Sami Kallinen (@sakalli) is Head of Yle Internet Development
I have a lot to be proud of as an Yle employee today. We decided some weeks ago to start systematically and increasingly opening up our content and data over the next few years.
Our goal is to have an Yle-API open for our partners, developer communities, and other interested parties by 2015. When different people and organisations can develop services and applications on top of our content and data, we will truly offer value for the Finnish tax-payers who fund our company. This will also enable open innovation and improve the quality of the services we produce in-house.
The first concrete results can be expected as early as the end of this year.
We believe that APIs and open data are part and parcel of operating a modern public service media company. Commonly funded content is distributed in ways that will take the best possible route into the everyday reality of the Finnish people. Yle is expected and even facing demands to open up its content, since the company’s funding changed from license fee-based to tax-based at the beginning of this year.
We live in the midst of many upheavals, and things are changing with incredible speed. In the media industry, global competition is accelerating, impressively skilled players are already in Finland, and many more are surely still to come. Thus, in order to remain relevant, Yle needs to be able to produce content and services that are of the same high quality and with the same agility as the Netflixes, HBOs, Apples and Googles of the world. Devices and technology will continue to become even more fragmented. The rate of this change is hard to understand. In light of these changes, findability is critical and active curating of content for our users is imperative. Acting on the Web becomes increasingly difficult as the mass of content increases and diversity of devices multiply; media usage patterns change and differentiate constantly.
The rapid growth of different devices is one of the biggest challenges we are facing from the technology perspective at the moment. The trend is clearly visible. The usage of our Web services on tablet devices has grown in just four months – from October to January – a whopping 67%!
And plenty of growth potential still exists. The BBC's iPlayer exemplifies this new reality with great clarity. Its desktop usage has fallen well below half, which means that nearly 60% of iPlayer usage happens through smart phones, tablets, game consoles, and the like. It is important, though, to remember that according to figures published last autumn, iPlayer supports 650 different devices.
Tele-text, which is still a surprisingly popular service in Finland, is an interesting example of how opening content can be accomplished with good results and how that in turn can help in dealing with device fragmentation. Tele-text applications have been created in Finland for all major phone platforms and even some rather obscure ones. These are the applications that use our content and that the Finns have developed for the devices of their choice without an active contribution from Yle.
We are also hoping for other types of benefits. Imagine a start-up that develops a special tablet for the elderly and wants to bring Yle content to the device. We would not have the resources to implement such a solution, but when we make our content presentation-free and structure it for multipurpose use, and we create a clear and open API, then the start-ups themselves can bring the content to their products, as long as certain conditions are met. Partners can build products and services that make our content more available for more people.
This is one of the ways we want to take Yle to the next Web era. Plenty of work remains: copyright issues and technology challenges still need to be addressed and resolved. We are currently busy with reforming the way we produce content for the Web. At the moment, a lot is unclear, but a clear direction is something that we already have.
Examples of Tele-text applications:
Symbian: http://www.n8fin.com/teksti-tv-suomi-teksti-tv-v1-22, http://store.ovi.com/content/39322, http://www.samiplonn.com/
Windows Phone 7 http://www.adafy.com/tekstitv/
Windows Phone 8 http://www.windowsphone.com/fi-fi/store/app/teksti-tv/4994549d-8d05-49c2-9d09-c19a2f22299a