FORTUNE -- Ryan Roslansky, head of content products for the company, strenuously rejects LinkedIn's media ambitions. Or at least he refuses to address them head on. "We are not approaching this from a publishing or media-company perspective," he told me last week.
The "this" in question is LinkedIn's announcement that it is opening its "publishing platform" to all its 277 million members, beginning with a test group of 25,000. The move essentially means providing a juiced-up blogging tool to LinkedIn users, but with a twist. Blogging sites like Tumblr (owned by Yahoo) or even Medium, the new site run by Twitter (and Blogger) founder Evan Williams, are relative free-for-alls. Post your blog, tell other people about it using social media, and hope someone will see it. A post on LinkedIn is targeted at the people already in your professional network. "Your LinkedIn identity is your professional profile of record," Roslansky says. Adding the ability to post long-form professional information, he says, "helps to ensure someone can stand out and look better in their career."
LinkedIn is looking pretty good already. The platform-for-the-masses strategy expands on the wildly successful rollout in late 2012 of the LinkedIn Influencer program, a tightly controlled, invitation-only publishing platform for well known LinkedIn users. It started with 150 contributors and now has about 500. Their posts are viewed an average of 31,000 times, provoke 81 comments, and attract 200 "likes," or expressions of approval by readers. Acknowledging that the data for posts by Richard Branson and Bill Gates skew the average, Roslansky declines to divulge median statistics for Influencer posts, which would be a more meaningful measurement. (This seems like a good place to note that I am a founding Influencer and that LinkedIn's editorial director, Daniel Roth, is a former Fortune magazine editor and current friend.)
As for whether LinkedIn is becoming a media company, the answer seems obvious. Roslansky notes that LinkedIn makes money three ways, through premium accounts (like other journalists, LinkedIn provides one of these to me free of charge), advertising on its site, and tools for recruiters. He says that to the extent the new publishing tool encourages people to use the site more, it will increase advertising opportunities, encourage more premium accounts sign-ups, and improve the quality of information for recruiters. As for whether the new publishing platform is a money-making opportunity, he demurs, saying, "An engaged member is a good story for all three of our revenue lines."
The fact remains that LinkedIn's "publishing platform" looks more and more like a media property. Dan Roth was slightly less circumspect with Readwrite's Owen Thomas last week, telling him that LinkedIn hoped to discover its own Nate Silver, the statistician-turned-writer, first for the New York Times and now for ESPN. Lest there be any confusion, the Times and ESPN are media organizations; the publisher of the next Nate Silver is a media organization too.
Like any good competitor, LinkedIn isn't shy about borrowing ideas, including from traditional media companies. It latest Influencer "package" on best advice—my contribution ran here—will have a familiar ring to subscribes of Fortune magazine. Our franchise on the "Best Advice I Ever Got" cited by prominent leaders first ran in the March 21, 2005, issue of the magazine, with Warren Buffett on the cover.
Don't be surprised if LinkedIn's next moves include hiring real journalists to complement its amateur-writer contributors. Another natural extension of the LinkedIn "media" offering would be hosting live events around its Influencers.
In one critical way, LinkedIn certainly is different from other publishers. Perhaps because it pays nothing for its content, and also undoubtedly to avoid liability, it grants full ownership rights to its member-writers, while promising to remove, annotate or edit posts that violate its policies.
What a great business model: Make a ton of money off content you don't pay for and distance yourself from its quality, reliability or accuracy by never owning it. LinkedIn absolutely is becoming a publisher—a Teflon publisher, perhaps the most profitable kind of all.
A peek at how the professional social network wants to enrich mobile users' current messaging experience.
FORTUNE -- This week, LinkedIn (LNKD) announced a new feature for enhancing users' current mobile email experience called LinkedIn Intro. Available today for iOS devices, LinkedIn Intro is the result of the professional social network's acquisition of the contact management service Rapportive in February 2012.
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... that it's profound, mundane, and best in moderation. A lot like a lot of things in real life, actually.
FORTUNE -- My friend Sarah's home burned down at the end of August. A social worker, she didn't have renter's insurance. Her friends immediately started organizing on her behalf. My sister sent around a Facebook invite for a poker tournament to raise funds. Someone else organized a fundraising page on MOREJessi Hempel, writer - Oct 9, 2013 12:31 PM ET
Are we on the precipice of another bubble? Not necessarily, but that doesn't mean there aren't issues with tech stock prices.
By Kevin Kelleher, contributor
FORTUNE -- 2013 is proving to be the year that the stock market fell back in love with the Internet. The question is whether the love affair this time will be an enduring one or just another bout of exuberant infatuation.
For years after the dot-com crash of MOREOct 7, 2013 11:22 AM ET
LinkedIn launches University pages today, and college testing service ACT has created a social network. The guidance counselor is moving online.
By Kate Freeman
FORTUNE -- High school senior Savannah Stehlin says she's "on every social networking site imaginable," and many of her peers would say the same. So it makes sense why ACT, the non-profit behind the popular college entrance exam with the same name, is launching ACT Profile, a MORESep 12, 2013 5:00 AM ET
LinkedIn's head of product tells Fortune about his biggest failure, his greatest achievement and why he's so fascinated with genomics.
By Chanelle Bessette
FORTUNE -- Fortune's annual Brainstorm Tech conference brings together the best and brightest minds in tech innovation. Fortune periodically turns the spotlight on a different conference attendee to offer his or her own personal insight into business, tech, and entrepreneurship. We asked Deep Nishar, LinkedIn's (LNKD) senior vice president of products and user experience, MORESep 11, 2013 12:43 PM ET
LinkedIn is opening itself up to young teenagers. This will not wreck the dreams of our starry-eyed children.
FORTUNE -- Facebook (FB) wasn't much until it opened itself up to people who didn't have a current email address issued by a college or university. Restricting access isn't a great way to build a social media business, Facebook realized. For most social media, scale is everything.
That's why LinkedIn (LNKD) has opened its MOREDan Mitchell, contributor - Aug 21, 2013 1:19 PM ET
The safe-haven social stock has some stiff competition.
By Kevin Kelleher, contributor
FORTUNE -- Everything seems to be going right for LinkedIn (LNKD) these days. Except for maybe one thing: Everyone and their dog knows that everything is going right for LinkedIn.
That's not necessarily a problem for LinkedIn's business. In fact, it could help. As the company broadens into international markets, as it pushes toward new goals like being a clearinghouse for realtime MOREAug 12, 2013 5:00 AM ET
They say imitation is the most sincere form of flattery ...
By Kurt Wagner, reporter
FORTUNE -- If you're going to model your business after an industry leader, you could do a lot worse than looking to LinkedIn. The professional networking site's rise has been impressive, to say the least. Just read Fortune's recent cover story if you need convincing. The site has more users than ever, all spending more time MOREAug 1, 2013 12:53 PM ET
Well, temporarily anyway. The goal? To see what I've gained (and lost) in the last decade.
FORTUNE -- I'm signing off Facebook for the month of August. And Twitter. And Instagram. And LinkedIn, Pinterest, & MessageMe. If you'd like to reach me before September, please send an email to my @fortune address or better yet, call me. I suspect I'll have a bit more time than usual to call you back.
Put MOREJessi Hempel, writer - Aug 1, 2013 5:00 AM ET
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