The New York Times core mission is to "enhance society by creating, collecting, and distributing high-quality news and information." In this episode, the Times' API architect, Scott Feinberg explains how open data supports the business and social goals of this venerable newspaper.

Scott Feinberg is the API Architect for The New York Times, where he works on building and architecting the systems to allows teams to share services in as frictionless a manner as possible. He also runs the NYT APIs program, where developers can sign up for access to 165 years worth of content from the Times. Prior to joining the Times, he worked mainly in tech startups, working in payments, trucking management, retail commerce, market research, and non-profit advocacy. He’s also the Co-Founder/CEO of PaperCall.io, helping conference organizers build amazing speaker lineups.

Scott is presenting this topic at the O'Reilly Software Architecture Conference.

Transcript

Michael Krigsman:

(06:49) Welcome to episode number 161 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and today we have a very interesting show. I’m talking with Scott Feinberg who is the chief API architect or I guess you are the API architect at the New York Times and we’re going to talk about the role of API in supporting the core mission of the New York Times. Scott how are you, thank you so much for joining us today.

Scott Feinberg:

(07:23) I’m great thanks for having me.

Michael Krigsman:    

(07:26) So Scott tell us, you’re the API architect at the Times, let’s begin by what you actually do, what does that mean, and tell us about the mission of the New York Times.

Scott Feinberg:

(07:41) Sure, so as the API architect you know my job is thinking about how we manage APIs. I spend most of my time working on systems to make APIs better at the Times and consulting with teams as to how to build their APIs, how they should be going about integrating with them. so it’s really you know, any team that wants to build a service, that works for a lot of different teams I’ll oftentimes come and help in whatever way I  can and make sure their services are going to work well.

Michael Krigsman:

(08:32) So when you say you’re building services for the New York Times, you know our audience is business people, so they might not even now in general what that is and certainly not at a detailed level, and certainly not as how it connects to running the Times, so maybe explain that linkage to us.

Scott Feinberg:

(08:55) Totally, so the New York Times at no other time in history has been such a digital company. At the end of the day you think of us as this newspaper, but at the end of the day we’re a digital content provider and the paper is just another way that people get that content. So you know, we’re on every platform you can think of. There’s the New York Times, we have lots of digital properties. You know we have a real estate section, a huge video team. We’re on iOS, android, on the web, everywhere. You know the Times want to be better. We have a huge cooking vertical now. We’re leveraging 165 worth of years of content and reworking that for a digital age where not only are we on your doorstep but we’re in your house, we’re with you when making food, we’re helping you make those lifestyle decisions. The New York Times is always there in your pocket, and so as a digital organization we’re very much a technology company.

(10:19) you know there’s 400 engineers who work at the Times and we’re focused on building these amazing products and these experiences but to do that we look you know a lot more like Facebook or a Google than we do say a Wall Street Journal.

Michael Krigsman:

(10:46) So digital is a fundamental core part of what you’re doing and you have a large group of people who are focused on that. So when you say you’re looking more like a Facebook or Google than a Wall Street Journal, maybe could you elaborate on that because from the outside perspective the New York Times is about delivering news, so we think about reporters and think about photographers getting the news?

Scott Feinberg:

(11:14) So Mark Thompson our CEO talks about it as this pyramid, and you have the journalists who sit at the top and our job as a organization all of us who support them in this pyramid, our job is to take the reporting that they do out in the field and bring it to people where they need it. And informing people with the information that they want to hear.

(11:49) We has journalists in something like 44 foreign other bureaus and they’re all over the world, and our job is to take that content that they write, build and get it out there. We are the new keeper, we are that distribution.

(12:13) So the reporting is obviously like this is arguably some of the best content in the world. Our job is to say, okay this is awesome. How can we make it reach the most people

Michael Krigsman:

(06:49) Welcome to episode number 161 of CXOTalk. I’m Michael Krigsman and today we have a very interesting show. I’m talking with Scott Feinberg who is the chief API architect or I guess you are the API architect at the New York Times and we’re going to talk about the role of API in supporting the core mission of the New York Times. Scott how are you, thank you so much for joining us today.

Scott Feinberg:

(07:23) I’m great thanks for having me.

