Posts about guardian

APIs: The new distribution

The Guardian just announced that it is releasing all its content through an API as well as making available many different data sets through a data store, all of which can be mashed up into others’ sites and applications. They join other organizations – the BBC, National Public Radio, and The New York Times – in releasing APIs; notes that it’s the creme of news that sees the wisdom in APIs. The Guardian’s offers more than headlines: articles, video, galleries, everything. It also adds one more important element to its offering: a business model, creating an ad network for users of the API.

Upendra Shardanand, my partner at and the founder of Daylife, has been saying for a few years that APIs are the future of distribution. The Guardian says its API will put its content “into the fabric of the internet.”

The moment that led to the title of my book – when I told publishers to ask what Google would do – came when I was trying to convince a roomful of them to think distributed, to stop believing that their brands were magnets sufficient to attract their entire audience, to go to where the people are, like Google.

The reflex of publishers – the few who agreed – was to think of distribution in terms of widgets (the trend that never was). They also produced RSS feeds, though limited. Note that a few weeks ago, the Guardian also shifted to full-text feeds (I asked about the business impact of this and they told me that there seemed to be none as traffic continues to rise).

Now APIs take distribution to its logical – if unknown and sometimes frightening – limit. Now I could build an application around the news of at least these four outlets – and, with Daylife, headlines from and analysis from thousands more. In the case of a Guardian story, you may read it via my application and not go to the Guardian’s site. Isn’t that insanity? Isn’t that what publishers are complaining about with aggregators? Actually, no, aggregators display only headlines and give links; this is worse if you’re trying to protect your content and traffic to your site. But that’s the old, centralized mediamind way to think. In the new, distributed world, you want to be where the people are. The frightening part has been that once you release your content as data, you lose control of the display, branding, data collection, and revenue. That’s why the Guardian is trying to add its advertising business model – because it wants to release everything; it wants its content to be used all around the web. This is the new distribution.

News organizations already lost control of packaging, whether they all knew it or not, when most of us most days come to content not through carefully designed home pages but through search and links and now Facebook. The media brand is less a destination and a magnet to draw people there than a label once you’ve found the content, wherever and however you found it. So the more places you can find it, the better.

: Disclosures: I should have added that I write and consult for the Guardian and, again, I’m a a partner at Daylife.

Guardian column: The LA Times’ day arrives

My Guardian column this week is a condensation of some of the discussion here about the LA Times’ online revenue equalling the paper’s total editorial payroll and what that could mean for the digital future of news:

So in the LA Times revelation, I see hope: the possibility that online revenue could support digital journalism for a city. The enterprise will be smaller, but it could well be more profitable than its print forebears today and – here’s the real news – it would grow from there. Imagine that: news as a growth industry again.

The quality of friendship

The Guardian’s Anna Pickard issues a rousing endorsement of online friendships on Comment is Free:

The friends I’ve made online – from blogging in particular, be they other bloggers or commenters on this or my own site – are the best friends I now have. And yet, when I say this to people, many times they’ll look at me like I’m a social failure; and when surveys like this are reported, it’s always with a slight air of being the “It’s a crazy, crazy, crazy world!” item last thing on the news. Some portions of my family still refer to my partner of six years as my “Internet Boyfriend”.

Call me naive, but far from being the bottomless repository of oddballs and potential serial killers, the internet is full of lively minded, like-minded engaging people – for the first time in history we’re lucky enough to choose friends not by location or luck, but pinpoint perfect friends by rounding up people with amazingly similar interests, matching politics, senses of humour, passionate feelings about the most infinitesimally tiny hobby communities. The friends I have now might be spread wide, geographically, but I’m closer to them than anyone I went to school with, by about a million miles.

For me, and people like me who might be a little shy or socially awkward – and there are plenty of us about – moving conversations and friendships from the net to a coffee shop table or the bar stool is a much more organic, normal process than people who spend less time online might expect.

Depending on the root of the friendship, on where the conversation started, the benefit is clear – you cut out the tedium of small talk. What could be better?

See also Leisa Reichelt’s seminal post on ambient intimacy. And also my column in the Guardian on how constant connection will change the nature of friendship. And here’s what I said in the last chapter of my book on the larger impact of Google and the internet:

I believe young people today—Generation Google—will have an evolving understanding and experience of friendship as the internet will not let them lose touch with the people in their lives. Google will keep them connected. . . .

Thanks to our connection machine, they will stay linked, likely for the rest of their lives. With their blogs, MySpace pages, Flickr photos, YouTube videos, Seesmic conversations, Twitter feeds, and all the means for sharing their lives yet to be invented, they will leave lifelong Google tracks that will make it easier to find them. Alloy, a marketing firm, reported in 2007 that 96 percent of teens and tweens used social networks—they are essentially universal—and so even if one tie is severed, young people will still be linked to friends of friends via Facebook, never more than a degree or two apart.

I believe this lasting connectedness can improve the nature of friendship and how we treat each other. It will no longer be easy to escape our pasts, to act like cads and run away. We will behave with this knowledge in the present. More threads will tie more of us together longer than in any time since the bygone days when we lived all our lives in small towns.

