Company is actively engaging outside developers to create applications for site
NYTimes.com is rapidly moving ahead with its strategy of enlisting the developer community to use New York Times content as a platform, along the lines of Facebook, Google and the iPhone.
On Feb. 20, Marc Frons, chief technology officer-digital operations for the New York Times Co., and his team hosted their first face-to-face meeting with developers interested in getting involved with the Times. A week earlier, they expanded the First Look blog on NYTimes.com with a new category called Protypes, which was described to the community as a place the Times would share new projects and ask for feedback “before they hit the mainstream.”
“Part of our strategy is to build a series of application programming interfaces (APIs) that allow developers to access our content,” Frons said. “Our idea is to give developers tools to use our content in new and different ways, ways we never imagined ourselves.”
Already available are the Article Search API for stories dating back to 1981, the Best Sellers API for all New York Times best-sellers lists, the Movie Reviews API and the Campaign Finance API, which mines data on presidential campaign contributions and expenditures. The TimesPeople API, released Feb. 17, enables developers to retrieve the article recommendations and share activities that members of the TimesPeople network have agreed to make public.
“When we first released our APIs, we said, "This is experimental,' so they were for noncommercial use only,” Frons said. “Pretty soon, people started calling us and saying, "What's the business model? What are the commercial terms? We want to put advertising against this idea.' ”
Frons said the company is getting close to releasing commercial terms that will clarify how its content can be used and how developers and Web site owners will be compensated for their contributions.
One possibility is something like Google Maps. “If I use Google Maps on my site, I have to pay Google based on how many times our users go to their servers to fetch map information. That's one model we're looking at now, but other models may emerge,” Frons said.
In any event, he added, “There's a revenue model around embracing the developer community that I don't think any news site has tapped yet.”
User-generated applications also could “extend our development community incrementally if this takes off,” Frons said. In addition to more than 100 technology people on the Times staff, “scores of people are already working with our content and helping us make our products better,” he said.
“We have another motive, which is to spread our content as far and wide on the Web as possible,” Frons added. “APIs are one way of doing this, and embracing the developer community is another way of doing this.”
Actually, Frons is interested in spreading only a fraction of that content across the Web. “There is a value for some other Web sites in displaying our headlines and story summaries or for displaying pieces of our structured data, such as movie reviews or recipes,” he said.
“We want to give other sites enough information to make it useful to their users, but we hope some of them will be hungry for more and click to NYTimes.com. That way, we will capture a user who may never have seen our site, and we can monetize that user through advertising.” M