LinkedIn Just Went Into the Publishing Business

A number of publishers and blogs covered the launch of LinkedIn’s new follow feature for 150 thought leaders or influencers over the last few weeks. However, labeling it the ability to follow thought leaders (as LinkedIn did) misses the real point.

LinkedIn did not launch a new feature to follow thought leaders or the ability for select individuals to publish articles on LinkedIn.

LinkedIn just launched as a publisher with 150 thought leaders, influencers and public figures as their first journalists and contributors.

Since LinkedIn has also been called the best social media site for B2B marketing, this is a change and you should care about.

Now LinkedIn Is In The Content Business

With 150 recognized and respected contributors, LinkedIn just launched their publishing business with an all-star cast.

Where else can you get perspectives from both presidential candidates, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, Pete Cashmore and 145 others? Nowhere. Not even the Wall Street Journal, Forbes or Huffington Post (irony, huh?) can match that contributor list.

As a publisher, the face of LinkedIn has changed significantly.

  • A daily reason to visit. Historically LinkedIn could be used to share content, but outside of the business networking, or “social”, features, there wasn’t a reason to visit regularly.
  • Content worth sharing. LinkedIn content is now being broadly shared on Twitter and other networks. I’ve seen the change in just what I see on Twitter, you likely have too.
  • LinkedIn’s content is differentiated. LinkedIn has labeled their contributors as thought leaders and has recruited an impressive group of initial contributors.

As a publisher, LinkedIn will be able to significantly increase pageviews. With their reputation as a site for reaching a business audience, they will command a premium CPM. With their rich audience data, they will be able to sell even more of their inventory at premium rates. In short, LinkedIn now has a publishing and advertising business.

Quantcast (chart below showing when the thought leader feature was added) shows a 7.5% increase in page views in the three weeks following the launch of LinkedIn’s publishing platform versus the three weeks before.

This isn’t a seasonal effect. In 2011, traffic was down 5% for the same comparison. For a publisher that is already the 24th largest property in the US (again, according to Quantcast), if the trend continues this will be a big increase!

What Should Marketers Do With LinkedIn?

Proceed with caution. LinkedIn has made a huge number of changes in the last few weeks. From LinkedIn Endorsements to a new design to this new publishing model, if you looked away for two months, LinkedIn would be almost unrecognizable today.

If LinkedIn worked well for you six months ago, it doesn’t mean anything today. With all of the changes LinkedIn has made, you can no longer use prior experience as a predictor of future performance.

Similarly, if LinkedIn hasn’t worked in the past, consider another test. With these changes LinkedIn is now drawing a larger audience and people are visiting for different reasons.

Your Turn

What do you think of the changes or what new opportunities do you see for marketers in LinkedIn’s changes?

Share your view in the comments below or with me on LinkedIn (@wittlake).

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  • ShellyKramer

    I’m just not sure what to think Eric. I’ve been using LinkedIn for a long time. It’s a big driver of traffic to our website and a big new business generator for us. But the endorsements bother me and this publishing component seems smart. But I’m not paying any more attention to LinkedIn now with their “celebrity thought leaders” than I was before. Are you? Does that component make the site more valuable/interesting/sticky for you? But of course, we’re not always the target audience. In sum, it will be interesting, as always, to see what shakes out here.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Hi Shelly,

      I’m not intentionally paying more attention, but in the past I never ended up on LinkedIn from a Twitter link. Now I am. Also, where I used to see top articles from LinkedIn Today on my homepage, I just see the content that is being published on LinkedIn.

      Although it hasn’t changed my opinion, the changes have made me act like the site is more valuable or sticky. In the advertising business, thats all that matters, right?

      Thanks for the comment! Time will tell where all of these changes take us.

    • http://www.razorsocial.com/ Ian Cleary

      I agree regarding endorsements. They are flying around everywhere but not much value to them.

  • http://twitter.com/dschulenberg Dara Schulenberg

    I’m also still evaluating and experimenting with the new functionality and am unsure if and how the publishing aspect will change people’s use of the network long term. In our industry, I am watching if the content is significantly different (and how) than on other publishing channels (blogs, industry news sites, google+ etc.) Not sure I have any firm conclusions yet.

    To date, I am not a fan of the endorsements as affinity markers given their low commitment (read similarity to fb likes). That may change as more people begin to use them – thoughtfully I hope. By comparison, I see far greater value in a recommendation than an endorsement on LI.

    I do applaud the direction of changes in the company profiles and overall think recent changes have made the network more valuable – to the (now) readers and advertisers.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Dara, thanks for the considered response. I definitely don’t know yet if LinkedIn can compete effectively as a publisher (or as others have posited, as a business blogging competitor to WordPress or Tumblr), but I definitely think its a big change for LinkedIn and gives them content that is far more valuable than the current groups, answers and similar spaces.

