the transition to digital journalism


API, which stands for Application Programming Interface, is a way a website or service can allow integration of its content into other websites. The API allows a computer system to interpret and use data created on another system, even if it used a different programming language or structure.

A good example is the Google Maps API, which Google released so other websites could embed customized Google maps on their pages.

Programmers are needed to create an API, and APIs often have to be customized for different types of websites that want to utilize them, such as different social networks.

See Google's OpenSocial project that is developing common API's that can be implemented within a variety of proprietary web services.

News organizations can develop APIs so their content can be customized and mashed up with additional information at other web sites. It's one more way for a news organization to participate in and make its content available to a larger online network.

See for example:

  • NPR's API which it released publicly so other web sites could develop customized feeds of podcasts of NPR radio shows.
  • The New York Times released an API in October 2008 for databases of federal campaign finance reports it had developed, so other sites could access the data and reuse it in different forms. The Times also relased an API for data on members of Congress and their voting records
  • In February 2009 the New York Times followed up with a release of an API for 28 years of its own articles, tagged for efficient searching.
  • The BBC has released a half dozen APIs of its content.
  • The Guardian has an "Open Platform" initiative that makes its news stories, including video and photos, as well as data and statistics vetted by Guardian editors, available via an API.

Readings and Resources - provides a drag and drop editor that allows non-programmers to create simple applications and widgets drawing on APIs.