There is the old hat of publishing giants struggling to find viable business models in the digital world. Then there are countries and legislations that are even trying to turn the very principles of the internet upside down, by making the creation of links an act that one should pay for. On the other end of the spectrum there are newspapers that have public APIs to their content. These newspapers are striving for innovation, by exploring new grounds, instead of sticking to what they know.
Publishers providing APIs
About 3 years ago somebody raised the question on HackerNews: “How many newspapers have an API?”. At that time there were early efforts of The Guardian and The New York Times, trying to open up some of their content to developers.
Since then there has been some movement in the publishing industry, although not as much as expected. By now there are four big publishers that have public APIs (also find further news APIs at ProgrammableWeb). I am neglecting the Associated Press and Reuters on purpose here, as they don’t naturally fit into they classic “publisher” category and hence should be considered separately.
The following table provides an overview of the four big publishers with APIs.
|Provider||Full Article Content?||Console?||Commercial Use?|
What can I do with these APIs?
Having an API is just the first step but the devil lies in the detail. API is not API, the licensing schemes around the usage of the APIs are different, and the way that the companies are promoting their APIS are very different as well. Therefore we take an more detailed look at these API providers.
The Guardian launched it’s Open Platform in March 2009. The Open Platform is more than just an API, it also contains tools to make the interaction with Guardian content easier for application developers. The Guardian also features a API Console for testing queries to their API.
The Guardian claims that more than 2,000 developers have registered since the launch, creating more than 200 applications and products (numbers from May 2010).
In May 2010 the commercial launch of Open Platform was announced, which expanded the service to commercial partners. A case study about a recipe search MicroApp showcases an example of a commercial use of the Guardian API.
New York Times
A list of 32 applications which where developed using the different NYTimes APIs can be found in the Application Gallery.
For the majority of their APIs, commercial use is not permitted.
In October 2010 programmableweb covered the opening of the Developer Network of USA TODAY. Since then they have published a total of 9 APIs for their articles, book/movie/music reviews, and to the United States Census.
In October 2011 USA TODAY published the commercial terms for their Articles, Reviews and Census APIs.
National Public Radio (NPR)
The major difference when comparing NPR to all the other publishers is that they also have APIs for submitting content to them. This so called Ingest System allows their partner stations to publish stories to their content repository.
NPR has a total of 3 APIs, which allow searching for stations, transcripts, images, and news. Commercial use is not permitted.
First of all, why do only 4 big news organizations offer public APIs? This is a very small fraction of the media houses, even when looking at the market in the US alone. One might expect that more publishers would try to foster innovation around their content by opening it up to developers via APIs.
Tim Carson (Manager Digital Platforms, USA TODAY) noted at a recent Mashery event that they had to “spent a lot of time briefing Executives” before launching the USA TODAY API. This indicates that bigger corporations are still very concerned about the implications that opening up their content might have, which in turn leads them to do it slowly or not at all.
Also where are the international newspapers? All but one of the aforementioned publishers are from the US, the Guardian being he honorable exception from the UK. Just where are Germany, France, and all the other countries with rich newspaper ecosystems?
Finally, I would love to be proven wrong, so if there are any other APIs of major publishers, please post them to the comments.
- Tanja Aitamurto, Seth C. Lewis: Open APIs and News Organizations: A Study of Open Innovation in Online Journalism
- The API’s Plan To Save Newspapers: Let’s Put Humpty Dumpty Back Together Again
Photo credit: John S (Flickr)