The Guardian: Taking the Guards Down

Chris Thorpe, Developer Advocate for The Guardian presented one of my favourite sessions at Mesh this year. He spoke about The Guardian's open platform program which opens their API, data, and content to developers. This is a stark contrast to the many newspapers in North America that have started charging for content, placing it behind pay walls and forms. Chris believes this will ultimately decrease their influence, reach and engagement, leading to lower traffic and ad revenue. He explained that the longer people spend browsing on your site, the more pages they view and the more likely they are to click through on ads, increasing revenues overall. If you block off your content, you can kiss those extra eyeballs and advert dollars buh-bye.
Before you get the wrong idea, Chris and The Guardian aren't giving away the farm for free. They are implementing developer agreements (revenue sharing, syndication, etc.) on data and API codes to build businesses with developers. The four stages of newspaper production are creation, production, monetization, and distribution. Chris says to put a "co-" in front of each stage. Involve the public and the audience in the process.
Why is this a good thing?
First, it gets people engaged in the journalistic process, using the engagement of the audience and the readers to bring out more information and news. He cited the example of G20 "protester" Ian Tomlinson who was killed by police. The police told one story, but the pictures and video sent in by other protesters told quite another. Time has come for the public to take back some of its power in bringing truth and justice to the forefront. By empowering the world's citizens and bringing them into the process, trust in mass media as a source, and newspapers as a medium, can be restored.
Second, it allows developers to use The Guardian's data to develop new websites, microsites, and apps weaving The Guardian into their fabric. This will put The Guardian in front of new audiences and increase traffic to the newspaper's website. It will also increase ad revenue and provide information needed for more targeted ads both on the partner sites and The Guardian's own website.
Third, most developers are creative and entrepreneurial. By working with, instead of against, developers The Guardian will reap the benefits of new and innovative business models.

Chris sees The Guardian as an online business, not a print business, and he believes that in order to survive, news entities must restructure their business models to work with the online shift, not against it. He believes that by opening up their content and data, The Guardian can one day be the world's leading liberal source. With already more than 40% of their traffic coming from outside the UK, this certainly seems to be within their grasp.
What do you think?