Soccermetrics API to go private, no longer accepting signups

Effective immediately, Soccermetrics Connect API is no longer accepting new signups, and effective on 2 September, access to the service will be terminated.

I regret having to make this decision, but it was forced by a combination of factors: the costs of operating a web service such as this, and the lack of revenue from users of the API.

We are fortunate to live in an age where software can be developed and hosted cheaply, but it still costs something, and maintaining a product that one seeks to monetize costs even more.  The total costs aren’t huge by any stretch, but for a company that is bootstrapped the costs become prohibitive after some time.

In May we made an agreement with the UK’s Press Association to distribute their World Cup data through the API.  There were some features of the API that they liked, and we liked the opportunity to distribute a rich dataset from a major competition to the developer community.  We attracted a lot of attention from developers and the tech community, but the actual usage and revenue generated fell well short of our targets.  Granted, we were in the middle of a significant version change in the API and the technical challenges during the first half of the World Cup were huge, but the weak response to the API was very disappointing.

Nevertheless, the Press Association wanted to continue working with us, and offered an opportunity to distribute data from two major European competitions through our API, but at an initial cost to us.  It was more than what we could pay, so I wrote an appeal to current subscribers of the API to upgrade their memberships so that we could raise revenue to pay for these datasets.  The thought behind the email was that if the API was of value to our subscribers for their applications or other business, they might be convinced to pay for it.  In the end, that thought was just an illusion — no one upgraded their subscription.

So the conclusions that I arrived at were the following:

  • Developers and technology people think that a soccer API is really cool
  • Few people know what to do with it
  • No one is willing to pay for it

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist like me to figure out that the math is not in my favor, so I have decided to reduce costs by ceasing to monetize the service.  And because the data distributed by the API is commercial, I can no longer make it available to the general public for free.

Now, this does not mean the end of a Soccermetrics API, but it does mean the end of a publicly-available API, for now.  I have always felt, and continue to believe, that the primary customer of the Soccermetrics API should be us.  It’s very clear after this experience that the only group for whom the API is a critical part of their work is us.

We use it to access a variety of data sources and power internal applications, and we will continue to perfect its use cases.  There are some other products that we have in mind for the API as well, but it’s clear that I need to give some thought to the business case for an API product.  I guess what I have learned is that data distribution in the sports industry is pretty much useless if you’re not a media company.  Data creation and data ownership mean everything in this business.

My sincere thanks to those who helped stand up the current edition of the Soccermetrics API: Heroku for hosting, 3scale for their excellent API management platform and access to their promotions team, AWS for cloud storage, Press Association for their willingness to distribute their football data through us, and the 100+ developers and other users who signed up for and used the API.