The following chart is from BIGresearch’s sixth Simultaneous Media Study using a sample of over 14,000. Leading the way in text messaging on cell phones is 18- to 24-year-olds, but the occasional use of 29 percent among the 25- to 34-year-old and 21 percent among the 35- to 54-year-old age groups is indicating a growing use-value to highly converted consumers. Text messaging among these diverse age groups appears to be an area of opportunity for advertisers and marketers when trying to reach mobile nomads, where engagement is but a glance and a thumb stroke.
A few sites are now offering users a way to access their content through open application programming interfaces (APIs). APIs are generally accessible via two types of technologies: web services and REST.
Amazon has been offering access to its data and content for several years now using web services. In fact, it has even more information available using its web services than what is displayed on its own website. For instance, while you can get the current sales rank for a book on Amazon.com, TitleZ.com uses Amazon web services to display the sales rank history for the last 7, 30, 90 days and lifetime.
Flickr has a full set of REST APIs that allow any developer to create new interfaces and display user-generated content -- in this case pictures -- in whatever way they want (assuming they are not doing anything evil with it). Flickr APIs provide users with the ability to search, upload, display and add comments to photos and much more without ever having to go to Flickr.com.
Several developers have experimented with these open APIs and have created very interesting and creative interfaces. Offering your users open APIs will spark creativity and create new applications that we can't yet imagine.
The ability for developers to use open APIs and the willingness of companies like Google, Yahoo!, Flickr, eBay and Amazon to make these available to everyone has created a new type of application on the web, called a mashup, where one or more applications are integrated on a single website. A good example of a mashup is the housingmaps.com website, where information from Craigslist's open API is overlaid on a map to visually show where and what types of housing are available.
As you start to expose content to your "mashupers" using open APIs, make sure that you monitor how the content is used. Talk to users. Create a forum where you can have a conversation and see what else they may be interested in. Is there an opportunity to create a mashup on your site? Where do your customers go for related content/services? This can be an opportunity to integrate that related content on your site.
The ability to create new and different experiences for users is not just limited to mashups. Using the extendibility and openness of the Firefox browser, it is possible to create "extensions" that can affect the way a site is displayed. For instance, when the Book Burro extension senses you are viewing a book on Amazon.com, it will add a small overlay on the page which, when opened, lists prices at online bookstores such as Barnes and Noble, Buy, Half (and many more) and whether the book is available at your library. All of this is done without the user having to do anything.
Another type of extension is AdBlock. AdBlock automatically eliminates all the ads from a website, and the results are rather astonishing. Just look at how The New York Times site looks with AdBlock installed.
If you are displaying ads on your website, do you know if your ad impressions are different from your page impressions? Do you know how customers are looking at your website? Do you know if there are existing extensions for your site available? As Firefox browsers become more popular, you may want to consider creating your own extensions. It could be as easy as providing similar functionality to some of your open APIs.
Openness is important because you don't want to be locked in behind your firewall and just wait and hope that users will come to your site. You need to reach out to them in different ways. It's important to keep in mind that:
- Separating the content, the structure and the design is more important than ever.
- Instead of creating a website, provide tools that enable users to create their own experiences.
- What we create is less about places and things and more about streams and flows.