Nieman Foundation at Harvard
HOME
          
LATEST STORY
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
March 10, 2009, 8:25 p.m.

The Guardian ups the ante on APIs

The New York Times was the first major newspaper to take its cue from Google and open up its data via an API (which stands for application programming interface). In a nutshell, this allows developers to write programs that can automatically access the New York Times database, within certain limits, and use that data in mashups, etc. Now the Guardian newspaper in Britain has upped the ante: not only has it opened its data up via an API, but it has also done two things that the NYT has not — namely, it provides the full text of its articles to users of the API (while the Times restricts developers to an excerpt only) and it also allows the data to be used in for-profit ventures, while the Times restricts its data to non-profit purposes.

As Shafqat at NewsCred notes on his blog, these two differences are pretty important, and I would argue that the Guardian has really put its money where its mouth is in terms of turning its paper into a platform (to use the title of a blog post I wrote when the NYT came out with its open API). Not to denigrate what the Times has done at all, mind you — an API of any kind is a huge leap, and one that many newspapers likely wouldn’t have the guts to take, limits or no limits. But to provide full-text access to all Guardian news articles going back to 1999, and to allow all of this data and more to be used in profit-making ventures as well, takes the whole effort to another level entirely.

Instead of becoming just a platform for non-profit services and features that make use of text excerpts, the Guardian effectively becomes a platform for anything that might use content from its stories or other data. But it does so with an interesting catch: If a company wants to use all of the data and charge money for the purpose, the Guardian reserves the right to display its own advertising alongside that content. In effect, this aspect of its API offering — if it comes to fruition on any kind of sustained level — could create a whole new source of revenue for the company, by using other content providers and service providers as a distribution method (Jeff Jarvis calls APIs “the future of content distribution”).

Risky? Definitely. But as anyone who follows the newspaper business surely knows by now, this is not a time for half measures. Challenging times require bold steps, and the Guardian’s move is a bold one indeed. It will be fascinating to watch this experiment, and to see whether any other newspapers decide to join the open API parade.

POSTED     March 10, 2009, 8:25 p.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
James Pindell is trying to bring The Boston Globe’s election coverage to everyone by being everywhere
“Whether it’s their inbox, whether it’s for Twitter, Facebook, Medium, Instagram — the idea is to reach audiences where they’re at.”
The New York Times collaborates with This American Life on a special investigative report
The New York Times is running its story Friday, while This American Life’s complementary report will air this weekend and be available for download as a podcast Sunday.
With an interface that looks like a chat platform, Quartz wants to text you the news in its new app
“The content type is always messages, and that’s always true whether you’re getting the message inside the app or as a notification.”
What to read next
0
tweets
Working with young reporters, City Bureau is telling the story of police misconduct in Chicago
“Those areas, more than any part of the city, have been disenfranchised over the past 100-plus years. Even though there’s coverage there, it’s often quick, one-hit coverage — parachute journalism.”
0The New York Times’ new Slack 2016 election bot sends readers’ questions straight to the newsroom
“Instead of asking you to come to us and be part of this massive room of people shouting over each other, you can bring us to you, and have us be, essentially, one more person in your conversation.”
020 years ago today, NYTimes.com debuted “on-line” on the web
“We all had a sense that something important was happening, but at the time there were actually very few users. So it was a bet on people getting online and buying more PCs.”
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
West Seattle Blog
Corporation for Public Broadcasting
Slate
Daily Kos
IRE/NICAR
San Francisco Chronicle
American Independent News Network
DocumentCloud
El Faro
La Nación
The Atlantic
Drudge Report