Riddle: How Can You Be Innovative Without Innovating?

MTA API Subway Ad

Answer: Do what the MTA in NYC did… set your data free.

I’ve seen this MTA/Subway ad before, but its implication hadn’t sunk in until yesterday. The implication being that the New York Transit Authority has an advertisement for their data APIs on the subways. And, in the ad they’re poking fun at themselves by acknowledging that they’re not innovative enough to create their own apps like true “whiz kids” can.

This tells me a few things:

1. APIs are no longer important only to edgy companies and startups,

2. APIs and the strategies around them are reaching consumer awareness, and

3. APIs can be a component of a companies marketing and brand strategy — which means they’re not just about developers.

And, if that weren’t enough, in searching online for more information about this ad campaign I found an even more interesting article. The (reasonably) new MTA Chief made a personal effort to convince developers that they MTA’s attitude towards them was going to change. It’s about 15 months since the MTA shut down an independent developer who created an iPhone app with their data, so this is a real about-face. And, if the article title is any sense of how they’re doing, it’s working.

To the list of key points above, we can add one more biggie:

APIs can be important to the board room.

WIth all this visibility outside of the developer community, it’s becoming increasingly important to deliver API’s in a way that’s manageable, scalable, and secure.

Or,  you can choose to tell your customers you don’t want their money, just like LinkedIn did this week.

This post was written for, and originally appeared on my client OpusGrid’s blog.


  1. [...] more conversations like this I have, the more examples I learn, the more I still come back to the NYC Transit example. They have billboard ads promoting their API. Truly [...]

  2. [...] Photo via New York Observer. Hat tip: David Bressler. [...]

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