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by Stephen Logan on 22nd May 2009
This is the first in a series of reports that we’ll be doing on the digitalisation of traditional media and how huge corporations are having to re-asses marketing strategies in order to tie-in with modern trends. Today’s looks at how APIs could prove to be the future of the printed press.
There’s no doubting that the media landscape is changing. Traditional outlets are being threatened by the all-consuming leviathan that is the Internet. Whilst an ‘adapt to survive’ mentality is being adopted by some, there are still many – including a well documented piece in the Washington Post by Bruce W. Sanford and Bruce D. Brown – who oppose and fear change as vehemently as The Luddites during the Industrial Revolution.
The Digital or Online Revolution, whichever way you wish to term it, has been in full swing for some time now. The epochal shift towards the Internet has undoubtedly taken a lot of established institutions by surprise. Some, however, appear to be accepting and embracing it more than others.
Few established media outlets in the UK have done more to harness the potential positivity of this new medium than The Guardian. Whilst the printed newspaper industry itself is suffering from dwindling sales and reductions in advertising incomes, there is undoubtedly still a place for professional journalism, and probably always will. Whether that place is printed in ink or digitally created on a screen however looks a little more unclear.
The reason why The Guardian – just like the New York Times before them – is leading the way in the British media isn’t because they have a strong social media presence, an inordinately high standard of journalism or are the first with all the breaking news; no, the reason why they’ve stolen a march on the others, is because of their Open Platform system.
Whilst some may argue that the aforementioned factors are equally important, and they may well fulfil all those criteria, it is the API that really puts them head and shoulders above others. By freely releasing archival statistics, reports and other content, The Guardian are getting their content used on sites right across the Web. For example, a Webmaster in Uzbekistan can access their old articles, sift out the data required and share it with their site’s community in an instant; how else would that be possible?
This makes the Internet wide open and allows quality newspaper content – rather than simply hyperlinking – available to anyone, anywhere and at any time. The Open Platform is further complemented by the Data Store. This is an application that allows users to obtain statistical data on pretty much anything; providing an invaluable resource for online users from all walks of life.
Development of The Guardian Open Platform API is ongoing. There are suggestions that current content may well feature far more heavily, with up-to-the-minute news becoming available to the masses. However, since its launch back in March the publicity, concern and defence of an API as a viable future for all print media has been unrelenting. Some still question the sense of simply giving away your news for free; however, I think these doubters are missing the bigger picture.
The Guardian itself sells 346,757 copies a day on average according to their own statistics. The vast majority of these will be solely UK based of course, making their readership only around 0.58% of the entire population. That spread is relatively small, although it should be noted that doesn’t include online statistics for which The Guardian ranks well with.
However, with millions of sites potentially using The Guardian’s information and including references or links within that, their readership and visibility can only improve on an exponential level. Along with this growing online presence, they can then be assured of increased credibility and ultimately, potentially at least, greater usage of their revenue making outlets, i.e. The Guardian website and the newspaper itself.
It’s a brave step into the new online forum, and one that could well pave the way for others to follow. It should ultimately mean a greater freedom of the printed press, better access to quality news and a viable alternative for institutions that may one day become redundant. It’s a mutually beneficial scheme whereby consumers, websites and of course The Guardian reap the benefits.
Journalism is under fire from all quarters. With professional bloggers, online news and 24 hour television reports, where does the printed press stand moving forward? The Telegraph and The Guardian have been competing tit-for-tat over the title of Britain’s most popular online newspaper in recent times. The Telegraph, as we reported earlier this week in a piece titled ‘Telegraph Dominating Online Breaking News’, has been creating a huge buzz with its successful social media presence and exclusive reporting of the current MP’s expenses scandal; but I’d suggest The Guardian’s API and Data will ultimately prove the more successful over time.
Can you see Open Platform being the future for traditional media? Is this something that you’d want to use yourself in websites? Or, indeed, is print journalism really on its knees at all, can it survive and flourish despite the Internet and not because of it? We’d certainly like to hear your views, so please feel free to post a comment.