlet or television station can add to their existing site in minutes. It would also be great for some organizations, like Chambers of Commerce."We’re hosting demos of the platform every day through April 4 at 1 p.m. Eastern, including Saturdays and Sundays,” said Ostendorf. “We’re trying to get the word out there and help publishers roll out this solution as soon as possible.”

Call 401-455-1555 or email info@creativecirclemedia.com to sign up for one of the demos. Or contact Ostendorf through LinkedIn.

One of the first “What’s Open” sites had 100 businesses on board in a few hours. Another had 75 their first day. “These weren’t large sites,” said Ostendorf. “It’s clear there is a huge demand for this service.”

Here’s what some editors and publishers who have used it said about the “What’s Open” app:

“Thank you for building this new feature.” – publisher, Bristol, R.I.

“This is a really great feature. I appreciate all the work you guys have put into it.” – editor, Cookeville, Tenn.

“This is going to save us time and help us a lot. Thank you!” – publisher, Madisonville, Texas

“I LOVE THIS!” – publisher, Phoenix, Ariz.

About Creative Circle Media Solutions

Creative Circle is dedicated to helping newspapers and making excellence affordable for all news publishers.

Creative Circle is one of the newspaper industry's leading consulting, training, design and software firms. We have a 30-year history of success and happy clients on three continents. Creative Circle has led the redesign and re-engineering of more than 650 print publications and we've designed and built more than 350 media-related web sites. We've led workshops in 23 countries, training thousands of journalists, publishers and ad staffers on a wide range of topics. 

We've also created a full line of web software solutions for media companies, including a user-oriented CMS, citizen journalism, classified advertising, hyper-local, pay wall, print production and reverse publishing solutions. 

A consistent innovator, Creative Circle was the first media CMS vendor to release a wide range functionality. We were the first media CMS vendor to offer an integrated pay wall, user-contributed content, hyper-local sites, reverse publishing capability, native content and flexible page and story templates that better reflect the news. Our sites are the most flexible and dynamic in the industry but are easy to learn and use.

We also provide "creative outsourcing" to help companies that don't have easy access to experienced media designers or editors to create high-end content. 

Increasingly, we’re finding that businesses, non-profits and associations can also benefit from the unique and powerful tools we’ve built for our media clients.