How Localist Consumes and Provides APIs to Create a Viable Business Model

The event marketing calendar Localist is the latest in a growing number of business examples that demonstrate how taking a platform approach and combining API aggregation with predictive techniques can create commercial success. ProgrammableWeb spoke with Localist CEO Mykel Nahorniak.

“Localist is an event marketing calendar,” Nahorniak says. “If you think ‘online calendar,’ you probably think Google Calendar, which is a simple tool to organize events internally or showing a very basic calendar on your website, but it really does a poor job of marketing those events. If you put your events on a calendar, that doesn’t really raise awareness. We try and solve the problem of striking the balance between managing events coming up and a tool for audiences.”

A White-Label Calendar and Event Marketing Tool

Localist starts by helping customers organize events into a simple data model for event categories, target audience, event contact personnel and the like. With a basic taxonomy in place, customers overlay their own branding and then import the Localist calendar tool into their websites so that the customer can maintain and upload new events directly. A Tailgate app-creation tool is also available so enterprise customers can create their own apps — branded versions of the Localist Web interface designed for mobile devices.

Nahorniak points to the University of Louisville’s use of Localist as a prime example of how hospitals, universities and enterprises are using the tool. (In another example, Nahorniak mentions that L’Oreal use the calendar tool to share details of when salons carrying L’Oreal products are running demonstrations and seminars.)

“On average, we see an 800% increase in calendar traffic and can drive a 70% increase in attendance thanks to Localist. Just by presenting the events differently online,” says Nahorniak.

New API-Driven Platform Markets: Media and Tourism

So while the white-label Localist version is ideal for enterprises and agencies that host or coordinate a large number of events across their campuses or locations, industries offering a hyperlocal content platform had a slightly different need for an online calendar.

"Traditionally our customers already have the event content; they just need to present it," Nahorniak explains. "But tourism boards and media companies, they don’t have the resources to go and collect all the events that are happening across their city. So we partnered with SeatGeek to provide them with a baseline of events."

Localist consumes the SeatGeek API and aggregates data from other API sources to provide the events content to hyperlocal content publishers, he says:

On a per-platform basis, we will pull in events intelligently from the SeatGeek API. We work with our customer to identify what events should be displayed. For example, for the Baltimore Tourism Board, it would be events in Baltimore and D.C., so we would do API calls to SeatGeek to pull down events and that becomes the source that is displayed.

SeatGeek data itself is very clean from the outset. We don’t tend to do that much to clean it up. SeatGeek content is typically name, dates, on this date at this time and you can buy tickets. Then we can pull down artist information from other API sources, to give a bit more context around the event. We check for duplicates, but for the most part it is clean right out of the box.

We have an importing system called Comb and we plug SeatGeek into that engine. Then we can do a bunch of additional things to it. For example, we might also be importing events from Eventbrite, and it could be the same thing where we have name and date. That’s when our system can go out and get more information. That’s all done regardless of the source.

From there, customers can also consume all of the calendar data and tools from the Localist API. Localist also dogfood its own API: It is a consumer of its API to manage the data it channels to its enterprise clients to help them create the Tailgate-branded mobile apps.

Says Nahorniak, "Our mobile app Tailgate is built completely on our API. It is pulling the Localist API to display it in a mobile presentation. It is powerful enough that you could rebuild a Localist experience on top of the API."

The API also includes additional features that customers are using on their websites, he says:

In the Localist API itself, we have a trending algorithm where we take in a lot of data around an event — for example, if people are using a hashtag around an event — and so from a Localist event home page, we can show a trending events list and sort events by what [are] the most interesting, talked-about events coming up.

Monetizing the Platform

Nahorniak sees the success of Localist as being dependent on the success of Localist customers. "We don’t want to punish customers when their calendars are a success," he says. "We would rather charge a flat license fee and give you all the tools to make promoting your events successful."

As such, Localist provides a simple, flat pricing fee for small-business customers and tailors individual plans to enterprise customers. Those making use of the SeatGeek API integration can discuss how to commercialize this opportunity. Because SeatGeek shares ticket purchasing revenue with affiliates who sell the tickets, their API would usually funnel this revenue share back to Localist. But enterprise customers are encouraged to do their own marketing calculations and negotiate an individual arrangement with Localist, Nahorniak says:

We offer the SeatGeek API integration out of the box. We offer it for free. Then we have an affiliate ID that ties back to Localist. But for a little bit extra on the license fee, customers can plug in their own ID into SeatGeek. They can do the math on that and see what works best for them.

Here, the business model success for Localist is built on generating more evidence of the success its platform tool offers customers. The effectiveness data on things like the 800% increase in traffic and the 70% increase in attendance is a crucial message to get across for its business model to work. The alternative would be to keep hiking up fees depending on numbers of API calls, which would be tied to those traffic increases. But that sort of model is difficult for the coveted enterprise customer market, as it is unable to provide certainty over estimated service costs for any given month.

For now, by working with partners like SeatGeek — itself a proven API success story — Localist is creating a potentially strong platform that builds trust and stability with its customers, taking a "rising tide lifts all ships" mindset.

Mark Boyd is a ProgrammableWeb writer covering breaking news, API business strategies and models, open data, and smart cities.

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