Michael Krigsman:    

(07:26) So Scott tell us, you’re the API architect at the Times, let’s begin by what you actually do, what does that mean, and tell us about the mission of the New York Times.

Scott Feinberg:

(07:41) Sure, so as the API architect you know my job is thinking about how we manage APIs. I spend most of my time working on systems to make APIs better at the Times and consulting with teams as to how to build their APIs, how they should be going about integrating with them. so it’s really you know, any team that wants to build a service, that works for a lot of different teams I’ll oftentimes come and help in whatever way I  can and make sure their services are going to work well.

Michael Krigsman:

(08:32) So when you say you’re building services for the New York Times, you know our audience is business people, so they might not even now in general what that is and certainly not at a detailed level, and certainly not as how it connects to running the Times, so maybe explain that linkage to us.

Scott Feinberg:

(08:55) Totally, so the New York Times at no other time in history has been such a digital company. At the end of the day you think of us as this newspaper, but at the end of the day we’re a digital content provider and the paper is just another way that people get that content. So you know, we’re on every platform you can think of. There’s the New York Times, we have lots of digital properties. You know we have a real estate section, a huge video team. We’re on iOS, android, on the web, everywhere. You know the Times want to be better. We have a huge cooking vertical now. We’re leveraging 165 worth of years of content and reworking that for a digital age where not only are we on your doorstep but we’re in your house, we’re with you when making food, we’re helping you make those lifestyle decisions. The New York Times is always there in your pocket, and so as a digital organization we’re very much a technology company.

(10:19) you know there’s 400 engineers who work at the Times and we’re focused on building these amazing products and these experiences but to do that we look you know a lot more like Facebook or a Google than we do say a Wall Street Journal.

Michael Krigsman:

(10:46) So digital is a fundamental core part of what you’re doing and you have a large group of people who are focused on that. So when you say you’re looking more like a Facebook or Google than a Wall Street Journal, maybe could you elaborate on that because from the outside perspective the New York Times is about delivering news, so we think about reporters and think about photographers getting the news?

Scott Feinberg:

(11:14) So Mark Thompson our CEO talks about it as this pyramid, and you have the journalists who sit at the top and our job as a organization all of us who support them in this pyramid, our job is to take the reporting that they do out in the field and bring it to people where they need it. And informing people with the information that they want to hear.

(11:49) We has journalists in something like 44 foreign other bureaus and they’re all over the world, and our job is to take that content that they write, build and get it out there. We are the new keeper, we are that distribution.

(12:13) So the reporting is obviously like this is arguably some of the best content in the world. Our job is to say, okay this is awesome. How can we make it reach the most people and make the most impact.

Michael Krigsman:

(12:29) So you’re creating content and now you’re thinking about that content as part and parcel of multiple distribution channels, so the print paper is one of those, but now equal standing are the web devices and so forth.

Scott Feinberg:

(12:54) Exactly.

Michael Krigsman:    

(12:59) First off I was going to say where do APIs come into this, but very briefly maybe just give us a laypersons definition of when you talk about APIs what does that actually mean.

Scott Feinberg:

(13:12) So all an API is is it’s an interface to a machine system. So it’s a way of expressing  to a computer, to an application some sort of program telling it this is the content that I want, this is the content that I want you to store or to have. Same as when you open up an application like Photoshop that’s an interface as to manipulate some images. APIs are ways to manipulate systems.

Michael Krigsman:

(13:55) So when you say manipulate systems, again for those of us who are not technologists at all, tell us what you mean and give us an example.

Scott Feinberg:

(14:09) Totally so we have a system that’s basically a CMS. It’s called Sqoop and that system has some APIs that allows other systems to give it articles and give it information about different things and also hold that information out. So all it is is a way for something like Sqoop, other systems like say our website. It’s a way for the website to say hey, I want to show this some article, so it makes a call and says, hey let’s just grab that and then it decides how it wants to show it.

Michael Krigsman:    

(14:54) Okay, so you’ve essentially broken your system up into many pieces, is that the right way to describe it?

