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Put On Your Platform Shoes

The New York Times today announced that it's going to open itself up as a platform. "Everything we produce should be organized data," said an executive.

Organized data. Yes! In years of developing news products, for big and small media, the single largest challenge to creating a compelling user experience was the unorganized information. Newspapers have enormous amounts of knowledge, knowledge that people would come back for over and over, but because it's not visible to programs and APIs, it cannot be turned into good products without enormous amounts of manual labor.

Everyone wants to do a crime map, but nobody has the time to add geocoding and metadata to all the police reports. In a four-hour community board meeting, it was mentioned at one point that the community garden on your corner is going to be sold to a private developer. If I sent you an email alert about that, you'd thank me, but its only mention on my local news site is three sentences in a boring meeting-wrapup story that you'll never read. And there's nothing to tell my alert system that those three sentences would be interesting to people in a very specific geographic area.

And so it goes. The announcement is vague so far, but to me, it looks like the Times is recognizing the real new media, in which your most important readers may not be people, but the programs and alerts and personalization engines that real people rely on to tell them what's important.