At a time when the American newspaper industry increasingly considers ways to lock down its content and put it behind pay walls, the ever-innovative Guardian newspaper is flinging wide its gates and making it easier for others to take and use its content. Last month the paper announced something it’s calling “Open Platform”, which is a set of tools that allows anyone to build applications to pull Guardian content and re-use it on the internet.
The Guardian Content API includes articles as far back as 1999 and in some cases much further back. There are approximately 1,000,000
articles available. We will continue to open up more content as we’re
One of the most powerful things open-source software developers have discovered is that if you open up your toolbox to anyone who wants to use it and allow them the ability to tinker and create, they’ll build things with it you never could have imagined. Drupal, for example, is a powerful free open-source content platform that has hundreds of innovations built into and on top of it because users are encouraged to take Drupal for free and make new things with it. Apple has unleashed a torrent of creativity with its iPhone Apps store.
Already, developers have started building applications with the Guardian’s Open Platform. Some examples:
“I decided to write an application that searches The Guardian’s
archive and returns a link to the top hit using Twitter as the UI and
the message bus. I didn’t need to build a new web site or client
application. I wanted people to use whatever technologies they prefer
“Towards the end of last week, a sleepness night led me to indulge a
childish sense of humour with 15 minutes of tomfoolery, the output of
which was a graph comparing the decline and fall of various swear-words
in the pages of the Guardian over the last decade. In a bid to retain
some sense of self-respect, I’ll for now ignore the fact that this
graph has achieved a readership that dwarfs anything else I’ve written
in my career to date, and focus instead on how I did it.”
Who knows what readers will create? But the bigger point is that once the Guardian’s users are invited in and given the power to make their own things, they form a stronger community around what the Guardian does. Is there a business model in that? Yes, just as eBay created a new generation of online entrepreneurs, the news organization that helps its community be entrepreneurial stands to reap rewards.
When people ask me which is the news organization that most “gets” the internet, I usually mention The Guardian. The paper has an outsized online presence compared to its print circulation, and it has consistently led the pack in thinking about developing an audience and gathering and presenting information. The Guardian has a huge American audience, and its cultural coverage is probably the best around. In a related post on ARTicles today, I write about the Guardian’s artist-in-residence program and some of the reader reaction.