NPR Content APIs 101 - APIs in a nutshell

Apr 27, 2018

With APIs at the core of NPR’s digital strategy, delivering everything from station content in NPR One to NPR stories in the new NPR app, we want to improve station understanding of how APIs work and what story APIs NPR supports today.

  • Watch the NPR Content APIs 101 webinar (scroll down to "Future of Content & Sharing Webinar, April 17, 2018")
  • View the shared slides from the Future of Content & Sharing Webinar 

What is an API?

APIs provide access to a database of information with a defined set of questions that an application can ask of that database. Content APIs ask questions of databases and deliver back code websites or apps use to create story pages.

For example, a website might ask something like this: Hey you NPR database of millions of stories!!! Do you have stories by Vermont Public Radio about the Olympics that also have audio and an image?

The database will scour its index and send back all the stories in a structured manner (usually XML or json) meeting the set of criteria in the query.

Today NPR manages three story APIs in varying lifespan stages that serve different constituencies and applications.

The Story API -- what is it and what makes it special?

Most Core Publisher sites are deeply integrated with the Story API. This API also powers NPR.org, and, as of this writing, the NPR One app. It contains stories from NPR and its member stations.

The Story API was revolutionary when it was created with the principle: create once, publish everywhere. One of the first uses of the Story API, built in 2009,  was the NPR News App. This allowed NPR to write content in its CMS for its website and those same stories showed up at the same time in the News app, no additional editorial work or curation needed! Boom.

In the early 2010s, the Story API provided station content to national NPR platforms, like NPR One.

A powerful use case at the time, NPR and stations have evolved their digital storytelling since 2009. Integrations with the Story API have not kept up with the additional embeds and photos NPR and stations include in their stories. This causes the dreaded, “where is the Twitter embed” or “why are all the images in a slideshow on Core Publisher” problems. While information about “what goes where” in stories is available in the Story API, that data is not readily available to stations nor has updating station websites with this information been prioritized.

The Public Media Platform -- what is it and what makes it special?

The PMP, built and used by major public media partners including NPR, PRX, PRI, PBS, and APM launched in 2013, providing all of public media with one API for digital story distribution. PMP’s modern technology stack offers better performance, security, and flexibility than the Story API. Flexibility has its costs, however, and has been harder for many stations to integrate with than we would like. NPR currently manages the PMP, maintaining its databases and providing stations integration support and will do so until at least 2020.

The Content Service -- what is it and what makes it special?

For the last few years, NPR has been working on the Content Service. Still, under active development, the Content Service powers the new NPR app and will soon integrate with NPR One. The Content Service will replace both the Story API and PMP, providing one story distribution mechanism for all public media entities and their partners. From the outset, story layout information is provided in the story model, solving the challenges with story layout and editorial intent for stories. The team is working on defining the structure of stories as well, to make integrations more predictable and easy. Expect to hear much more about this API over the next few months.

All of the stories NPR and stations have published to the Story API are already in the Content Service. Nothing to see here! We will be making a plan for moving PMP stories over to the Content Service at a later date.

Like for the Story API and PMP, NPR will support story editor integrations as well as plugins and SDKs to make connecting with the new API as easy as we can make it for the station developers.

For more information: 

  • Watch the NPR Content APIs 101 webinar (scroll down to "Future of Content & Sharing Webinar, April 17, 2018")
  • View the shared slides from the Future of Content & Sharing Webinar 

Questions?

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