Column API

How Press Associations Can Build New Standards & Coalitions for Public Notice

The Context

Over a decade ago, the creation of statewide public notice websites by press associations was an impactful step forward in the strategy to modernize and protect public notice for the publishing industry. When we started Column, we saw an opportunity to support this initiative stewarded by associations with some enhanced web design and functionality, free of charge.

As technology continues to evolve at a rapid pace so too must the publishing industry’s approach to public notice. We believe that website hosting alone is no longer enough to protect public notice, let alone advance the category altogether. We believe the next frontier for press associations’ public notice strategy is providing an API-enabled statewide website.

The Problem

Most people who need to read statewide public notice websites are local businesses monitoring impactful public information, or local governments looking to notify their constituents properly. The existing search and alert functionality, while useful, relies on people manually searching the sites to extract the information they need. It’s inefficient for businesses today, which are integrating new technologies rapidly.

What is an API?

API stands for Application Programming Interface. Think of it as two computers talking to each other through requests and responses.

The Column API structures the content inside each notice so it can be automatically readable to other computer systems. The information on public notice websites can then be requested by a program and delivered automatically – eliminating the tedious task of manually searching the sites for specific information, or relying on email and text alerts. The best part — it requires no work to enable and it’s free for press associations.

How the API Strengthens Public Notice


Build new public notice coalitions. Press associations and their members can build stronger relationships with local businesses, research institutions, law firms, and technology departments in government agencies who rely on public notice information but can’t easily engage with it due to the limitations of manual search. For example, instead of having a paralegal sign up for a keyword alert every time they have a new case number, your website — when enabled with the API — can empower them to pull structured notices directly into their case management system without any manual work involved.

Future-proof your association’s capabilities. Providing a free and publicly accessible API of your statewide website will strengthen the publishing industry’s position as the distributors of public notices within their states and municipalities. Government agencies, in particular, will be considerably less inclined to come up with their own solution if one is made readily available to them — and without spending a dime of taxpayer dollars to procure a vendor of their own. In short, API-enabled access to public notices will establish clearer lines between what press associations can do and government agencies can do.

Make public notice more valuable. The power of an API lies in the structure it can deliver to a set of information like public notices. Instead of simply searching for keywords within blocks of text, an API-enabled site helps extract routine information fields like dates, financial amounts, web links, addresses, and more. Providing structured access to all public and legal notices means you can provide your government agencies with a more complete picture of what’s happening in your communities beyond just a few notices they place with your member papers. 

“With Column’s API, press associations are in a position to flip the script and build powerful new coalitions within government agencies and the legal and business sectors, on behalf of their members. By delivering public notices in a modern format, the publishing industry can ensure we stay ahead of the curve in the future of this category, rather than simply defending the status quo.”
Bill Barker
Founder & CEO of Barker Strategic Solutions
Former Regional President for Gannett and Board Member of the Florida Press Association