The embeddable newspaper

About a week ago, I met with Tristan Harris, founder of Apture, which enables sites to create rich link boxes that display media of all sorts. As we talked, it occurred to me that he had something else in his hands, something I’d talked with the Guardian about over time: the ability to make a newspaper embeddable.

That is, imagine if any content in a paper or news site could be shared on this blog via YouTube-like players that could display not just video but also text, photos, audio, graphics, anything. Imagine if, rather than having to cut-and-paste a quote from a news story, I could quote it here in a box that also delivered the context of the entire story, along with the source’s branding, links, and even advertising.

I’ve argued that newspapers need to think distributed, that they need to go to where the readers are rather than expecting them to be attracted to news sites like magnets; this is a key lesson of What Would Google Do?.

And then I saw Google Web Elements, which lets me embed content like this:

It’s a start. Gillian Reagan in the NY Observer says that perhaps this is a way for newspapers to get distribution and branding from Google; PaidContent agrees.

But I hope for something broader, something any site (even BuzzMachine) could implement to make itself embeddable without having to go through Google’s funnel. That’s what I think Apture might be able to do.

The Guardian, NY Times, NPR, and BBC are on the right road, of course, with their APIs, which enable other sites to embed their content and enables the news organizations to, in the words of the Guardian, weave themselves into the fabric of the web. Daylife (where I’m a partner) also has an API. But the limitation of an API is that it needs developers and that means time. A toolset such as Elements (or Daylife’s new Select) enables mortals such as me to embed content or create pages.

Note well that this is the opposite of locking content behind pay walls. Becoming embeddable is a way for a site to act like Google and go with the flow of the internet, to be distributed by its readers, to take its content and branding and advertising out into the web.

  • Paul Armstrong

    Deffo a step in the right direction!

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  • Johan Lange

    I think we’ll be prepared to pay for certain content to present and use on our freelance site – we then use some of the paper brand. Maybe a way to go!

  • Cody Brown

    The problem is making it fit.

    As a publisher who has a blog that covers NYU, I’d be interested in doing something like, embedding news about Greenwich Village, but I’d want to make it matches the look of my website and label it in such a way so we don’t get burned when something on the feed turns out to not be true.

  • Michel Levy-Provencal

    We try to do yhis at France 24 with what we call “Web Widget”.

    What do you think about it?

  • Bob Wyman

    Why limit embedding to just links and ledes? Why not embed full content? For instance, if I start a site that does exquisite coverage of Upper West Side New York news why shouldn’t I be able to build out a “full news experience” by embedding technical news from TechCrunch, international news from the New York Times, Pharma industry news from startup pharma news bureau in New Jersey, etc…
    The paper analog for content embedding would be what the “News Syndicates” have done for years for columnists, regular features, comics, etc. I should be able to build up my own “complete news experience” with a unique curatorial focus, voice, perspective, quality level, etc. by combining in-house content with embedded content from partners. (Of course, embedding would include advertising to allow revenue generation, etc.)

    bob wyman

    • Michel Levy-Provencal

      Thanks for this answer.
      You’re right. We really have to think about it and integrate more informations in the new version of F24 widget…

  • Maha Atal

    Actually, Jeff, the New York Times is already negotiating something with Google to have their articles appear in Reader that way. Keller said so in an interview about a month ago, I believe with the Observer.

  • Shan Freeman Cousrouf

    Just a note. The content shows up fine in my browser, but I get a big blank space in my feed reader (Feedreader 3.14). Seems like it’s always something. Any one have the same experience in their reader?

    • Janne

      Yes, same here. Embedded stuff becomes blank space in my reader. I use NewsGator.

  • Eric R. Olson

    That makes perfect sense to me and I would extend the concept to individual articles. Imagine if you are an independent journalist, publish a story and it becomes a hit. If the article is embeddable, you retain control over your work and the more places it is embedded, the more advertising you can sell against it.

  • RateBrain

    This is certainly the future of the web. You make a great point about APIs and the development time needed. Copy/paste (or even drag/drop) is the way to make it easy for ALL publishers. We plan on using some of the Elements stuff on our RateBrain site soon.


  • Derek Pilling

    This take truly unique and compelling to make the economics work for the publisher. Unfortunately, most papers don’t have that kind of content, they are principally distribution businesses as opposed to unique content creators. Unfortunately, their primary distribution mechanism; print; is dying a slow but certain death. As the death spiral becomes steeper, you see them cutting back on editorial staff, making their content less and less compelling, as opposed to more compelling. Tough spot.

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  • Can Sar

    I couldn’t agree more that reusing and recombining small chunks of existing content to tell better and richer stories will be a huge part of the future of news but I’ve always focused on multimedia and structured data instead of news in particular. A really great read.

    Can Sar
    CTO, Apture

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