LinkedIn's $1.5 Billion Purchase Is All About the Data

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LinkedIn has acquired online education company for approximately $1.5 billion, the company announced today.

The acquisition is LinkedIn's biggest ever and gives the company a wealth of instructional videos on topics such as web development, photography and design. LinkedIn plans to promote these courses to its 350 million users, and the company's brass is already theorizing about how LinkedIn's wealth of corporate data can be used to suggest relevant classes. Here's one such hypothetical from LinkedIn content head Ryan Roslansky:

Imagine being a job seeker and being able to instantly know what skills are needed for the available jobs in a desired city, like Denver, and then to be prompted to take the relevant and accredited course to help you acquire this skill.

From a data standpoint, that's intriguing. But it may only be the start. As long as we're imagining, consider the following two potential applications of Lynda data within LinkedIn's core product:

  • LinkedIn recently launched a product that allows advertisers to buy ads across the web using its data. LinkedIn can now append Lynda's valuable first-party data to the offering should it so choose. Lynda's data is goldmine for some advertisers -- Adobe would probably love to get ads for its Creative Suite in front Lynda's design students -- and Lynda already seems to be using that data in some way. A visit to its Design section brought up 28 ad tags according to the browser extension Ghostery. Included among them were the ad exchange AppNexus and retargeter Criteo.
  • Much of LinkedIn's revenue comes from its Talent Solutions platform, so it's not a stretch to imagine recruiters getting notifications about people who complete courses for the skills they're looking for. This could be a win for both parties. Recruiters get the people they need, and people in need get jobs. It would also make LinkedIn more indispensable, raising the bar for competitors to challenge it.

LinkedIn is saying this acquisition is about "connecting people to opportunity." That may be true, but it also strengthens the company's data arsenal significantly, a smart move in today's data-driven digital economy.

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