Scott Feinberg:

(15:03) Yes, so any enterprise these days to iterate on building software you have to split up your system at some point. There’s arguments you know that you can continue building with one system but 400 people cannot work on the same system all the time. It just doesn’t work.

(15:27) So what ends up happening is you end up with all these different services that can be independently built and independently changed and they interact through APIs. So maybe I have an article service and an author service. And the author service pulls information from the author service to add information to articles, and things like that. Maybe those are two physically different teams and maybe we can improve both of those products, some independently or not at all.

Michael Krigsman:

(16:09) Okay, so you’ve broken it up into these can we say micro services to use.

Scott Feinberg:

(16:16) That’s a loaded term but yes.

Michael Krigsman:    

(16:21) Okay, so the New York Times has got all of these pieces and some of them are graphics, and some are images, and some are recipes, headlines, is that an accurate way of thinking about the Times?

Scott Feinberg:

(16:38) So if you just look at our homepage of the Times and you can see at the very top you see weather. That’s an API. You see the watching feed on the right hand side, that’s an API. There’s a link to crossword, advertisement, that’s an API. Recommendations another one. You know we estimate that to create the New York Times experience, you’re talking between 40 and 50 different services. And those are 40 or 50 different APIs to build all of that content.

Michael Krigsman:    

(17:24) So we have now the essentially the building blocks of the New York Times right, that’s what you’re describing.

Scott Feinberg:

(17:34) Yeah.

Michael Krigsman:    

(17:34) So we have the building blocks of the Times so what’s the role now we have these building blocks, what’s the role of the APIs?

Scott Feinberg:

(17:47) The role of the APIs is that these are the ways that when we build a new iOS app, when we build a new android app we’re going to leverage these same services. So you build the website once, and then you want to build the android app, you can leverage these same services to build that new app.

(18:16) It can look completely different and it’s going to operate very differently. But a the end of the day it’s calling into those same services. So as you build more and more or these reusable services you can build new products faster.

Michael Krigsman:

(18:35) I have to say this is really interesting I have to say because this is somebody who has like I guess most of us watching, have grown up with the New York Times, not thinking about the components in this way you’re describing the building blocks. So okay, we’ve got our weather service or component or whatever the term is we want to use, and we have our articles and our recipes. So you have decomposed of what we usually think of as our morning newspaper into these pieces. So first off, what’s the language do you use? What are each of these pieces called?

Scott Feinberg:

(19:16) So we describe someone who is using a API as a consumer and someone who is providing one as a provider. And sometimes a consumer is also providing, and actually oftentimes that’s the case. But it’s this relationship of who is making the call and who is receiving the call. So we have providers and consumers. More often we just call the people who are using the APIs users and that user could be an android app. It could be a iPhone app, it could be the website.

Michael Krigsman:    

(19:57) Okay, so you’ve got the components, you’ve got users. So the function then is how can we take this body of content, these providers you call them and chunk it and recombined the pieces so that it’s appropriate for each platform whether it’s a mobile, whether it’s a phone, website what have you recombined in such a way that it’s going to take full advantage of that particular platform brining the best content experience in a sense. Is that – I don’t mean to put words in your mouth.

Scott Feinberg:

(20:48) No exactly, so the Apple Watch that’s a very different experience with very different needs than the desktop website. They’re just different. You may not want recommendations on your wrist but you probably want breaking news. So we’re able to leverage these same systems, these same ways that we’ve cut up content. You know, morphed it into a form that’s more useful to us.

(21:22) Recommendations is a great example. We know what you read, so we can build a service that can say these articles that you might like them. So by having these services available we’re able to take what we need and not rebuild three different ways of doing the same thing.

Michael Krigsman:    

(21:45) But it’s not just you though right, because you make the services available to the world – to developers.

Scott Feinberg:

(21:55) Yeah so there’s two aspects to that. If you go to developers dot nytimes dot com, you can try out a lot of the APIs that are public. So you can do things like searching for articles, you can get comments, there’s top stories, find out what’s most popular. And it gives you the opportunity to build experiences with our content.

