The New York Times is inviting developers to mess with its data.
On Wednesday, Derek Gottfrid announced on The Times “Open” blog that programmers and developers can now easily access 2.8 million news articles going back to 1981 via the new Article Search API.
Mathew Ingram at Gigaom wonders why people in journalism aren’t screaming about this from rooftops (because it’s such a big deal).
It’s possible that this kind of thing escapes the notice of traditional journalists because it involves programming, and terms like API (which stands for “application programming interface”), and is therefore not really journalism-related or even media-related, and can be understood only by nerds and geeks. But if there’s one thing that people like Adrian Holovaty (lead developer of Django and founder of Everyblock) have shown us, it is that broadly speaking, content — including the news — is just data, and if it is properly parsed and indexed it can become something quite incredible: a kind of proto-journalism, that can be formed and shaped in dozens or even hundreds of different ways.
There’s no doubt that the iPhone went from cool gadget to amazing micro computer when Apple opened their API to developers. Now’s there’s a cottage industry springing up to offer thousands of data-driven permutations. I don’t know that The Times will ever see that type of insanity, but I do expect to see major innovation and valuable new tools created.