Guardian’s “Open Platform” Interface Looking A Lot Better Than The New York Times’
The Guardian, with their newly announced Open Platform, are heading into the 21st century of profitability much faster than the rest of their print-media chums. The newspaper has just announced a new suite of online services that some go as far to suggest may be the future of distribution. It’s no printing press 2.0, and won’t be printing money just yet, but it’s the sort of courageous innovation crucial to the news-industry’s survival.
The service is known as an API and is common to sites like Google – basically it’s a tailor-made content interface, a rare and ambitious step in the media industry. The Guardian hope to eventually create an ad-network, using their acculmulated intelligence to be reach more eyeballs than the visibility and diversity of news-site would allow. Like all games, more eyeballs mean greater profit.
One half of Open Platform is dubbed Content API, allowing developers access to a vast array of archives, which would permit, for example, the free use of Guardian articles about relevant artist on a museum’s webpages. In addition they offer Datastore, a “collection of important and high quality data sets curated by Guardian journalists.”
It’s not all puppy dogs, confetti, and the beginning of web utopia. Eventually, commercial use of service with be served alongside adverts. The Guardian aren’t purely in it for profit; their composition assures that they don’t intend to seek profit for shareholders benefit. Instead, their motivation is independence and conformity to their trust’s founding values. They can afford to be innovative and take risks in order to lead the way: being courageous, as their values state, is important. Indeed, shareholders “would normally have a heart attack at such a move.”
The New York Times and LA Times have both been flirting with billionaires recently, as they fight for survival; the NYT have had to sell off and lease back parts of their headquarters, landing themselves with a $24m annual rent payment as they try to pay back their Carlos Slim loan. The LA Times may have the best deal, with their potential suitor pointing to the Guardian as an ideal model. “Newspapers ought to be owned by foundations, not look for great financial returns” suggested philanthropist Eli Broad.
This API sees the Guardian setting the pace ahead of competitors like the New York Times who launched a similar but more restrictive service recently, featuring – wow! -a search facility and access to live headlines. The Guardian’s model is different, focused on allowing commercial use of their content and data. The result may be a smart mash-up of data and content, much Guardian branding, and a new revenue streams from which the same water can be continually recycled, reused, and resold.
If content is king, then this is service is a hundred of the king’s best horses, and thousands of his best messengers, sending the Guardian far and wide. A misstep online is unlikely to cost the Guardian much, and should only encourage competitors innovation—the industry sure needs it. With this move, the Guardian redraw of where the boundaries of the newspaper industry lie, using to technology to reach as far as possible. It’s enough to make Conrad Black spit his prison breakfast all over his email-inbox. He would be right to be worried, though he may have to wait until his release in a few years time to see the Guardian’s plans for complete media-domination realised.