(22:25) But in addition to that we’ve been providing that content forever. Newspapers have always done this and they’re actually one of the first sort of like content API providers where you would actually you know fax, or send on the wire or you know mail, by send by in person copies of the ran stories. So AP, great example, that’s kind of all they do. Other people print what they write and we print their stuff, they print out stuff. So in addition to big media but also small ones to, you know a tiny newspaper can also grab that content and reuse it in their paper. So APIs, the external ones are just a different way of giving people that opportunity to use that content.

Michael Krigsman:

(23:29) So the then APIs create efficiency because in the past, as you say people have been sharing newspaper articles but this now allows developers to do it in a systematic and very efficient way. Are there interesting examples that you can point to of how people are using APIs.        

Scott Feinberg:

(23:49) Sure yeah, so a lot of the people who actually use them are typically researchers who are trying to find patterns. There’s been a lot of cool like views of taking our content. You know we’ve 165 years of it and saying okay, how has the spoken word changed or what stories have been popular you know between like 1940 and 1970 and they do cool things with that.

(24:28) But we have a lot of people who use it on their websites. They want all the articles about a certain topic or for people to actually read, and theirs people who use our APIs without ever actually interacting.

(24:53) There’s something called IFTTT (If This Then That), we’re one of the top chefs on that site and people actually integrate with us, point and click and they can build their own email. They can have it go into their Evernote. Whatever way that’s interesting that they want to interact with our content.

(25:20) We have public libraries that use our best sellers list to programmatically decide what books to buy. There’s been a lot of interesting uses and we’re always looking to both learn from our users what they want and also take those experiences and putting them back to our main product.

Michael Krigsman:

(25:47) Now you also think about your APIs and I say your APIs because you are the person who is designing these APIs, architecting them. You think about these APIs is a very direct way supporting the core mission of the Times and again maybe restate what that core mission is and explain what in the world does that have to do with APIs or vice versa.

Scott Feinberg:

(26:15) Sure so the core mission of the Times is to enhance society by creating, collecting, and distributing high quality content basically. Most of the APIs most of the time involved with that distribution angle, sometimes there using and creating new experiences. But most of the time they’re used for distributing  that great content, and without them it would be very hard for us to create a lot of different information where people want it.

(27:03) So our mission isn’t to just print like make a newspaper or to just give it to you in the static form. We want to inform and give you the news and the information in whatever way makes the most sense for you.

(27:23) So our our cooking website started off is a realization that, hey, we have 17,000 recipes dating back to the 1800s, I wonder if anyone would be interested in actually using those. And because we have a service that already stored all of that, they were able to say okay, I’m just going to pull down all of these recipes and try to work with them. And that’s the kind of experience that you can build and reuse when you’ve already built these services, and then it allows us to rapidly build new ways of spreading this news.

Michael Krigsman:

(28:11) So these APIs in a sense also represent organizational boundaries right, because you’re building APIs for weather and you must have a team of people that manages the weather. You’re building APIs for recipes or what have you. so the APIs are kind of programmatic embodiment of the organizations, what do you think about that?

Scott Feinberg:

(28:41) Yeah, so you know there’s this charm called Conway’s Law

Michael Krigsman:

(31:12) So at some pure point at say time zero in the past there were no APIs. The APIs that are built reflect the structure of the information and as you said Conway’s Law reflects the structure of the teams creating that information.

Scott Feinberg:

(31:40) At that time.

Michael Krigsman:

(31:46) At that beginning point, and you have to keep those APIs around because people may want to use them. So what about the evolution process of the APIs and how do you manage that inside the New York Times because I’m assuming you also want to get rid of APIs because you want to – I was going to say force, but let’s say gently encourage, or maybe it is forced. Gently encourage people to use the information in a particular way. Maybe the Times has come up with new usage guidelines and maybe new types of information, maybe you have figured out ways better ways that the jigsaw puzzle can piece together.  

Scott Feinberg:

(32:26) Yeah,

Michael Krigsman:    

(32:27) So what do you do, how do you handle that.

Scott Feinberg:

(32:29) This is what I referred to as the API lifecycle. APIs are born, they are built, they are used and then all APIs must eventually die and that’s something that’s really hard. Because when we first build a new service or system we never want to think about that. We never want to think about this end state, where this thing that I spend all this time building and we put a lot of resources in it will eventually die. And that’s almost the most important part of using any API is understanding that this will not be here forever. It might change. It might be improved or the thing that’s powering it might no longer be here.

