Creative Circle releases web software app to help publishers, communities cope with coronavirus pandemic

Mar 30, 2020

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,” Bill Ostendorf, president of Creative Circle, said. “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 website, 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.

Users can post something quickly using a very simple form and a couple of mouse clicks, while optional fields and upsells allow them to go into details about hours and provide content, a logo, a photo, a video, a menu or brochure, web links, email links and a map.

“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, but media outlets and their communities need a way to gather all this information up in one place,” Ostendorf said. “This is an opportunity for local media to shine and to provide this kind of essential information – and to remind their communities they are the best place to turn to in an emergency.”

“What’s Open?” is a standalone web app that any newspaper, website, radio outlet or television station can add to their own site in minutes. Publishers can license the app on a month-to-month basis, pay a flat fee for six months or sign up for Creative Circle’s extended NativeNewsQ platform, which also generates native news, paid press releases, paid calendar items, paid obituaries and other types of paid content.

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

While it does have revenue producing opportunities, it was engineered to be a public service. It’s wired to assure that the initial listings are free, while discount offers, extended information, preferred display and print listings are extra.

"We’re hosting demos of the platform every day from March 23-April 3 at 1 p.m. Eastern, including Saturdays and Sundays,” Ostendorf said. “We’re trying to get the word out there and help publishers remind their communities of the essential role they provide. This is an important opportunity for local publishers to shine.”

Media outlets can call (401) 455-1555 or email to sign up for one of the demos.

Ostendorf said Creative Circle’s unique history and skill sets allowed its team to identify this need and fill it quickly.

“One of the things that sets Creative Circle apart is that we’re very much in touch with the newsrooms we serve through our consulting, training and print redesign work. We also handle customer service calls and emails from our client sites — from the readers and users of the web sites we host,” Ostendorf said. “So we quickly saw the explosive need for this kind of service.”

Most of the elements needed for “What’s open?” were already part of Creative Circle’s dynamic web CMS platforms. The tools in this platform are based on the company NativeNewsQ paid content platform, which has been in use since 2010. NativeNewsQ handles native content, paid press releases, calendar items, obituaries, directory listings and more.

Creative Circle Media Solutions is dedicated to helping newspapers and making excellence affordable for all publishers. Creative Circle is one of the newspaper industry's leading consulting, training, design and software firms.