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The blogosphere is abuzz with the news that The Guardian has launched an open platform. This enables third-party developers to create unique applications that have near-unfettered access to its content and combine with other technology. The announcement has been so well-received that after scanning the numerous Tweets and blog posts on the topic over the past few days, I was hard-pressed to find any negative sentiment directed towards The Guardian’s new initiative. Indeed, many commentators eulogised that the venture is “The Future of Publishing”  and “…a well-received move”.

Now of course, the use of third party developers to drive the dissemination of online content is not novel. The much-lauded Apple App Store, and similar offerings by Nokia, Microsoft and Google, have ushered in a sea change in the way that third party developers drive the dissemination of content to ever more specific groups of users. However The Guardian is certainly one of the few newspapers to adopt this new model. Indeed, the main talking point for media professionals is the news that the Guardian has decided to offer its content free of charge. Newspapers such as the Wall Street Journal and the Financial Times have long been reticent to freely offering their content as a business model and it is unclear at the moment if this open platform will generate the same amount of revenue as traditional newspaper sales. This trend has not been lost on other major mainstream newspapers as both the BBC and the New York Times are engaging in similar open platform ventures.

Abundantly clear to media analysts like Metrica is that the open platform is a unique way of further engaging with a greater number of users who will consume news content from either a PC or, as is more likely, a Web-enabled mobile phone.

The introduction of these technologies raises significantly more questions than answers. Will open platforms for newspapers really change the way news is consumed? How will other major players in the newspaper industry respond? Will open platforms provide new challenges to media evaluators?

The Guardian’s open platform certainly raises profound questions to other newspapers which lock their content behind a subscription charge, like the NYT and the FT. Can they continue to charge subscription fees to access premium content and simultaneously compete with the Guardian? It certainly shows how content distribution is evolving away from Web sites to people, a strong indication that Web 3.0 is about to take up the baton from Web 2.0.

The unlocking of news content for users to manipulate is a great move for the industry and opens up a mouth-watering array of possibilities for Web users as Metrica’s Measurement Matters has blogged about before. It’s already got us in the office here wondering what could possibly happen, as it has the rest of the blogosphere it seems!

Location-based news updated live on your iPhone mashing up Google Earth and Guardian content anyone?

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