HOME
          
LATEST STORY
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Oct. 20, 2011, 2 p.m.

USA Today toys with a side business: selling commercial access to its data

The newspaper is also lifting restrictions on its popular census data API.

One year ago, USA Today opened up its massive database of articles, reviews, census figures, and sports salaries to the public. The newspaper provided open and well-documented APIs to software developers, but access was limited to personal and noncommercial use.

Last week the newspaper quietly changed that, offering commercial licensing of its data on a case-by-case basis. Premium licenses would remove rate limits and caps for data-hungry programs, too. That means USA Today can make money selling its data and app developers can make money using it.

The newspaper also lifted commercial restrictions from its collection of census data, one of its most popular APIs. While the data is publicly available, USA Today assembled it from multiple sources and structured it in a predictable, developer-friendly way.

Stephen Kurtz, the newspaper’s vice president of digital development, said the move is in response to requests from developers looking to build paid apps with USA Today’s data. “Most of them are mom-and-pop shop — two guys in a garage, or one guy in a garage — mashing up our content with other content. The reviews APIs are really popular, and they’ve been mashed up with other open APIs out there, like the Netflix API, for example,” he told me.

“We encourage that, and they give us good feedback of what they’d like to see and how they would like the API to grow. So for us, it’s very symbiotic.”

Kurtz said he has not decided on a standard pricing model — he wants to gauge demand first.

It’s an intriguing side business, another way for the paper to profit from its deep well of content. Plus, it puts the USA Today brand in more places. In a blog post, developer Ethan Hamlin explained it this way:

Our developer service was launched with the hope of expanding the ways people discover, engage with and communicate about USA TODAY content, and we view this as an important next step.

Both the Articles and Reviews APIs offer robust methods to access USA TODAY story briefs dating back to 2004. In exchange for opening these APIs to the public, we hope to increase our web audience via referrals back to our pages…

The Guardian, with its Open Platform, is the only other major newspaper I know of that offers the “freemium” model of access: free access to headlines and article excerpts; free access to full articles with embedded advertising; and paid access to articles with no advertising or data caps. (The Guardian’s Hack Day 2011 is today, by the way.)

The New York Times also provides extensive, well-documented APIs but no paid access to full article content. NPR provides an open API but grants full access only to dues-paying member stations.

Kurtz said he plans to release new APIs in the coming year, including for presidential polling data. Developers could build something like electoral-vote.com that automatically pulls in polling data, for example. Kurtz also plans to release an API covering years of data on the Olympic Games, which could be particularly lucrative for app developers next summer.

Kurtz is still deciding whether to charge for premium access to those datasets. “We’ll hopefully lean to be open when we can, but we also understand the value of this data,” he said. “I have to be honest with you — we’re kind of stepping into this, seeing what the demand is, and then I’m sure we’ll evolve our model from there.”

POSTED     Oct. 20, 2011, 2 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.
iOS 8: How 5 news orgs have updated their apps for Apple’s new operating system
ABC, the AP, Breaking News, The Guardian, and The New York Times have all updated apps (or introduced new ones) to take advantage of new features on iOS 8.
How the new Wall Street Journal iPad app is taking advantage of new features in iOS 8
The app, released with the operating system today, has more functionality in notifications and lets users continue reading articles across Apple devices.
The Baffler: The anti-innovation magazine embraces digital
With a brand new website, The Baffler seeks the audience and impact it missed the first time around.
What to read next
749
tweets
How a Norwegian public radio station is using Snapchat to connect young listeners with news
“A lot of people check their phones before they get out of the bed in the morning, and they check social media before the news sites.”
724When it comes to chasing clicks, journalists say one thing but feel pressure to do another
Newsroom ethnographer Angèle Christin studied digital publications in France and the U.S. in order to compare how performance metrics influence culture.
691Wearables could make the “glance” a new subatomic unit of news
“The audience wants to go faster. This can’t be solved with responsive design; it demands an original approach, certainly at the start.”
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 ➚
Current TV
Las Vegas Sun
Tumblr
Placeblogger
The Daily Show
Topix
FiveThirtyEight
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Crosscut
Instapaper
International Consortium of Investigative Journalists
The Chronicle of Higher Education