From Platform to Publisher: Behind LinkedIn’s Transformation

[responsive]linkedin[/responsive]The LinkedIn we remember from not too long ago was a great place to find job candidates, search for a new position and digitally schmooze with a professional quality crowd. All that is still true, yet LinkedIn has become a model for how to make the transition from platform to publisher.

“Maybe it’s because the site is somewhat ugly to look at and often difficult to use, or because the bulk of the activity that tends to occur there is purely utilitarian — people looking for jobs, people reviewing candidates for jobs, professional networking and so on — but the site’s appeal and potential power as a publishing platform is often overlooked,” writes Gigaom’s Matthew Ingram.

“That might be a mistake: As Ad Age magazine noted earlier this week, LinkedIn has been hiring journalists from places like Fortune (where executive editor Dan Roth used to work before he joined the company) and the Wall Street Journal to create, edit and manage content. Those who just joined include former Fortune reporter Caroline Fairchild, former WSJ social-media editor Maya Pope-Chappell, and Indian journalist Ramya Venugopal,” Ingram continues.

They’ve gone about it quietly and methodically, as the site has evolved from a talent marketplace to a full-fledged content destination.

“The first step was the launch of LinkedIn Today several years ago, a daily news offering much like the email newsletter round-ups that many traditional media entities put out. Then LinkedIn bought the news-recommendation service Pulse so it could make better recommendations for users,” Ingram notes.

“After that came the LinkedIn Influencer program in 2013, which attracted celebrities like Virgin founder Sir Richard Branson by offering them a platform to express themselves.”

This was followed by the decision to allow all users to publish through the LinkedIn platform. It seems to be working, and giving traditional media companies a run for their money. Ingram notes that LinkedIn sold close to half a billion in ads, “which is more than all but the top tier of media companies.”

“And the thing that makes them a fearsome competitor is that content is a sideline business for them — even if it doesn’t work, they still have a pretty good business they can fall back on. Their traditional media competitors, however, are fighting for their lives,” he continues.

LinkedIn is a powerful way to connect with like-minded professionals with similar business interests. In terms of targeting qualified prospects, it’s a great fit. And the reach can be powerful, as noted by our recent article on leaving Facebook that generated 58k+ views.

As traditional publishers grapple with evolving content platforms and the platforms themselves become publishers, companies have an opportunity to intelligently select where and how they will publish. Publish or perish takes on a whole new meaning.