(33:21) So you know that’s why we are building processes and building basically just like understanding of okay, I have this API that I want to go and use and instead of just integrating with it so that it works, I make sure my app in the event that I won’t be able to update it later on and let’s say it’s an iOS app people never actually have to update it. It can go and live on for literally years, and we’ve actually seen that happen.

(34:03) We have to make sure that in that app that if my API dies and I can no longer use it then I can offer the same experience to that user. Now if someone has an old version of our app, been there for like a year and they go to reengage with the Times. They haven’t updated because they haven’t been using it. They open up that app and it breaks. It just fails because that APIs dead and that oftentimes is what happens if you don’t plan for these things.

(34:42) Well that user, what’s the likelihood that they haven’t touched us in a year and one there interaction is you crashing your app on their phone, or worse it doesn’t immediately crash. It looks like it’s working and then it just like breaks or gives something expected like an actual air-code to the user.

(35:09) Those are things you never want to happen, but can happen and do. So the AIPs lifecycle is all about okay, let me plan in my app what am I going to do when this API is dead.  How am I going to tell the user and maybe it’s as simple as telling the user you should probably upgrade because this app is out of date. Thinking about things like that at that integration point and not you know a year down the line when that API you know inevitably dies.

Michael Krigsman:    

(35:51) So you’re really thinking almost from the beginning about the obsolescence of the APIs that you’re creating and what’s going to be the impact.

Scott Feinberg:

(36:01) Exactly, like the only thing that we can be sure of is that technology is going to change and our business needs are going to change. If anything has taught newspapers in the past you know 20 years is that business models change and we can’t count on the same things that worked you know 10, five, even one year in the past. You know things are changing rapidly. So like from the offset we need to make sure that we are planning with that in mind.

Michael Krigsman:    

(36:41) What’s the hardest part about designing APIs at a place like the New York Times?

Scott Feinberg:

(36:48) So the hardest part is not designing new APIs. That’s kind of the easy part because today you know the New York Times has tons of really smart people and you know they want to build really good things. You know the challenge is when you’re building something new, so just put in the Times actually, design it, think about it, share with the stakeholders about how this thing might work, getting their input and then actually building it. That’s almost the easy part.

(37:37) The challenge parts are how do we deal with old things. How do we update old things because you know, we’ve had a website for almost 20 years now and we have services that have existed for you know, I think the oldest that I’m aware of that’s still in use to some capacity is over 16 years old, like that’s really legacy tech.

(38:05) And you know the challenging parts is how do we deal with that both from a consumer side and from a provider side. How do we migrate that to something else? How do we kill it when no one was thinking about that at the time? How do we make that less painful and things like that.

Michael Krigsman:    

(38:30) And how about from an organizational standpoint because when you’re building these APIs and you mentioned Conway’s Law earlier, when you’re building these APIs in effect you’re memorializing how different parts of the organization work and you’re describing the boundaries in a sense and the silos around what different parts of the organization do and are responsible for those teams. So how does that come into play or does it come into play or does it not come into play.

Scott Feinberg:

(39:04) It comes into play, it’s a matter of there’s a lot of talk about at that stage of how do we decide which system should own this new feature, which team is responsible for this new thing, where should it live. And because we have those conversations and we don’t just smack it onto anything, the hope is that we’ll make a good one and we’ll put it in the best workspace. Because oftentimes there isn’t necessarily the best option, but we want to minimize that impact and that’s the move towards micro-services. We’re rapidly moving to make our services smaller and that means more APIs. But as your services gets smaller it’s easier for you to have at least smaller siloes and there’s to be less of a cost to build something small, put it out there and get people using it and then iterate on that.

(40:22) Because you can move things between teams, move the ownership is a lot easier when it’s really small. And let’s say I built a small feature and it turns out my team shouldn’t own it. It’s not really relevant. But if I built it in a small way the team or the system that should own that it’s less of a cost for them to say, okay we will build something that does exactly that, we’ll just do it in our thing and people can just start using this new system, you know we can just switch them out. But if it’s larger, if it’s a lot more complex it’s a lot harder to do.

