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New York Times API Coming

As print circulation continues its slide at most newspapers, one of the United States’ most respected newspapers, the New York Times, is taking steps to boost online readership. The paper is already the third most cited web site on Techmeme, and the first on Memeorandum, proving that bloggers at least pay attention to its reporting. Now, the Grey Lady is working on an API that aims to make the entire newspaper “programmable.”

In addition to the API, New York Times CTO Marc Frons told mediabistro.com that internal developers at the paper will use the platform to organize structured data on the site. Following that, the paper plans to offer developer keys to the API allowing programmers to more easily mash up the paper’s structured content — reviews, event listings, recipes, etc. “The plan is definitely to open [the code] up,” Frons said. “How far we don’t know.”

The API itself should be done by the time summer arrives in the US, with more significant chunks available to the public within 6 months.

The New York Times has taken a lead in bringing newspapers into the digital landscape over the past year. In 2006, the company launched its specialized RSS reader built on the Microsoft WPF platform, but it was this past fall that things really started to heat up on the digital side of the Times.

The paper put out a Facebook application, which has been a modest success with about 1,500 daily active users. They followed that in October with the controversial decision to put reader comments on the main page of the paper’s web site.

In November, the Times took Techmeme full on by launching its own news aggregator powered by the Blogrunner technology it had acquired. Blogrunner “is our answer to Techmeme, integrated with our main site. It is technology we’ve built ourselves, based on Blogrunner, a company we bought last year,” NYT Tech Editor Saul Hansell told us at the time.

Then in January, the company made an investment in WordPress, the popular blogging engine that powers their own blogs.


An API is a logical next step for newspapers. It will give developers access to their vast amounts of well-researched data, and allows the paper’s brand to be spread easily across the web. More access to Times content and the ability to mash it up in new and interesting ways can only be a win for both readers and the paper.

“The web of the near-term future isn’t about pages any more,” wrote Marshall Kirkpatrick in his massive post on APIs in March. “It’s about data, flying around, hopefully under the control of users, and offering a world of possibilities that few of us could have imagined just a few years ago.”

The New York Times seems to understand that. Says Aron Pilhofer, the paper’s interactive news editor, the goal of an API is to “make the NYT programmable. Everything we produce should be organized data.”

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