Dream: How The Guardian’s API Could Let a Thousand Stories Bloom

Newspapers are reacting in different ways to the shrinking revenue pie, some have launched blogs, many have twitter accounts, and some newspapers like the NYT keeps content behind a registration page. Today, the Guardian has launched Open Platform, a feature that will allow content be repurposed in a variety of ways. Those who participate in this affiliate content network will be an ad partner, extending the Guardian’s monetization model to these third party sites. Their API will allow third party developers to create new ways to tap into their story stream, and extend it beyond the walls of the Guardian website.

I can think of half a dozen applications (as I was thinking aloud in Twitter and kicked off a conversation) that could be built that could make it interesting, here’s what I could think of:

1. Social apps that build stories based on what your real friends have read –and vote for
Make it social. Someone will develop an application that will tap into your social graph, and suggest stories that your friends are reading, or stories that your friends recommend, or stories that other people with similar traits as you have read.

2. Mobile app that provides relevant news depending on where you are.
As location devices improve, mobile devices in the future may serve up content based on where you are located at. Traveling to a new city? This device could serve up stories that are interesting to the local news palette. Or, make news stories based on where you’re at, I’d love to hear news stories about a store or industry that I’m near by, say, the financial stability of a electronics store or auto dealer before buying.

3. Deliver stories based on time of day and day of week
Reading habits may vary depending on time of day or day of week. Expect a developer to build stories related to your work industry as you’re riding the subway to work. Lunch time stories could be related to leisure activities such as style or sports. For the single, reviews of the local eateries or lounges would be appropriate on Fridays, and entertainment and movie reviews would be most importantly on a Saturday morning

4. Suggests stories based on your historical behavior –or related to page you are on
Go behind ‘recommended’ stories. Imagine a developer building a secured Firefox or Flock plugin that will suggest stories to you based on the other browser behaviors. If you’ve liked stories about the NY Giants in the past, you’ll likely like stories about the Red Sox, or weather and team info as the Giants are at away games. Or, take it a step further and suggest Guardian stories based on the actual page you’re on.

5. Build new visual interfaces for the Guardian
Imagine a developer building a new site for the Guardian, they could design and develop new visualizations to view stories by frequency, map overlays, by people, or topics. They should draw inspiration from Digg’s visualization tools.

6. Allow citizen journalists to submit stories
Perhaps the most bold, but a new system could allow tweeters, bloggers, and Youtubers to submit not only commentary about stories, but create new stories themselves –feeding the Guardians news stream with real time content from the crowd. Of course, the challenge with all ‘amateur’ media is that a certain threshold of quality will need to be met.

7. You dream: submit your ideas
That’s all I could come up with at 5am in the morning, I’d love to hear your ideas. Leave a comment.

Interestingly, my suggestions in Twitter have actually caused folks to build new applications, and in my day job, I’m hired to review product roadmaps for social media vendors, so I’m hoping we’ll see some apps built off the Guardian API. When you do, leave a comment, and I’ll consider highlighting it to the community.

Update: Peter Kim points out in the comments that the Guardian will monetize this by requiring developers to participate in their ad network.

35 Replies to “Dream: How The Guardian’s API Could Let a Thousand Stories Bloom”

  1. What’s amazing to me is that there are already apps being built with the API – like this terrific example from Zemanta, the “Topic researchr demo” http://tinyurl.com/aprko8

    I think Guardian has an enormous hit here with their smart monetization model. NY Times will follow in due course.

  2. Here’s the critical consideration point for me:

    “You can display your own ads and keep your own revenue. We will require that you join our ad network in the future.”

    Solid monetization strategy or is The Guardian crossing its fingers and hoping that they’ll create lock-in for their content? With the direction of today’s newspaper businesses, the approach is innovative and if it works, we may end up with only a handful of papers that reach critical mass.

  3. Interesting Peter, it’s like MySpace creating a monetization strategy for it’s developers –Facebook did not.

    It’s not a lock in, it’s a syndicated advertising agreement.

    I do agree, once other papers offer this API, it will crowd this space, being first, or best, will have it’s merits.

    One way to be ‘better’? Expect a paper to launch an API with ad revenue sharing.

  4. Jeremiah – the Guardian already has the API with ad revenue sharing in the roadmap 🙂

    Definitely some first mover advantage, but also a quality advantage. Only a handful of global plays to be made. NY Times is another, Wash Post, maybe 3 more?