(41:12) Granted, these are enterprise problems, you know where we face real enterprise problems. For a smaller company that probably doesn’t make sense. If you have three developers in your building, if you have 20, if you have 100, building services this small doesn’t make nearly as much sense especially when you don’t have 20 years of legacy systems, and that’s like the big differentiator is like when you’re at this larger scale these things matter more.

(41:51) We kind of have a business model that kind of works. It’s kind of worked for like you know centuries at this point. You know when you’re a small startup and you don’t even know how you’re going to make money don’t focus on which service your API is going to live in, you should probably just stick your code. And think about this stuff from the perspective of let’s make sure that the API that I designed is at least good and not necessarily where it lives. Because when a bigger company comes and says, I want to integrate with you guys, send me your API, you will be judged on that.

(42:38) And that’s a big deal, because when you’re small you can’t necessarily build new systems all the time. You want to integrate and building APIs that you can eventually make public is a great way of doing that.

Michael Krigsman:    

(42:57) Now, in order to build these APIs don’t you have to have a very detailed understanding of the type of content you’re putting the API on as well as the intention behind that type of content, as well how that content fits into the broader scheme, so you have to have real expertise on the subject matter on the part of the newspaper you’re constructing the API on right.

Scott Feinberg:

(43:28) Yeah, you have to at least get a good understanding as you can. You’ll never know it all and you’ll never be able to for sure build the right abstraction. However, if you met with enough people using it and enough people who have built similar systems that know this domain you can at least get something that’s mostly right. And if you think about that APIs lifecycle where you can kill this later, you can do a new version; you can change it. It doesn’t have to be forever if you’re thinking about that from really day one

Michael Krigsman:    

(44:17) And what about you’re working with the subject matter experts in the various parts of the Times, how closely do you work with them, how much support do they give you, do they understand the importance of it? Do they think, oh this is just this technical thing, what are those relationships like? I’m sure they’re good relationships but give us some insight as to how that all works.

Scott Feinberg:

(44:48) So one thing about the Times everyone is incredibly nice. You know it’s a large organization but like other departments are normally more than willing to help out, to figure out what that partnership should be. Good examples of the teams that actually work hand in hand with experts are our cooking team. They work directly with our editor for food, our games team works with our crossword people. They work hand-in-hand to get an understanding what the product needs and where they envision they should go with and how it should work.

(45:43) Examples of some really hard APIs to build was the cooking; recipes are an incredibly hard domain to model because you have this you know unlimited sizes like you know a dash of sugar. How do you represent that when it’s actually a metric of size, but at the same time it’s like can you have two dashes of something. It’s those sorts of things.

(46:17) Also just representing food and recipes can be really hard, and that’s why we push people to spend as much time upfront designing these interfaces, thinking about them and not thinking about building it until you’ve actually decided, okay, how am I going to model this, like what does a recipe look like.

(46:45) Those are the sorts of decisions that teams of all sizes should be putting that time into, because what you’re doing is investing upfront in building with experience to work with that data making that as easy and seamless as possible. And it’s going to be less likely down the road that someone is going to either complain or need assistance on so it works differently if you’ve done the work upfront to really model it correctly.

Michael Krigsman:

(47:24) So let’s talk just a little bit more on cooking and of course the New York Times I remember when you released the cooking app and did everything about cooking and it’s so great. I mean it’s fantastic, so what’s the role of the cooking staff, the recipes staff versus the role of the API staff and figuring out how to model that.     

Scott Feinberg:

(48:02) So it really comes down to the team that actually builds that cooking app. They’re the ones that actually sit down and make the decision onto how that works. Because at the end of the day technologists are most likely going to know best about what the technical experience is that will work best for that domain. But working with those domain experts in cooking recipes allows them to have a great understanding of that content and do a little bit of anticipation of okay, you know I’m going to model this this way because I know that recipes sometimes look like this and you know we might add new ways of presenting recipes and sizes and measurement and things like that. So they really have to be in a way experts in how that stuff works and how like cookbooks work. Because really it’s a cookbook on the internet and every member of that team loves cooking and are really passionate and that really feeds into a design that works really well.

