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Exposing content via APIs

Fluidinfo's Terry Jones on the role of APIs in the future of publishing.

This post is part of the TOC podcast series, which we’ll be featuring here on Radar in the coming months. You can also subscribe to the free TOC podcast through iTunes.


Publishers and authors obviously have a sense of how they intend their content to be used, but what if there are other ways of accessing and consuming content that a publisher and author didn’t even consider? It reminds me of that great Henry Ford quote: “If I’d asked people what they wanted, they would have said ‘a faster horse’.” The point is, sometimes we just don’t know what we want. That’s where exposing content via APIs can help. As we talk about in this interview with Fluidinfo CEO Terry Jones (@terrycojones), APIs enable developers to work with your content like a box of Legos, building solutions you may never have dreamed of.

Key points from the full video interview (below) include:

  • What’s an API? — Just as user interfaces enable access to information by users, APIs enable access to information by programmers. [Discussed at the 0:54 mark.]
  • The “read-only” model is not the future — Publishers have grown accustomed to a one-way communication. We produce content but generally don’t let users enhance or modify that content. That may have worked well in the print world, but the digital world demands more. As Terry notes, the real world is “writable.” [Discussed at 5:15.]
  • Publishers are just starting to recognize audience signals — There’s value in not only detecting these signals, but also in acting on them. [Discussed at 10:55.]
  • Reading has always been a social activity — Much takes place in isolation, but think about why page numbers exist, for example. [Discussed at 12:10.]
  • How do you manage control in an open API access model? — It’s not as scary as you might think. There are plenty of control mechanisms that can and should exist when exposing your content via APIs. [Discussed at 13:45.]
  • Mobile changes everything — Simple paywall access via a browser isn’t the best solution. Mobile offers a completely new opportunity to distribute and monetize content … but it has to be done correctly, of course. [Discussed at 18:50.]
  • Why not just offer access via HTML5? — HTML5 is a good delivery mechanism, but APIs are more like offering a toolbox for building even more powerful solutions. [Discussed at 28:16.]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

TOC NY 2012 — O’Reilly’s TOC Conference, being held Feb. 13-15, 2012, in New York City, is where the publishing and tech industries converge. Practitioners and executives from both camps will share what they’ve learned and join together to navigate publishing’s ongoing transformation.

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