Creative APIs are a 2-Way Street

I was on the phone with the VP of Web Development at CBS Local Digital Media last night talking APIs. We were brainstorming use cases, I was driving home the importance that every single brand needs to develop an API and figure it out.

The 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 incredible.

Remember as you brainstorm that API’s aren’t a one-way thing. It came up last night, and again (in my head) when I was reading an article on my favorite API web site, ProgrammableWeb, about the mobile drivers behind the explosion of APIs.

Using CBS as an example, you might think they’d create an API to give people access to their news, their videos, their schedule of events. You know, the obvious stuff.

Importantly though, they may accept news submissions through their API. All of a sudden, anyone can submit news videos (from Egypt?) easily, or as a traditional agency I can more tightly integrate from my own news/approval platform for better automation. We all go to YouTube for news videos now. If I were a news media company, I’d be annoyed at that!

And, by properly tracking API use, CBS can easily monetize their API. In fact, they’d be monitizing other people’s creativity with their infrastructure… but that speaks to strategy and is not the point of this post.

Another idea… we assume maps APIs, where you get lat/lon, location, directions, etc… that’s all one-way. No! Imagine a “map app store” where people create valuable overlays to maps (and sell them). I would totally have spent $5 for  Starbucks maps overlay that layed out all the Starbucks on my drive from NY to Florida. Think about anyone doing demographic stuff can then sell it as a map overlay.

I don’t know if this map idea is sustainable. It does however, demonstrate the value of giving and taking, speaking and listening, and sharing your content and opening yourself up to innovative contributions from the outside.


  1. AdamD says:

    I agree that read/write is where we’ll really see some powerful APIs. As for the mapping, there are a couple companies already doing that, including SimpleGeo through its API. The future is here!

    • Adam,

      Thanks for the pointer to SimpleGeo. You guys are doing interesting stuff there. I really like your front page: the “graph paper” feel is “right”. Kudos to your designer.

      Plus, very interesting that “Get an API Key” is prominent on the front page. It’s the new “Like” or “Become our Fan” thing.



  1. [...] a better example. See my previous post about CBS and how they might accept news videos from anyone (or any App). You might imagine they have an [...]

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