Is it a database? Maybe.
So, based on those numbers, most newspaper people are worried — even worried enough to do something about it. Like turning newspapers into databases, for instance.
The New York Times started the ball rolling in October of last year with the NYT Campaign API, which can be used “to quickly retrieve totals [of campaign contribution and expenditure data] for a particular candidate, see aggregates by ZIP code or state, or get details on a particular donor.” [From here.]
And what’s an API exactly?
Well, this particular Campaign API allows third-party programmers (non-NYTers) to access – and, importantly, massage – political campaign contribution data that had been previously collected, organized, and available only to NYTers. This, in effect, turns the NYT into a database that you query rather than a newspaper that you read. Querying, of course, can be automated much more easily than reading — and that automation can be done through an API.
More pertinently, for newspapers, these API things offer a way of making money.
NYT reserves the right to charge fees for future use of or access to the NYT APIs or the NYT services and Web sites (collectively, “NYT APIs Services”) in NYT’s sole discretion. If NYT decides to charge for the NYT APIs Services, such charges will be disclosed to you prior. [From here.]
So, the NYT is saying this: Play around with these APIs, folks. And, if you make anything nice and fun and profitable, we get a cut.
Meanwhile, the Guardian, because it is also a newspaper, is doing pretty much the same API thing as the Times — for pretty much the same reason: to make money. But, the Guardian is doing the API thing a little differently.
If requested, you will as a condition of your licence to publish OPG Content, display on Your Website any advertisement that we supply to you together with the relevant OPG Content. You shall comply with our instructions regarding the position, form and size of such advertisements on Your Website. Such instructions may be notified to you directly or posted on the OPG Site. [From here.]
That is, the Guardian is saying this: Play around with these APIs, folks. And, if you make anything nice and fun and popular, we get a cut.
Now I think all this is interesting for two reasons.
One, the NYT and the Guardian are depending on the kindness of strangers. Well, not the kindness of strangers, exactly, but the playfulness of strangers to develop all these potentially (but not predictably) profitable/popular API applications. This is a kind of crowdsourcing — or user-created-content — that other industries are exploring as well, including the videogame industry.
Two, the NYT wants to sell access to their APIs; the Guardian wants to expand their “readership” in order to generate more advertising revenue. I think the Guardian wins this one – if there is a winner, because the future may be bye-bye print newspapers regardless of any clever API tricks.
We shall see.