Today, our circles of friends will grow only larger. Does this abundance of friendship make each relationship shallower? I don’t think so. Friendship finds its natural water level—we know our capacity for relationships and stick closest to those we like best. The so-called Dunbar rule says we end up with 150 friends. I think that could grow. But remember the key insight that made Facebook such a success: It brought real names and real relationships to the internet. It’s about good friends.

I just asked Anna to be my Facebook friend.

Guardian column: Witnesses take over the news

Here’s my Guardian column this week: reaction to witnesses’ growing role in the news in Mumbai.

The last mass-news story was 9/11, packaged from a distance. The 7/7 attacks on London and the 2004 tsunami then brought the perspective of witnesses via their cameras. The Sichuan earthquake and the Mumbai attacks brought the urgency of Twitter. The next news story will be seen live and at eye level. . . . Such will be our new view of news: urgent, live, direct, emotional, personal.

Out of the cacaphony of people sharing what they know – on the ground, in the area, then around the world – comes a greater need to make sense of it all. Thus, I conclude, organizing news will be the most important role of news organizations.

: After sending the column in, I got email from GroundReport’s Rachel Sterne telling us that:

* GroundReport.com had a full-length Mumbai attacks story on our homepage before any mainstream western outlet.
* We have published over 70 full-length articles, videos and op-eds from people on the ground there since the start of the crisis.
* GroundReport consistently published updates on terrorist whereabouts and casualty counts hours before mainstream media.
* During the attacks I used Twitter and #mumbai to recruit people on the ground in Mumbai to report, significantly adding to our coverage….

Guardian column: The Google economy

My Guardian column this week argues that we’re witnessing not just the collapse of the financial (and auto and newspaper…) industries but the birth of a new economy best seen through – you guessed it – the lens of Google:

The financial crisis might be damaging countless companies around the world, but last month Google announced another quarter of growth, with profit up 26%. When it reported similar results two quarters before, The New York Times’ headline proclaimed, “Google defies economy.” It should have read, “Google defines economy.”

In this crisis, we are witnessing more than the failure of mortgages, derivatives, banks, and regulation. We are also seeing the dawn of a new economy; one best viewed and understood through the lens of Google, the one company that – by design or by luck – is built for the emerging world order.

Google’s first advantage is being digital. Who wants to be in the business of stuff any more – building cars, printing newspapers, selling CDs, growing food? Owning and controlling stuff was the basis of most business. And the reflexive response to a collapse in finance and equities used to be to return to the real: buy property. No more. Now the best retreat is to the value of knowledge.

In a sense, Google itself is built on a derivative: its data on data. Like the derivatives that got us into this mess, Google’s are based on creating abundance. But unlike those corrupted financial products, Google’s metaknowledge creates new and real value.

In Google’s economy, small is the new big. Of course, big is still big — Google itself is gargantuan. But it doesn’t grow by borrowing capital to buy companies (likely no one will for some time to come). Instead, Google created a network for an abundance of new advertisers and a platform for countless new businesses, all independent of Google. Indeed, Google does not want to own the assets — content to commerce — upon which its empire is built.

To succeed like Google, companies will build networks and platforms as it does. eBay’s platform enables thousands of merchants to sell more than America’s largest department-store chain, Federated. In Google’s era, the mass market is replaced by a mass of niches. So by continuing to track and measure only the biggest businesses — as the FTSE, the Dow Jones Average, and Nielsen ratings do — we miss sight of the small economy.

Another hallmark of Google’s economy is transparency. Even as Google remains opaque about details of how it does business — its ad commission, for example — it demands transparency of the rest of us. For without openness, we get no search-engine optimization, no precious Googlejuice. Regulators, customers, and citizens, too, surely will demand more transparency in business now that we have been so badly burned by secrets hidden in what are now glibly called toxic assets. Online, the truth is often just a link away.

This link economy that is the real basis of Google’s success, can also bring business benefits for other industries. Struggling and rapidly shrinking newspapers can now specialize—a local paper becomes more local and links to national coverage. Do what you do best and link to the rest, I tell editors.

Marketers are also beginning to learn that with direct links and relationships with customers, they may reduce ad spending. But relationships between companies and customers must be built on trust, and trust comes from handing over control. David Weinberger, author of Everything’s Miscellaneous, puts it this way: “There is an inverse relationship between control and trust.” Post-meltdown, the public will demand control — the internet and Google provide tools they will use to seize it.

Trust itself is becoming the basis for new business. eBay’s systems enable customers to anoint merchants with trust; Amazon demonstrates that we trust the opinions of fellow customers over critics; PayPal and Prosper help us make trusted transactions; Google knows which sites we trust with our links and clicks. We don’t trust banks anymore; hell, they don’t trust each other. In Google we trust.

Google manifests the business of trust in its famous decree, “don’t be evil.” Etch that over doors on Wall Street. If enough people had asked whether getting and issuing toxic mortgages, and making and selling toxic assets was evil — instead of someone else’s problem — I wonder whether we’d be in this mess. Our meltdown was not inevitable. But the transition to a Google economy is.