UK's Guardian Newspaper Embraces Future With Free Digital Content

The New York Times recently took a stab at what a proper online version of a newspaper might look and feel like, and there were recent suggestions that the newspaper might be better off going for an all-Kindle digital distribution model. But the U.K. newspaper The Guardian has made a move to really embrace the digital future today by releasing its own Application Programming Interface.

Why an API, you ask? It's pretty simple really: The Guardian's new "open platform" will enable content partners to re-use online and back-dated printed content (a million or so articles, dating back to 1999) in their own Web pages totally for free, in return for developing the newspaper's online advertising network—rules for which are built into the API's terms and conditions.

It's a pretty bold move in the news publishing industry, and as the paper's News and Media Director of Digital Content Emily Bell puts it, it kind of allows the paper to move beyond its "single edition" online entity and "be woven into the fabric of the Internet." 

Essentially the Guardian will allow its content to be "retransmitted" through other websites. It's a little like the move that the Monty Python team pulled off earlier this year, allowing all Monty content on YouTube to be broadcast for free, as long as they content owners were in control of it. In this case, the Guardian will keep hold of the purse strings for the advertising that will accompany its content. 

Currently the system is in beta test, and queries to the database from a particular "reseller" are limited to 5,000 per day. But when the system goes fully online soon, expect to see Guardian content popping up in more places online. And expect other newspapers to follow the same model pretty swiftly if it looks like the scheme is successful—particularly considering the rise of the e-book, and the buzz that in these troubled times it's almost better for newspapers to go out of print totally.

[via Techdigest]

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  • EllieKR EllieKR

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  • Kit Eaton

    @Brendan. Indeed, the NYT has been popping up in different techno guises for a while. But The Guardian is also regarded as one of the world's leading online newspapers, ranks 6 in the sites that bloggers most often link to, and won the Best Newspaper category in the Webby awards in 2005, 06 and 07--it's a model of online newspaper success, and first became profitable in 2006. Though the NYT's skimmer provides less functions than an RSS feed, it's more graphical--closer to how the experience may work in the future on e-books perhaps. Charting how these publishing giants take their content into the digital domain is going to be interesting--each of these steps is an experiment on the road to ditching paper altogether.

  • Brendan Kirkpatrick

    The lede implies the Guardian API is first to market. However, The NYT released their own API last October, and are providing it with a great deal of support. Check it out at The NYT Article Skimmer grants LESS functionality than an RSS feed, so I see it for now as just a stake in the ground.

    B. Kirkpatrick
    San Francisco