  5. Thanks Ted, I checked out the Zemanta app, it’s hard to see how this search tool is different than others, can you explain? Interesting interface, that’s new.

    I wonder if the developer incentive here is for greater pie sharing of ad revenue by those newspapers you suggested. It’s hard to imagine that a developer would accept ads from 3 newspaper networks, that would soon get very cluttered.

  6. Anyone emulating Twitters’ open API model will succeed in this day and age… Look at the proliferation of apps. Be interesteing to see how profitable they become when and if someone like Google ever buys Twitter.

    I need to retrain as a developer 😉

  7. The ‘stories from your social’ network is what Microplaza is doing in the small, right now, by looking through twitterized URLs, right?

  8. Tim

    Twitter API: I’ve heard from some developers that they don’t have access to the full ‘firehose’ stream of data from Twitter, and it has caused some angst.

  9. On the Zemanta app – the interesting part is the way in which it does the automatic content analysis of the Guardian stories and then uses semantic knowledge to send you to appropriate links — so a place name will generate a google map or a person’s name (like Bill Gates) might link to wikipedia. Think of it as smart annotation of the Guardian

  10. Thanks Ted, that’s helpful. Zemanta should better indicate that on the app. tagline perhaps?

    Stowe, perhaps if that became a default browser feature, (Flock seems natural) –could gain more adoption.

  11. Jeremiah/Peter, for more on API monetization check out this post on Mashery’s blog (The Guardian, NYTs, MTV, Netflix, BestBuy, etc. use Mashery’s API management platform): http://bit.ly/HiyHt

    Disclosure: I work with Mashery.

  12. Jeremiah, in our reasearchr demo, we extract concepts and allow you to explore them. Once you click on any of the terms, we will show you information that’s connected together with Linking Open data sources. E.g. for for a movie, you’ll get direct preview of its home page, IMDB, Rotten Tomates review and wikipedia page.

    This allows you get background information on the concepts that you’re reading about in the stories.

    It’s a showcase of our semantic API, that recommends these concepts to you while you blog.

  13. Very interesting ideas here, Jeremiah.

    Regarding point 6, the citizenship journalism, you could allow people to post news stories to their own profile that can found on the search engine. If they are good enough, they can be promoted to the front page of the Guardian, after necessary editing and fact checking has been done.

    You mention ad revenue sharing. Are thinking of sharing with the readers or the citizen journalists?

    TrendHunter.com is actually doing both of the above, but then again, they are only online.

  14. Hjortur Smarason

    Good point, I think they mean to share with developers. There may be ethics issues if you share with readers. (get paid to read us, so therefore write what we say you write)

    Paying citizen journalists, now that’s interesting.

  15. Point 4 made me feel somewhat wary. On one hand we’re all looking for APIs that cut out extraneous noise in favour of things we’re looking for and this could be a killer app. On the other hand does it facilitate a spiral into endless sport and porn ? A newspaper by definition is about the breadth of content and coverage that is beyond the means of individual news providors, plus it’s already been aggregated for you !
    Point 7 – a front page headline map that is simpler than the current one and thus more usable on a phone, plus it lets you option levels of richness.

  16. Zina, It shouldn’t be far fetched nor scary as we see things like this already:

    Cookies today already provide behavioral information to websites about users past interactions.

  17. Good point – HOWEVER – that information is passively monitored and not acted upon and golly that’s the way I need it.

    Given a broad range of headlines I choose to go beyond my junk-material zone and take stock of the world. If The Guardian let me act like my 2.5 year old I fear I’d be perpetually stuck in social media podcasts, restaurant reviews and art star gossip.

  18. Hi Jeremiah,

    Good to see you jumping on this topic. Something else for you to check out – Daylife’s API – already thousands of stories are blooming as a result of this mechanism. http://corp.daylife.com/select/

    One API, thousands of the best sources. Curate as much fresh content as you want from an endless array of topics, images, articles, videos, and more from thousands of the web’s best sites.

    So you (the publisher) can can create whole new pages, sections, and sites of fresh, relevant content to *complement* your existing editorial.
    Vast depth on any topic with minimal editorial overhead.

    Let me know if you’d like to connect with Upendra Shardanand when you’re in NYC next week.


  19. Интересно, а есть хоть кто-то, кто не согласен с автором? 🙂

  20. Jeremiah – the Guardian already has the API with ad revenue sharing in the roadmap 🙂

    Definitely some first mover advantage, but also a quality advantage. Only a handful of global plays to be made. NY Times is another, Wash Post, maybe 3 more?

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