Case Study: London Theatre Direct, Tibco Mashery and the power of the API

A recent meeting I had with the theatre ticketing company London Theatre Direct (LTD) was a timely reminder that not all organisations are operating at the bleeding, or even the leading edge of technology. That’s not LTD itself, a customer of TIBCO Software’s Mashery API management solution and therefore one already walking the walk. The theatres are a different story, however. Most still operate turnkey ticketing solutions of various flavours, making LTD’s main challenge one of creating customised connectors for each.
That work is now done, at least for London theatres, with the most obvious beneficiary being the theatre-going punter. “Customers could never find the tickets they wanted — they didn’t have much choice and there was limited flexibility on price” explains LTD’s eCommerce head, Mark Bower. “With APIs in place, we can access millions of tickets. Every ticket is available, right up until show time.” As a result, more tickets are being sold, to the equal delight of producers and venues. Jersey Boys saw a 600% uplift in sales when LTD was plugged in, for example.
LTD haven’t just created a more straight forward booking facility however. This is the API economy, in which everything is a platform — so third parties, such as hotels and transport companies, can also plug into LTD’s service. These are early days but such tie-ups are inevitable. “30% of people coming to London will want to go to the theatre,” says Mark. “We can plug our service directly into in-room systems, avoiding the dark art of the concierge booking on a customer’s behalf.” And indeed, charging a premium to do so.
So far so good, but LTD believe that something that could be seen as simply online ticketing is actually far more profound. A theatre production is at its core a creative act, with no guarantees of success at the outset. “Theatre is not a one size fits all,” says Anne Ewart, marketing director at LTD. “You can’t walk into the ticketing industry and say, ‘I want a show to do this,’ that’s not how it works.” Rather, there needs to be a balance between the aspirations of the producer and the hard-nosed realities of getting punters in through the door and taking their money in return for their entertainment.
The world of theatre is not very forgiving. “Venue owners want bar sales and rent, and the minute the rent and incremental sales fall below a certain level, they are able to give a few weeks’ notice to a show and they are out,” says Mark. Such is the case for many celebrated and critically acclaimed productions. The ability, therefore to generate higher demand for tickets is of huge importance, as is reaching out to previously untapped demographics such as younger audiences who would tend to purchase the less accessible, cheaper tickets.
Better ticketing doesn’t just mean an uplift in sales therefore, it also means that producers and venues are able to put on shows that might previously be seen as higher-risk. This is all before even thinking about the nuggets of insight that will lie inside the ticketing data itself — who is going to what kind of show, when, using what form of transport and so on. As we discussed this, I was reminded of how farmers are taking soil samples so they know how to target fertilisers more accurately — I couldn’t help wondering if the same principle applied to incentivisation of theatre goes to ensure all seats could be filled.
Perhaps the takeaway is that the ticket itself is a consequence of past models, which worked as well as they could in the analogue world. Even as our interactions become more digital, we have an opportunity to make them more about the very human relationship between producer, customer and venue, all of whom are looking to gain from the deal. The opportunity exists to move beyond the blunt instrument of the paper ticket and towards deepened relationship, manifested for example as event-led packages, loyalty programmes or even patronage models.
In the world of theatre and in many other sectors, technology enables us to move above and beyond the dark arts. Of course, the opportunity for abusing such tools also exists — there we face an ancient choice. But the stage is set (oh, yes) for a more direct, transparent relationships between participants. Cue applause.

WeTransfer Moves Toward File Transfer as a Microservice

It shouldn’t be news that enterprise file storage, sync, and sharing software and services (EFSS) have largely become a commodity. Prices continue to fall, in part because providers’ storage costs are still decreasing. More importantly, their cost to actually transfer a file has always been negligible, even with the application of strong encryption.
With costs low and decreasing, it’s fair to ask which of the aspects of file storage, sync, and sharing creates enough value for customers that providers can charge for the service. When you stop and think about it, the sharing or transfer of the file has always been the action that the rest of the bundled offer hangs on, especially for cloud-based services. A file can’t be stored on a provider’s servers until a copy has been transferred there. Similarly, changes to files must be transferred to keep copies in sync. The vast majority of the value proposition clearly lies in the transfer (sharing) of the file.
So it makes sense for the file transfer element to be the focal point for providers’ monetization strategies. If you accept that premise, then the next logical conclusion to be made is that file transfer can be monetized as a stand-alone service. In today’s world, that service would be built and licensed as a microservice, which can be used in any application that can call a RESTful API.
WeTransfer, a company based in Amsterdam (despite claiming San Francisco as its headquarters), has announced today the first step toward the creation of such a commercially-available file transfer microservice. A new partnership makes WeTransfer’s file transfer service an option (alongside Dropbox) for delivering photos and videos purchased from Getty Image’s iStock library. WeTransfer works in the background while the customer remains in iStock.
WeTransfer has exposed its file transfer API to Getty Images only at this point, but will be able strike up similar partnerships with other providers of graphics services. Of course, WeTransfer could also license API access to any developer looking to incorporate file transfer into an application. While it isn’t clear from their statement today if and when that will happen, the possibility is very real and quite compelling.
It’s important to note that both Box and Dropbox have made their file sharing APIs commercially available to developers for several months now, so WeTransfer is playing catch up in this regard. However, WeTransfer has emphasized file sharing almost exclusively since its founding in 2009 as a web-based service that only stores a file being shared for seven days before deleting it from their servers. Dropbox, on the other hand, originally was popular because of its simple-but-effective sync feature, and Box was initially perceived as a cloud-based storage service.
The potential market for file transfer microservices is so young and large that no provider has a clear advantage at this point. The recent nullification of the Safe Harbor agreement (PDF) between the European Union and the United States also presents a significant challenge to file services vendors that provide file storage for a global and multinational customer base. If WeTransfer emphasizes its legacy as an easy-to-use, dependable file transfer-only service with its newly-created microservice, it could gain a larger share of the market and expand well beyond its current niche of creative professional customers.

Braintree’s bitcoin API is now available to merchants in beta

PayPal’s developer arm Braintree has finished its initial integration work with Coinbase, and is opening up a beta program to its online merchants and mobile developers who want to start accepting bitcoin payments. No word yet on specific companies that have signed up for the beta, but Braintree has an impressive customer base of e-commerce and mobile app startups, including Airbnb and Uber. PayPal has made bitcoin an option for certain transactions to its various sellers, but, as my colleague Biz Carson points out, the payments giant is moving cautiously when it comes to cryptocurrency.

Netflix is shutting down its public API today

Netflix is shuttering its public API today, effectively ending support for a number of third-party apps that made use of the API to get TV and movie show titles as well as other data from the streaming service.

ESPN is shutting down its public API

Sportscaster ESPN (S DIS) is getting ready to shut down its public API. ESPN’s API team announced this week that it won’t be issuing any new API keys going forward, and that all previously issued API keys are going to be revoked in early December. The move will help the company to “better align engineering resources with the growing demand to develop core ESPN products,” the team said in a blog post. ESPN isn’t the only media company that recently decided to pull the plug on a public API: Netflix (S NFLX) announced two months ago that it will shutter its public API in November.