The following is an interview with entreprenuer Richard Asinof, who launched ConvergenceRI on Creative Circle's web platforms. His publication is a unique, digital news platform creating a weekly newsletter covering the convergence of health, science, innovation, technology and reserach.
When I decided to launch ConvergenceRI, I knew that it would be a disruptive enterprise: my goal was to break down existing silos of news coverage and then to build a different way to engage with readers, crossing boundaries, promoting convergence and conversation.
It required readers to “think different,” as the old Apple advertisement proclaimed, about the content of news, but, at the same time, keep the content within the readers’ comfort zone. It had to be able to mix in-depth reporting and analysis with a quick synthesis of information in easy-to-digest nuggets. The digital platform had to be a place where both could happen seamlessly.
ConvergenceRI had to become a place where the readers could expect to learn new things, be surprised and challenged by the content, and want to share the content with their networks of friends, colleagues, customers and family, the way that information flows best in the digital age we live in.
It also had to build and maintain value for the institutional subscriber, the mainstay of the business model – the place where startups, early stage and commercial stage companies wanted their stories told, the place where hospitals and community health centers wanted to share their stories, and the place where those involved in the academic research enterprise were willing to talk about their work.
I knew I needed to go to a web designer with the kind of expertise to build a platform that could achieve those purposes. Creative Circle was a natural fit. What I needed was a team with whom I could work in a collaborative fashion to build a new news enterprise.
In shaping the new web platform, there was a healthy amount of give and take with the Creative Circle team, a constructive dialogue, which made sense, given the innovative nature of the enterprise. The relationship challenged me to be clearer in my own thinking, in translating the abstract into things that could actually work. The team at Creative Circle provided the right amount of pushback as part of the creative process.
For instance, in one of the first stories I wrote, a complicated and complex report on the launch of a new initiative in Rhode Island to deal with folks who were termed dually eligible for both Medicaid and Medicare services in nursing homes, the feedback from Creative Circle was that the story was too deep in the weeds.
What was needed, they said, was a way to explain the importance of the story for readers. It had to read faster. That feedback led to the creation of a series of three sidebars to accompany that story, and every story thereafter: why is this story important, the questions that need to be asked and what about the story is under the radar screen.
Those sidebars, developed through discussions with the Creative Circle design team, have become one of the most popular features in ConvergenceRI. Where appropriate, a fourth sidebar has been added, a glossary, when dealing with confusing terms for the readers, such as the arcane differences between an accountable entity and an accountable care organization, in the delivery of health care.
A second, important contribution in the initial collaboration was the emphasis Creative Circle placed on photographic content in the design, helping to arrange a relationship with local photographers to make sure that the images helped to tell the story and that they were displayed large enough to give impact to the content. I admit that I am still learning there.
One of the things you learn quickly in being an entrepreneur launching a new venture is that you are not the expert in everything you do. I may be a quick study in all kinds of print technology platforms, but having the folks at Creative Circle serve as my mentors and being able to defer to them when there were glitches that I could not decipher on my own has made all the difference moving forward.
I publish ConvergenceRI first thing every Monday morning, usually around 6:45 a.m. If something goes wrong, it requires a phone call or an email with the folks at Creative Circle. Their responses have always been prompt.
The Creative Circle team, in turn, has been patient in training me to become more accomplished in my ability to manage the technology.
Being an entrepreneur is a constant learning process, one where you need to have your partners have your back. Creative Circle has been there for me.
One of the distinctions I chose to make with ConvergenceRI was that it would not be a digital platform for click bait, seeking to exploit outrage and anxiety by publishing things that promoted mayhem, murder and scandal – as a way of driving the number of hits to the website, the way that most advertising purveyors measure the success and failure of news websites.
Instead, my metrics seek to ask not how many hits, but how many decision-makers and policy-makers and community leaders are reading ConvergenceRI.
The statistic I share is the number of subscriptions maintained and renewed: out of roughly 160 subscribers, most of whom are corporate entities who have the authority to redistribute ConvergenceRI to employees, only 10 of these subscribing companies have declined to renew during the first five years publishing ConvergenceRI. Out of those 10, four have decided to become subscribers again.
Translated, in five years, only six out of 160 did not renew, giving ConvergenceRI a retention rate of more than 96 percent.
Perhaps even more remarkable, three of the subscribers who did not renew are not shy in continuing to ask ConvergenceRI to cover their events, which I do, if they are newsworthy.
There continues to be plenty of room for growth to attract new subscribers.
When you build a disruptive business, investors are always looking to see if the model can be replicated and scaled up.
ConvergenceRI has pursued conversations with investors in two other markets to replicate the current model, sparking strong interest but no investment commitments to date.
In a time when many of lamenting the consolidation of news platforms and the demise of local news coverage, ConvergenceRI offers an approach that can resonate within a market, particularly for those institutions and entities that depend on accurate, comprehensive, in-depth coverage of the sea changes occurring in health care, life sciences, technology, research and community.
One of the advantages that ConvergenceRI brings to the market is a stable web platform that works, that is easily adaptable to new location, and can be deployed with minimal additional expenses, thanks to Creative Circle.
The continuing dialogue and conversation with the team at Creative Circle; they are always willing to engage about ways to improve the publication and their technology platform.
I think about the value that ConvergenceRI has created in the marketplace – and the kinds of conversations and engagement that it keeps generating, all of which would not be possible without my continuing partnership with Creative Circle.