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.