USA Today is the latest media company to open up its data via an API, the software interface that makes it easy for outside developers to use another company’s data in their applications. The newspaper — which said that it will launch its open API project later this month — joins a small but growing group that includes The Guardian, the New York Times and National Public Radio. The newspaper says it plans to start releasing APIs for specific sections first, including a sports API that provides access to the paper’s database of salaries for players in Major League Baseball, the NBA, the NHL and other sports franchises. It will also be releasing data about best-selling books through its books API, and says it will be opening up other parts of its news operation through similar offerings later in the year.
It remains to be seen how much content USA Today provides through its interface, and on what terms. The New York Times only provides an excerpt of its content through its API, and doesn’t allow that content to be used in any venture designed for profit. National Public Radio, meanwhile, has provided full access to all of its content since 2008, and the organization is also working on a project with other publicly-funded entities to come up with a single system that provides access to all their data in one place. There is a tangible upside to an open API as well: NPR says its pageviews have climbed by 80 percent since it released its interface, as users click through from apps that use the service’s content.
The Guardian’s approach is perhaps the most ambitious: It launched its open platform project earlier this year, which includes an open API and a number of related services for developers. Access to the newspaper’s content is free, and developers can charge for their services or apps, but in order to get the full text of stories, they have to either agree to carry advertising from The Guardian in their application or service, or pay a licensing fee. The paper’s intention is to create partnerships with developers, then share revenue from those partnership.s (I wrote a GigaOM Pro report on why this is a smart idea that other newspapers should follow — subscription required.)
After taking its platform out of beta in May, the British newspaper also launched a project to use the programming interface to create content partnerships with various local blogs. The API, which is available as a plugin for the WordPress blogging platform, allows them to easily grab and re-post Guardian content, but also allows the newspaper to easily republish content from blogs as well. So far, The Guardian has created a law-blogger network and a science-blogger network using the new features.
Embedded below is a short video interview I did with Chris Thorpe in May, who at the time was The Guardian’s developer advocate for the open platform.
Related content from GigaOM Pro (sub req’d): What We Can Learn From the Guardian’s Open Platform