As a result, brands are exploring how best to expose their content in different ways to suit particular channels and new applications. Here I take a look at four of the best examples.

The Economist

It’s very difficult today to know which new technology will gain traction and where to focus your attention and effort. The Economist has taken an innovative approach to this dilemma by reengineering its core systems to support microservices.

As a result the media organisation is able to present its content to a vast array of external systems. From the same core content, they can now serve very different outputs, tailoring that content to suit a wide range of platforms – from Google AMP and Facebook Instant Articles, to Apple News and Snapchat.

economist microservice integration

This approach, lead by CTO Mark Brincat, means that the organisation can react quickly to new opportunities and, importantly, can measure the effectiveness of each new channel before deciding if it’s of value to the organisation.

The Economist is of course a subscription-based model so it’s interesting to see how they’re engaging with channels that might not be the immediately obvious choices. The media organisation has reported significant success in targeting news to Snapchat and has also created a bite-sized news service known as ‘Espresso’ to target audiences with an appetite for The Economist coverage, but little time on their hands.

William Hill Labs

The purpose of WHLabs Accelerator is to identify and develop technology innovations for the gambling and gaming industry that deliver new and exciting customer experiences. WHLabs is a highly innovative digital division that exposes system APIs to third parties so that they can develop their own applications using William Hill data.

william hill labs

The UK bookmaker recently ran an incubator competition encouraging development teams to submit innovative application ideas that made use of detailed betting and pricing data.

Winner BetGame now has WHLabs’ support in bringing its new betting product to market, while William Hill – always on the lookout for the latest innovations – has enjoyed the advantage of working with some of the latest innovations and most pioneering start-ups

By choosing to open up its services to developer partners, William Hill has paved the way for innovative applications and experiments.


Strava is used to collect exercise data – predominantly from users’ cycling and running activity. Via the application programming interface (API) you can download, analyse, and manipulate your data in far more depth than is possible using the online tools Strava provides.

This has encouraged integration with fitness trackers and health kit applications, along with highly innovative use cases such as 3D video recreations of your cycling experiences with the application.

By opening-up this data, Strava is enabling third parties to add value to their services in ways that go beyond the capabilities and competencies of Strava’s core business.

strava api

The above is a screenshot from a very basic app that uses data from the Strava API. The Predict My Ride app (disclosure: built by my digital agency and consultancy Inviqa as part of a training exercise) uses an individual’s data from Strava to show how long it would take them to complete the Tour de France (or any other route of their choosing).

This is a very simple example but it shows the ease with which brands can effortlessly extend their value to users through third-party channels and applications.

Royal Mail

The Royal Mail collects a great deal of data in its day-to-day operation. One such dataset is its redirections database which is used by customers to automatically re-route their post when moving house.

Recently the Royal Mail opened up this data for an online tool that allows users to visualise migration across the country – a unique use of the dataset that gave an interesting perspective on what redirections really mean, along with a nice viral tool that reminded people of this all-important Royal Mail service.

royal mail map

This interactive redirection-moving-map uses Royal Mail content

What to consider when opening your content

As businesses race to reach new audiences on new devices in a cost-effective way that carries minimal risk, it’s fascinating to see how companies are innovating with APIs to expose their content to new content-consumers – from health trackers to smart fridges.

The end goal, of course, is to monetise content across these channels, which is particularly tricky with the likes of news aggregation platforms. This has lead to some high-profile experiments, as well as exits, from platforms such as Facebook Instant Articles and Apple News.

Most of these exits, however, are simply a sign of brands refocusing their efforts towards other channels where media organisations can better serve their strategic goals. But how that success is measured will of course differ per channel. The Economist’s focus for Snapchat, for example, might be more about attracting a new generation of readers than generating ad views.

What’s clear is that this is a fast-evolving marketplace where the simplicity of the mobile-tablet-desktop model no longer applies. Content providers need to be ready to react and experiment with new channels and consumers.

But equally they need to be ready to measure and disengage from those channels that are not helping them achieve their business goals.

Econsultancy subscribers can download the following reports: