"The world is changing - becoming more open. There has been an important shift in the ecosystem around us, and APIs are becoming the norm."
Head of Future Technologies
Pearson is the world’s leading learning company. Pearson delivers content in a range of forms and through a variety of channels, including online services, ebooks, books and newspapers. It provides consumer publishing through the Penguin brand, educational materials and services, and business information through the Financial Times Group.
Diana Stepner, Head of Future Technologies at Pearson, discusses how Pearson, through the developer platform Plug & Play, has opened up some of the company’s award-winning content via APIs to foster the development of innovative new applications.
How are you using APIs today?
We're using APIs at Pearson to connect with developers, whether internally within our companies or externally. APIs are used in many different ways throughout Pearson. Some Pearson APIs are for internal development and others are for working with our partners. The Plug & Play platform is focused on delivering APIs that are available to third-party developers as well as internal teams.
The Plug & Play platform makes Pearson data available for developers to build new, innovative products that incorporate novel ways of using, displaying and blending Pearson content with other material and data.
The goal of the Plug & Play API program is to spawn innovation, connect with new audiences, and make it easier to create apps with Pearson content. Also via Plug & Play, we hope to explore new revenue opportunities.
What need were you addressing with your API strategy?
The world is changing -- becoming more open. There has been an important shift in the ecosystem around us, and APIs are becoming the norm. Companies are using them as the foundation of their development. We saw this as a big opportunity for Pearson.
How have your APIs evolved over time?
Initially, we offered three APIs: the DK Eyewitness Guide API, which provides access to information about the top sites and attractions in nine cities (London, Barcelona, Berlin, New York City, Berlin, Paris, Prague, Rome, Venice and Washington); The Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English API, which provides access to the flagship Longman dictionary; and The FT Press API, which delivers insights from high caliber business books and original writings by leading business thinkers. Later, we added the The Pearson Kitchen Manager as a resource for food enthusiasts and chefs. Developers can go to the Pearson Plug & Play portal to explore and use all our APIs. We’re also expecting to add more APIs shortly.
In terms of the technology evolution of Pearson's APIs, we've been listening to feedback from developers, and they've been asking for more flexibility. In response, we've made changes like moving from a traditional relationship environment to a solution NoSQL based solution based on MongoDB. Also, sometimes the content we get is not as rich as it should be, so our developers are working with the businesses to augment the content we use to build APIs.
What kind of business benefits have you experienced as a result of your APIs ?
One of the key benefits we've seen by offering our APIs is a change in the perception of Pearson. We have been looked upon as a traditional publisher. Our goal is to be seen as an innovator in the digital world and part of the developer ecosystem. We participate in developer-centric events and are hearing the awareness around Pearson’s activities changing – to be more thought of as a forward-thinking company.
Our API initiative has driven some important benefits internally too. Now, there is more focus on making content available. At the end of a production cycle, we want to make sure there's an asset – an API. Or better yet, we want to start with an API! But there's definitely an increased focus within Pearson on making our content more available for developer access, internally and externally.
And of course, we are excited about the applications being built with Pearson’s content.
How do you work with Apigee?
We use the Apigee Enterprise platform -- specifically the Apigee Gateway, Key Management and Analytics products. Apigee Enterprise provides management and control of traffic flow, analysis and control of API usage, data security and protection, and support for scaling and performance with caching.
Pearson also uses Apigee Developer Connect for developer lifecycle management. This allows Pearson to engage and enable the developer community, and developer tools make it easy to explore and use Pearson APIs.
In the beginning, Apigee also gave us a lot of guidance to get our APIs up and running. Apigee's expertise was invaluable in helping us identify and establish API best practices, and we worked very collaboratively with them.
What is your vision for your API program?
For us, the ideal scenario would be that as soon as someone starts working on a project in Pearson, they think about how to offer a supporting API. We want to ensure a constant flow of content into the Pearson developer platform so it can remain a valuable resource for developers to tap into and get inspiration to build things we never would have thought of.