With 27 million users and growing, LinkedIn has become known as the world's largest online network of business professionals. As media companies look to develop social networking and social media functions on their Web sites, some are creating their own tools and a few high-profile brands have linked up with LinkedIn—including McGraw-Hill Cos.' BusinessWeek, IDG's CIO and The New York Times.
“We will never be a content company,” said Scott Roberts, senior director, business development for LinkedIn. “We want to use what we know about our members to bring relevant content to them through the media brands they trust.”
BusinessWeek.com was the first media site to use a LinkedIn application, in March 2007, and the two entities have developed an ongoing, multifaceted relationship.
Under a two-way partnership, BusinessWeek.com and Capital IQ, a division of McGraw-Hill's Standard & Poor's, are providing select company data for LinkedIn.com's Company Profile feature. For its part, BusinessWeek.com has added the Company Insider feature, which allows BusinessWeek.com readers to find out who they know at companies they're reading about through one of the tools accompanying each article.
Last month, BusinessWeek.com launched the beta version of Business Exchange, a section of the site where users can create and aggregate content on business topics they choose. Members of Business Exchange can migrate their profiles directly from LinkedIn rather than setting up new ones.
“We researched our audience and found that a large percentage have spent time building up their profiles and networks on LinkedIn,” said Roger Neal, senior VP-general manager of BusinessWeek Digital. “We want to help them leverage those assets by layering the people they know on the information we provide.”
Only a relatively small number of early adopters have used the Company Insider widget, Neal noted, adding, “but we haven't really promoted it. We will have a second, updated version of the widget coming this fall.”
CIO announced its partnership with LinkedIn in April 2007. CIO.com offers the Company Insider feature and uses LinkedIn to show a user's connections to insiders at companies that are hiring. The brand has also established an exclusive CIO Group on LinkedIn.
Michael Friedenberg, president-CEO of CIO publisher CXO Media, said LinkedIn “has been a phenomenal tool for us” because CIOs have an affinity for gathering information from their business networks.
One proof of the power of the relationship came when LinkedIn upgraded its Groups functionality in August, and CIO.com reaped an almost-immediate benefit. “In just 30 business days, the number of members in our CIO Group went from 1,700 to 4,940. This shows how social networks can scale incrementally in a very short time,” Friedenberg said.
Although many in the media have wondered how to directly monetize social media, the “strategic relationship” between The New York Times and LinkedIn that was announced in July is a clear-cut bid to make money from community.
LinkedIn users who opt in have news relevant to their professional industries—based on their LinkedIn profiles—recommended to them on the Business and Technology pages of NYTimes.com. The New York Times emphasized that the attributes used to deliver the related content suggestions will not be personally identifiable.
Times readers will also be able to share and discuss stories with LinkedIn members in their networks through a tool on article pages.
Vivian Schiller, senior VP-general manager of NYTimes.com, explained that the relationship “drives new users to LinkedIn from our site. For us, it's an ad sales play. We will provide readers of our Business and Technology sections with a more relevant and customized experience, which should improve their engagement with our brand.”
More important on the revenue side, though, is the fact that the relationship improves NYTimes.com's targeting ability. LinkedIn provides more information on users than the Times currently gets through its own registrations.
In addition, Schiller said, “We now have a lot more data to help us better understand our audience, so that we can continue to improve our targeting beyond LinkedIn users.” M