Michael Krigsman:

(49:36) So understanding the content and being interested in the subject matter is a significant part of designing APIs well.  

Scott Feinberg:

(49:46) It definitely helps. If you don’t know what you’re modelling and you don’t know what you’re building it’s going to be very hard for you to know to anticipate what other people will want from your system and that’s key. You’re designing how people are going to use information and use content. And the people who are requesting it they’re going to know what they want, and they’re going to know you know from an interface standpoint what they want that information to look like and you’re not going to do a very good job if you know less than they do. So it truly is about being at least fluent in the language of what you’re modelling.

Michael Krigsman:

(50:47) You know we’re almost out of time but there’s one last point that I think is extremely important that I hope you can address for us. And that is for an organisation that wants to encourage both adoption of its APIs, but from a broader perspective and even more importantly, if an organization wants to be a data provider such as the New York Times of open data, what do they have to do in order to let’s say encourage adoption.   

Scott Feinberg:

(51:24) The key is you can’t be stingy. You have to just give it out. When we launched our developer portal there’s a lot of questions like, are people going to be stealing our data, questions like that. Just give it away. You don’t have to give it all but don’t be stingy, and you will find that first off not that many people are going to use it at first. you’re going to find that out, but the people who do, you’re going to find those passionate people who are really interested in using your data in new ways.

(52:11) You will get companies like Slack which has built their business on having great APIs. You know Slick I think got voted the number one new enterprise products. We use it at the Times. You know the reason why they’re sticky is because they have APIs that allow you to integrate. So you can have all of your systems feeding into Slack and also going out of Slack.

(52:45) You know, we’re building on that experiences using slack bots to talk about politics that’s really interesting but those are things started off as just people in our R&D lab hacking around with some APIs. So you’re enabling people outside of your orb, your real users to build the experience they want to have and if you offer the APIs to allow them to do that they’re never leaving. Because once they’ve integrated they just put up a lot of upfront work and it’s going to be a lot harder for someone else to build something similar and get them to rebuild all of their existing systems.

Michael Krigsman:

(53:35) And I would be remiss if I just didn’t follow up and say, as you talk about not being stingy and give it all away, are their newspaper gods up in the sky who are looking down and frowning because the newspaper business relies on you know it pays for the development of that content and it relies on people buying it. And now you’re advocating giving it away.    

Scott Feinberg:

(54:05) So to be clear the information that we give is everything but article content. You can search for articles. You can find out what’s trending. You can almost do anything you want with our data through our APIs with the exception of actually reading all of the content.

(54:28) But at the end of the day, one of the best things about being a news creating machine is that we write new content every day. And we’re building new content and exposing it in new ways every day. So if people want to take your content they’re going to. They’re going to scrape your website. They’re going to find ways to resell that data. You’re not going to be able to stop them.

(55:04) So it’s really about giving people the opportunity to really interact with your content in ways that you’ve never thought of, and empowering your community to figure out what they want. You know while we don’t give our actual article text away, we give pretty much everything else and people build a lot of really cool stuff on top of that.

Michael Krigsman:    

(55:34) Okay wow, that’s been really interesting. We’ve been talking with Scott Feinberg who is the API architect of the New York Times, and boy we just sure learned a lot about the New York Times and how it works under the cover. Scott, thank you so much for taking the time today.

Scott Feinberg:

(55:55) Thank you for having me.

Michael Krigsman:

(55:57) You have been watching episode number 161 of CXOTalk. Thank you for joining us, thank you to Scott Feinberg from the New York times for joining us, and everybody come back on Friday where we will be back again with another awesome show. Thanks so much everybody. Bye bye.

 

Companies mentioned on today’s show:

New York Times                                  www.nytimes.com

Google                                                 www.google.com

Facebook                                             www.facebook.com

Sqoop                                                  https://sqoop.apache.org

Slack                                                    www.slack.com

Developer at NY Times                       www.developer.nytimes.com

IFTTT                                                   https://ifttt.com

Evernote                                              www.evernote.com

 

Scott Feinberg

Twitter                        https://twitter.com/scottefein?lang=en-us

LinkedIn                       www.linkedin.com/in/scottfeinberg