Back in October, the New York Times created and released a Campaign Finance API (Application Programming Interface). Designed to let users analyze and re-use some of the data the NYT had been looking at while reporting on the presidential campaign, the API offered overall figures for presidential candidates, as well as state-by-state and ZIP code totals for specific candidates. They also launched a movie API, which allows users to search New York Times movie reviews by keyword and get lists of NYT Critics' Picks.

Now the Times has released a new API offering every article the paper has written since 1981 -- 2.8 million articles.

What Content Does the API Provide?

The API includes updated content every hour and means that sites around the web will be able to add dynamic links to New York Times articles, or excerpts from those articles, to pages on their own sites.

Although articles are only free back to 1987, they can be sorted based on 28 different tags, keywords and fields.

The API currently supports the following query types:

  • Date range: all articles from X date to Y date
  • Field search: search within any number of given fields, e.g., title:obama byline:dowd
  • Conjunction and disjunction (AND and NOT) operations, e.g., baseball yankees -"red sox"
  • Ordering by closest (variable ranking algorithms), newest and oldest
  • Faceted searching — (note: this is the really fun “power user” feature)

Geeky Business Initiatives

Considered to be a technological advancement because APIs are considered geeky, this announcement is a big step for newspapers, from a both a journalistic and business standpoint. But since this economy has seen better days, the business standpoint seems the most attractive.

The Times boasts their article search API as "a way to find, discover, explore, have fun and build new things." Additionally, they seem to have figured out the potential for news, as they admit that "great data deserves great search capability."

The New York Times has now put geeky tools into anyone’s hands, allowing them to pursue projects and avenues that may unleash great opportunity. Micro publishers stand to benefit greatly as this API allows them to mashup their content with related materials from NYT thus providing more value. It might just be a way that the industry can learn to thrive again.

Is this the changing face of online newspapers? Have they finally recognized that they have the potential to influence the cult of new media that not only informs but links people back to their site?

Signs seem to point to yes.