      Overall, some good changes have been made, and LinkedIn is at a point where they need to make changes or they will slip behind. We will see how they all shake out (and hopefully endorsements will be out…)

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://twitter.com/AbilitySustain SustainABILITY

    Wrapping my head around the changes and new features and how maximize them all! It’s a new full-time job and I am wondering if it is worth it? Time will tell….

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      LOL. Yes, time will tell, and so will the timesheet. Thanks!

  • Donatella Ardemagni

    For Italy is a little bit different because linkedin is by now only for IT people or people who care about internet or services for business. But all the changes in LinkedIn are taking also other people to care about it. Furthermore now LinkedIn is doing a strong campaign to promote its Ads in Italian. As online media planner I’m very positive about a real empowerment of LinkedIn to do more business

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Donatella, thank you for adding the international perspective on LinkedIn’s audience and the changes they are making. From what you are sharing, it sounds like this may actually be an even more important change in markets where adoption is still low. Although that will require them getting the right local contributors as well.

      Great comment, thank you for sharing!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1027884504 Charles Born

    Monetization is where it’s at in social media and in my view this is another way to drive traffic – and eyeballs – to view potential advertisements, etc. Also – with their movement into direct marketing programs for purchase using their captive professional audience a year or so ago – this seems like a way to feed more traffic to those programs. I describe Linked In as Facebook for professionals. The groups you can join promote user generated content that is sometimes useful – sometimes banal and often useless. Having some ‘professional’ content would be a nice balance to the user generated content I suppose….just not sure if we need another content site. Especially general purpose business content. If I want that I can go to Flikr or other news aggregator sites and create my own stream – or any other number of them out there. BTW I like this forum – good topics – always something of interest for marketing. I will say though as we become more mobile and less PC oriented I think the future of content is pictures – not more textual content.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Charles. I definitely see the monetization drive here that you mention.

      Pictures over text: that sounds like a topic for another post. Maybe one with a lot less text.

      Thanks for commenting!

  • http://twitter.com/RennyRay Renny Raymundo

    Shelly I agree with your point on the endorsement feature. It seems to cheapen the recommendations. It remains to be seen…

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Yeah, I’m with Shelly on the endorsements as well…

  • Susan

    Slippery slope I think…slippery slope. LinkedIn is an international site…it needs to remember not to be too U.S. centric and what it’s original aim is. Publishing, yes. But political commentary et al like news? I would start to ignore it. Also, choosing ‘thought leaders’ from the populace has it’s risks. I think they would have been far better off choosing people at random from each country/nation represented. Otherwise it will soon become like a minor Klout with some people winding up overnight impresarios ‘just because LI said so’ – and also that U.S. slant. U.S. folks feel quite differently to some issues that others e.g. people being able to look you up anonymously or people needing to HAVE a photo. That is problematic for some cultures. Slippery slope.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Susan, excellent points and a great reminder for those of us that get stuck in our U.S. bubble at times, thank you for taking the time to comment!

  • http://www.razorsocial.com/ Ian Cleary

    I think it’s a good move for LinkedIn. It has all the business expertise through LinkedIn and most groups are pointless because there is too much self promotion. Providing an opportunity to write and share articles through linkedin is great if they police it correctly!

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Thanks Ian. It will be interesting to see how they roll this out.

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  • Tony Hymes

    I think you’re right Eric about making it more sticky. It seems like LinkedIn is a place to go to connect, and then for many users just sit on those connections until it comes time to prospect for a new position. The feed is overwhelmingly pointless new connection updates that drown out a lot of the original content that people share on the site. If LinkedIn is to continue to gain traction, it must become a professional Facebook, where businesses go to post updates and communication. In order to do that, they will need a much bigger audience and the stats to back it up. But this is definitely a step in the right direction.

    • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

      Hi Tony, interesting perspective, thank you for sharing. I’m skeptical that LinkedIn can achieve what you laid out here. For instance, scale well beyond where they are today (Comscore just listed them as the #26 site in the US) and a place where businesses to go to post updates and communication.

      That doesn’t sound like a site I would want to visit and it seems like a recipe for making the stream even more overwhelming and useless, no?

      Or am I completely missing your point?

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  • http://my168project.com/ Matches Malone

    It’s not clear to me that making everything look and feel like everything else is a good idea, however as we know LI is owned by Comcast now, so, maybe they have a plan that us mere mortals aren’t aware of.

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  • http://b2bdigital.net/ Eric Wittlake

    Thanks Tom!

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