David Weinberger‘s Shorenstein Center fellowship paper, “The Rise, Fall, and Possible Rise of Open News Platforms: The Twisty Path towards a Net Ecosystem That Makes News More Discoverable, Reusable, and Relevant,” was released this week. The paper details the open APIs developed by The Guardian, The New York Times, and NPR, and how the usage and benefits of those APIs differed from the organizations’ original goals.
Weinberger’s paper breaks down the initial appeal of public APIs to news organizations, and how these APIs aided the creation of mobile apps, drove additional traffic to the organizations’ websites, and made their individual content management systems more flexible.
So, in July 2008, NPR opened up its resources to external developers, followed by The New York Times in October of that year, and The Guardian in March 2009. They launched software platforms that used the most up-to-date industry standards. The platforms were constructed to be robust and reliable. Documentation and tools introduced external developers to the bounty. When the platforms were ready, press releases were emitted. The occasional “hackathon” was held at which developers were given the space, time, and pizza required to slap together apps over the course of a weekend or even a single day. There was a flurry of enthusiastic articles in the technical press and conference presentations. These platforms embodied the Internet’s best values.
And then the air went out of the vision. The Renaissance of News Apps became just another failed dream of cyber utopians.
Yet, the platform architects at NPR, The Guardian and TheNew York Times still use words like “transformative” and “revolutionary.” But it’s not the world that’s been transformed. It’s the news organizations themselves.