The Guardian launches open API for all content – but they still control the ads

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The Guardian newspaper in the UK has today launched its open API which will carry all the content the newspaper produces in print and online. That’s over a million articles which go back to 1999. The “Open Platform” will allow allow partners to reuse content and data for free, in a clear move to try and make the The Guardian an all pervasive part of the Web [Update: We predicted this in March 2007]. In contrast with many newspaper groups, The Guardian is effectively letting control of its content go in order to maximise its reach – and therefore the number of eyeballs that see its brand/content – across the Web. It helps that the paper is owned and run by a charitable trust which does not have shareholders who would normally have a heart attack at such a move. The payback is that apps developers are going to end up building an ad network for The Guardian as a result.

The Open Platform launches with two services, both of which carry advertising. Web developers will use the API to build applications and services using Guardian content. And a Data Store will “contain datasets curated by Guardian editors and open for others to use.”

However the API does not prevent developers from running “commercial applications” using the API – but I’d read the fine detail first. They do say: “You can display your own ads and keep your own revenue. We will require that you join our ad network in the future.”

Emily Bell, the Guardian News & Media director of digital content, thinks the move will allow Guardian content “to be woven into the fabric of the internet”. And there’s a hell of a lot of it. The APIs feature ‘full fat’ feeds and other content including video, audio and photo galleries. You can combine free text search and combine tags to create feeds based on XML, JSON and Atom. API infrastructure company Mashery also helped build the platform.

The service is free but, Matt McAlister, head of the Guardian Developer Network, said, it is limited to 5000 queries a day, and the payback is that apps developers help build the advertising network, which is still in beta.

Some early examples include Zemanta’s Guardian topic research demo. It’s a simple app that searches the vast database of Guardian articles via its API and then uses Zemanta’s API to get links to related concepts.

There is also Content Tagger, an application to provide user-generated tagging on content., built by Stamen Design, is designed to crowdsource geodata about Guardian articles. Cass Sculpture Foundation is using the Open Platform to insert lists of articles from the Guardian about its sculptors into their biography and home pages.

You can register for the API here. Here is what they say about the API:

The Open Platform currently includes two products, the Content API and the Data Store:

1. The Content API is a mechanism for getting Guardian content. You can query our content database for articles and get them back in formats that are geared toward integration with other internet applications.

The Content API is a free service. We have some limits and restrictions detailed in our terms and conditions, but we hope that you will use our service for whatever needs you have, including commercial applications.

2. The Data Store is a collection of important and high quality data sets curated by Guardian journalists. You can find useful data here, download it, and integrate it with other internet applications.

The Data Store has a range of different uses for different types of partners. We will include relevant terms and conditions along with each service.

Our aim is to make the Guardian Open Platform a useful environment for anyone who creates for the internet. We will offer more services in the future such as an ad network and an application platform.

This initial release is a beta trial that will help us identify the ways our partners want to work with us. Access will be granted on a limited basis.

  • Will McInnes

    Breathtakingly brave, and so exciting to see a UK brand taking the experimental steps towards a digital future. Who else in big media has gone beyond talking about ‘freeing’ their content, and distributing their value, and actually done it? Props to the Guardian guys.

    • dj chang


      You must be from UK. The Software Platforms supersite tracks over 200 platforms. Guardian is following, not leading. NYTimes was first major paper to announce.

      Thousands of data troves will open – led by Obama’s push for data transparency at the federal level. FYI.

  • Andraz Tori

    Having a media house offering the content to be mashed up is really refreshing!

    At Zemanta we were lucky to have early acces and created a demo to show what becomes possible –

    Basically Researcher interface that takes Guardian search and content and automatically ties it with outside world with our tech.

    Andraz Tori, Zemanta

  • David

    The Guardian has been a pioneer of UK newspapers online, and it is nice to see them taking another step forward as the late-comers start to encrouch on their territory

  • Matt Lindop

    It’ll be really interesting to see what the community can come with using this API. I’m a big fan of what people like MSNBC have done (and NYT for that matter):

    Hopefully the opportunity to play with this rich content will result in some really interesting experiences:

  • Alx Klive

    Wow. Ballsy move. And unprecedented I think. Am trying to think of possible use cases and ‘what ifs’ eg ‘What if all newspapers did this?’.

    Couple of tidbits from the detail pages…

    “We will require you to join our Ad network in future”. 5000 API calls per day (initially). API keys handed out on approved “very limited” basis initially. The Guardian is using Mashery. Content available back to 1999.

  • Jake Brumby

    The Guardian just keeps on innovating. As a printed newspaper, it has a low market share, but online it beats all the other broadsheets, and for good reason. It deserves every success.

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  • Peter C

    really keen to trial this, anyone know anyone on twitter that can hook us up?

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  • Rob Stevenson-Leggett

    Wow. Just wow. This is fully copyleft.

    Can’t wait to see what people do with this? If anything..

    This must surely set a precedent for other service providers.

    I still don’t see how ad-driven online content is making its money though… No one clicks on the things!

  • VC Cafe

    Really glad that the Guardian took the initiative on this one. When you syndicate all your content, the biggest risk is cannibalization of your own page views – so I don’t think that displaying their ads is a big price to pay for quality content delivered legally. On the other hand, perhaps there’s room for a more innovative monetization scheme (a-la-Twitter…)

    Pretty sure that if this works out, more media sites will follow.

  • F.Baube

    Yeowzah, between them and Auntie Beeb, the bleedin’ Brits are gonna totally conquer the realm of free online content! Bean-counting Yanks are doomed to marginality.

  • Shafqat

    I love this – kudos to the Guardian, Emily, Matt and everyone else involved in this. It’s obvious that their is an increasing divide between media organizations that “get” the new open web, and those still struggling to adapt and calling on protectionism. We can’t wait to get started with the Guardian – and for full fat feeds and other commercial applications, I’ll be more than happy to pay them.

  • Jonathan Thomas

    Hopefully that means it won’t be long until there is a Guardian iPhone app like there is for the Telegraph.

  • BoomtownBossierCity

    good announce

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  • Chris Heilmann

    I’ve been to the launch and played with the API before and I have to say that the Guardian have done a very cool job with this. My mashup of BOSS, YQL and the new API showed that the professionally generated tags for each content item are a great opportunity to validate and filter user generated tags for relevancy.

    This post also fails to mention the other big release, which is the Data Store of Guardian research data as spreadsheets. This I consider an even more interesting data source.

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  • Josh Engroff

    Very cool. We’ve just opened up the Billboard Music Chart API (, but we haven’t been as brave as Guardian yet!

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