Presentation given at AAN Web Conference, Jan 26th, 2012.
You've heard the terms -- API, open source, HTML5 -- but what do these tools do? And how are they relevant to your online publication?
applicalaunch of Ford Sync support in NPR mobile apps, announced at CES.
2011 has been an incredible year for the web in general and for online publishing, in
parstate of maturity at which they can be used on live websites.
Today I would like to share with you some insights about the most interestechnologies and how they relate to news and media publishing, plus what we see as
the trends in 2012.
Content is the king, the queen and a herd of unruly heirs running around, making a
mess. It’s the alpha and omega of our business. When we discuss technology, we
mostly care about the part of the technology that makes producof content easier or more eﬀec
Unfortunately, unless you are using a handful of modern (mostly open-‐source)
CMSes, chances are your CMS’s editorial screens look something like the screenshot
on the slide: a nightmare of user-‐experience, ﬂashback from the horror of ‘90s
All over the web, we are spoiled by simple, light user interfaces that are both
powerful, as well as zen. Interfaces that allow us to author and publish content from
an iPhone or Android just as easily as from a tablet or a large-‐screen computer. But
all of that is outside the old-‐school CMSes and is in stark contrast with what we have
to deal with when we need to create the most valuable content: the one we are paid
When we need to do that, more oaen than not we have to deal with clumsy user
interface, or even a tablet – forget about it.
Not only it’s important to make content-‐entry mobile-‐friendly, but even more
importantly: when you publish content, a big part of your audience will access that
content on a mobile devices. We need to make sure our content is opbeing consumed on a mobile device.
to the world, mobile web traﬃc has been experiencing explosive growth. If you look
at stawill see that the trend of mobile growth will only con
Some of the challenges with mobile content publishing are that
a) mobile devices (smartphones as well as tablets) have limited screen size which
your convenb) modern mobile phones employ touch interfaces to interact with the user, which
your convenc) There is huge market fragmentaall kinds of shapes, sizes and capabili
We are not even talking yet about various kinds of connected devices like: cars, TVs,
entertainment boxes and other digital equipment that will all become content
delivery vehicles if they are not already.
Revenue sources for publishers follow the mobile trend, as well. Mashable has
declared 2012 the year of Mobile Advermobile-‐marke6
call COPE – Create Once, Publish Everywhere.
It was coined, number of years ago, by Dan Jacobson, my predecessor at NPR, now
the director of API at Neklix.
The basic idea behind COPE is that content should be authored in a re-‐usable manner
and then delivered in a uniform way to all target devices/plakorms.
Publish Everywhere”, currently popular on the web:
1) Content APIs
2) Responsive Web Design
Let’s start with Responsive Web Design.
advancement on the web, since web’s creaactually a collecper the W3C speciﬁca
One such important technology is called CSS3 Media Queries. Media Queries allow
websites to customize the look-‐and-‐feel, using style-‐sheets, depending on the
Responsive Web Design. RWD is a novel design methodology to create web user
interfaces that adapt themselves depending on the device they are displayed on and
work equally well on all screen sizes and devices, from your iPhone to your iPad to
Boston Globe website. It was built by a team led by Ethan Marcohe, the father of
RWD, and Miranda Mulligan, director of digital design at Boston Globe.
At the top you can see how the website looks on a large desktop screen. On the
bohom lea is the same page on a tablet screen and last, but not least: bohom right is
how you would see the page when displayed on a small-‐screen smartphone.
It’s very important to note that this is the same web-‐page, not: an “iPad version” of
the page or “iPhone version” of the page and the design is extremely resilient to wide
range of screen sizes and capabili
Without Responsive Web Design you would have to target individual ﬂavors of
devices, would have to create iPad version, iPhone version, Galaxy S version, Kindle
Fire version the list goes on and is very long. Targeextremely expensive and wasteful propositarge11
from 70-‐100% of your needs in reaching various plakorms and devices with your
content. However, it does have some limita
Firstly, RWD is a web methodology that strongly depends on underlying technologies
behind HTML5. While HTML5 is deﬁnitely on the curve of becoming Lingua Franca of
the Internet, there are scomputer systems, entertainment boxes, TVs etc.). Furthermore, some of the
advanced features of even the devices that do support HTML5 are not yet fully
available to web applicacamera, voice and so on.
If you are building an advanced app for a device that does not support HTML5 or if
you need to tap into advanced capabiliapplica12
Content APIs are a way for electronic devices to exchange content in a standard way.
Following the Create Once, Publish Everywhere principle, you want to create content
once in a re-‐usable, digital format and disseminate it to all your target devices,
through the web. Similarly, when supporto be able to collect and aggregate content in a uniﬁed way via any available device.
All of these is made possible with the use of content APIs.
Somecontent”. As a communicaenables this use-‐case, but that’s not necessarily the only purpose. NPR’s API is one of
the most used APIs on the web. While we make tons of content available through our
API, for free, you may be surprised to learns that the majority of NPR API usage
comes from NPR itself. We use API to reach the wide variety of devices and plakorms
where we publish our content and to exchange content with many local NPR sta
Publishing content through APIs is the main technological tool with which we enable
the Create Once, Publish Everywhere principle.
NPR, much like probably most of you in the audience, has limited resources and
disproporits audiences. At NPR we call it: constantly punching above our weight. Cost
reducleverage the technological space that provides the most innovaforefront of the technology curve. In many cases the pursuit of innovato open source soaware.
There’re many (someSource. At the basic level it’s a collabora
On a philosophical level, open-‐source follows sciencreaone apple and I give it to you, I don’t have an apple, anymore. But if I know
something and I tell all of you about it – now all of us know it, we have increased the
amount of knowledge! This is what open-‐source tries to leverage and how it
approaches tackling hard programming problems – through collabora
On a pracencourage collaboraof soaware developers, from all around the world, join forces online on developing a
complex system. The key to open collaboramodiﬁcasource” comes from.
“no charge”. Sure, there are some cost savings. Soaware licenses can be costly.
However, when thinking of soaware costs, it’s prudent to consider Total Cost of
Ownership, over the life-‐(such as licensing ones) can be far outweighed by the costs of the condevelopment and maintenance. So cost is not the #1 reason.
What about other beneﬁts of open-‐source? Let’s say: vendor-‐independence and
freedom to modify and customize iniHowever, they are s
The most important thing to remember is that open-‐source is HUGE. If open-‐source
were a company it would have more developers than all major commercial soaware
companies combined. That’s parcompanies contribute heavily to open-‐source.
Fact is: due to the huge size of open-‐source, the amount of cumulaopen-‐source soaware is unmatched by any single soaware vendor. Sure, there are
some niche problems that, currently, only have commercial soluyou look at the wide breadth of the problems, the power of crowds that open-‐source
possesses has huge win over isolated eﬀorts typically found in proprietary models.
would like them to be the following:
1) Mobile is huge. Responsive Web Design is a ubiquitous and cost-‐eﬀecdelivering your content to a wide variety of devices.
2) For the cases when you need to target non-‐HTML5 devices; or if you need namobile applicathe devices, or to exchange content with your partners – Content APIs provide a
standard way of implemen3) Open Source is huge. Not only it’s a real way of saving cost, but it’s also where a
lot of innova17