Since 2011, the Edinburgh Festivals have been working to maximise the benefits of their extensive database of programme listings – for audiences, Festivals, event organisers and other businesses.
The original objectives
The initial aim was to provide the media with an enhanced service for the programme listings. Normally, the Festivals would manually create customised spreadsheets for selected media partners, cutting and pasting information from the printed or website information provided by event organisers. However, this process was labour intensive and didn’t reflect the dynamic nature of event listings.
The solution was the development of an API (Application Programming Interface) - a secure automated system giving any media outlet access to a central database of individual or collective festival listings. This provides regularly updated data in a variety of formats to enable ease of use, resulting in greater sharing of the listings. By 2013, usage of the API had already reached around 1 million requests and 39 external users. Development continued, including improvements in content uploading to the API for the Festivals and enhancements for media users.
The Edinburgh Festivals realised that the unique data resources of the API could facilitate other innovations for providing festival information to the public. Their chosen approach was to set up several experiments which would follow a fast-moving test and learn process, with developments made freely available on an 'open data' basis to external parties to use and republish.
Examples of these experiments included internal festival projects such as the creation of an interactive ‘discovery’ app for the Edinburgh International Festival. This used tags and algorithms based on user ‘mood’ to suggest festival shows in a way that would encourage immediate ticket purchase sharing on social media. Another example was a ‘swipeable’ Tinder style app for the Edinburgh International Science Festival which tested the notion that visual imagery was increasingly the basis for show selection.
However, experiments were not restricted to the internal festivals world. Taking advantage of the ‘open’ data principle, a number of private businesses have researched, designed, and tested new digital products. These include an effective scheduling tool and a platform for showing how big data could be better visualised to improve business insights and operations. Interestingly, the availability and saving of the listings in this digital format also provides an “archive” of Festival listings over the years which might open up further opportunities.
For more information on the Edinburgh Joint Festivals API and the resulting innovations, visit the EdinburghFestivalCity.com website and to access the API itself, visit https://api.edinburghfestivalcity.com/