Application Development

How The Telegraph is using APIs to personalize its news feeds

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Today’s post comes from Lucian Craciun, Head of Engineering & Technology—Platforms at The Telegraph. This London-based media company operates the Telegraph website and app, print publications such as The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph, and The Telegraph Edition app. They’re using Apigee on Google Cloud to simplify the development of new services.

The news business has undergone a profound transformation since the advent of the internet. In just a few years, readers have gone from consuming news primarily in printed form to overwhelmingly favoring digital channels for real-time news delivery. To keep pace with reader demand, we need to continually innovate to ensure that The Telegraph provides the online and mobile news channels that keep our readers returning again and again.

Personalized content, increased registration

At the The Telegraph, like other news organizations, we enjoy trying out new ways to attract and retain digital readers to maximize both revenues and reader experiences. In the past, we focused on getting as many page views as possible for individual articles. Recently our strategy has shifted towards getting people to come back to the website often, getting them to register for and become regular users of our services.

We decided to develop My Telegraph to support our strategy. We recognize that people have an ever-increasing expectation of personalization from the content providers they interact with. My Telegraph gives registered readers the capacity to personalize their news experiences based on their interests or the particular journalists they want to follow.

The model enables registered readers to view free content in their personalized feeds, and encourages them to subscribe if they want to view premium content. We have a target of ten million registered users in the next few years. Obviously, this service is heavily dependent on APIs. It would have been a lot harder and more time consuming to develop it without the API infrastructure and management that the Apigee platform gives us.

Heightened reader experiences

Before My Telegraph, readers had access to a curated feed of editorial articles and they had to use the website’s search function if they wanted to find content related to specific topics or by individual journalists. Now, My Telegraph users can select topics or journalists to follow that automatically show up in their newsfeeds when they’re logged in. We’re adding more options every day and soon people will be able to follow their favorite football teams in My Telegraph. Each of these personalization options correspond to individual APIs that we’re rolling out.

Supporting personalization with APIs

Our APIs are split into two functions, identity and content. The identity API makes sure people are logged in and also checks registration and subscription statuses. For example, a registered reader only gets access to one premium article a week. But a subscribed reader gets full access to all articles on the website.

First, the browser makes a call to the identity API, making sure that a person is logged in to access to My Telegraph. Once logged in,  it makes a call to the API that creates a feed of articles. Then our preferences API offers an option in the browser to select which topics a reader is interested in. This in turn makes a call to the preferences API to save a reader’s preferences.

We also have a feature called the “My Telegraph Alerter” that creates an alert in a browser when there’s a new article in a person’s feed. If a subscriber has her browser open and is logged into The Telegraph website, she’ll see a red dot in the “My Feed” section. This alerter API is powered by Firestore, another Google Cloud product that we’re getting a lot of value from. In addition to Apigee, The Telegraph is implementing several other Google Cloud Platform (GCP) products to run our complex properties. For example, we already host our data lake in BigQuery.

Simplifying API management

We’ve been building APIs for at least ten years, so they’re not new to us. What is new for us, however, is having a single gateway in front of all of our APIs. Previously, we used an API gateway for some, a straight load balancer for others, and a content delivery network for still others. As a result, all our APIs didn't have a structured way of being exposed to the public or to other teams. What Apigee introduced was much-needed structure in the form of a single gateway for all our APIs. We now can easily find what we need when we need it, which is a tremendous help as we look to develop and deliver new services and continue our digital transformation journey.