"Saving money by being open": Mike Bracken discussing innovation at The Guardian

Martin Belam by Martin Belam, 3 November 2010

At the risk of writing a blog post that looks like some very public sucking up to my boss...erm...you really should read the presentation my boss Mike Bracken gave to the Gartner 2010 Symposium in Orlando. The slides were posted on the Inside Guardian blog yesterday. I say it is worth reading because it has a long look at how getting key elements of openness right in your business can deliver real tangible benefits.

Apart from the obvious sucking up, the reason I blog about it is because it puts some real numbers around some of our technical innovation, in a week when there has been a lot of guesstimating the revenue impact of a very high profile set of numbers from The Times and Sunday Times.

One of the questions at the end of our "Search at The Guardian" event was along the lines of 'Well, that is all very well and good, but how do you make money from this?'. I'm not sure that Stephen Dunn and myself did a brilliant job of selling the fact that our open strategy and the way we have developed our publishing infrastructure is saving us a considerable amount of money.

In his presentation in Florida, Mike gave three concrete examples:

1: Implementing memcached. The work that Graham Tackley and his team did slashed overnight the costs of serving the website to our audience, and made our scalability costs predictable. It is a thankless task of plumbing, and one of those projects that can leave parts of a business pondering exactly what the tech team have delivered, as it doesn't change designs or functionality, but Mike prices the savings at $2+ million per year.

2: Implementing applications in the cloud. Our 'small pieces loosely joined' approach to our platform has led to our ability to deploy specific services away from our main hosting solution. The microapp framework eases integration of apps built on a variety of platforms in a variety of languages into the main site. Mike quoted the total hosting cost of the second MPs Expenses crowdsourcing app as $600.

3: Aiding rapid development. Our Open Platform Content API doesn't just allow external developers to build apps, it allows for rapid in house prototyping and development as well. As Mike explained, when the iPad launched we wanted something available on launch day, but we didn't want to launch a bad hurried app. The solution was to give a small team the opportunity to mess around and prototype. With an API key with the right permissions to reproduce content in full, the acclaimed Eyewitness photography app concept was developed in a couple of hours.

To view the notes as well as the slides, it is best to go full screen.

1 Comment

It doesn't seem to be a sucking up to me. I do not have much experience with the Eyewitness App, but it looks wonderful. I love good photographs so everything that helps creating one is welcome by me. Thanks.

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