I’m in the process of editing a piece that’s focused on APIs — that’s application program interfaces, of course. Along the way, I thought I recalled having written something about APIs back in my ClickZ days.
Here’s what I uncovered…
Back in February of 2004 (more than 10 years ago, folks), I wrote a piece called Web Services: RSS On Steroids. At that point, I guess the term and acronym API hadn’t become popular, so I referred to them as Web Services:
Web services is really just a way of exchanging information over the Internet. Instead of using browsers, it allows applications to talk to one another directly using open standard technologies such as XML, SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI.
What can you do with this type of information exchange? The possibilities seem as infinite as your imagination.
And then, two years later, I patted myself on the back for my prescience with a follow-up piece called Attack of the APIs: (I am a complete dork, I know…)
Over the past few months, we’ve seen some compelling uses of these APIs for marketing-related mashups. ClickZ columnist Ian Schafer‘s agency put together a mash-up with Google Maps that let fans of HBO’s The Sopranos re-visit some of the places and events in the gangster show’s past seasons. Nike put together a Google Maps app to plot running routes for its Run London community. And more recently, General Mills’ Nature Valley granola bar brand asked nature-lovers “Where’s Yours?” on a site that uses a mapping interface similar to Google’s. I’m sure there are plenty more I’m failing to mention here. (Feel free to drop me a line if you have some great examples.)
These services have become popular because marketers and advertisers — in search of that elusive “engagement” — have figured out there are two paths to winning consumers’ attention. One is to entertain them. Hence the viral video, long-form advertisement-on-demand trend. The other is to give them something useful with a practical application. APIs can help marketers do both, but they probably lean toward the “useful” realm.
I think what I was talking about there would now be called “content marketing.”
What I totally failed to realize was the impact that APIs would have on marketing organizations operations, specifically allowing them to integrate data from disparate customer touchpoints to get a more holistic view of what’s happening. It’s a topic we are regularly exploring in Marketing Land.
Funny how interactive marketing seems to move so quickly, yet I’m looking back on this stuff — maybe a bit too “out there” for its time — and thinking I wouldn’t say things much differently today.