LinkedIn Today Image

UPDATED

What big-time Internet social-media company is creating a valuable news site? I’m not talking about Google, or Facebook, or Twitter, though of course they are among major players in the news sphere these days.

I’m talking here about a company you won’t typically connect to news: LinkedIn. When it comes to news about business, technology and economic issues I follow, LinkedIn Today is becoming a useful source of information.

Useful, but not nearly what it should be on a site that could just about own aggregated business news. And later today, when I moderate a social-media-in-journalism panel at the International Symposium on Online Journalism at the University of Texas, I’m looking forward to hearing one of the site’s editors, Chip Cutter, describe his view of the service’s future. (Update: He spent more time, as a good panelist should, on broader issues than just his own company’s site.)

When I’m signed in to LinkedIn and select the LinkedIn Today menu tab, I get a nicely arranged aggregation, shown on this page. It’s compiled from topics I’ve designated and from people in my LinkedIn “connections” list — more than 500 people with whom I have some kind of business connection. It goes beyond that, including links from the industry I’m interested in and even from outside that industry.

LinkedIn’s aggregation algorithm doesn’t strike me as particularly great; in many ways Google’s produces (subjectively) better results. But when I combine it (rather, when LinkedIn combines it) with the choices made by the people to whom I’m connected by reputation or personal knowledge, plus the shares of others who care about the topic, something new happens. I get much better results.

LinkedIn Today is only the latest example of what I’ve been wanting for years — and wrote about most recently in my book, Mediactive — the notion that combining human and machine intelligence will get us closer to the kind of news aggregation that truly serves our needs. We’ve seen progress with blogs, Twitter (one of my most essential news feeds in a variety of areas), Google+, Facebook and other services.

What makes LinkedIn so intriguing is the way it leverages business contacts, not just social ones. These folks are connections whom I’ve chosen because I trust them in some way, not as friends (though some are) but as people in another kind of circle that is about professional life.  And others in the same industry will be more likely than not to be noting interesting or at least relevant news.

I’m not especially interested in what they think, for the most part, about topics outside the ones I’m choosing. Their likes and dislikes in, say, film won’t be in my feed, because I want to keep this site’s news content strictly organized by the professional part of my existence.

Like its competition, LinkedIn Today is way, way short of what it could be. Users need to be able to make much more granular choices about sources (including people) and topics (and more), and user-interface customization features are at best crude in this early version.

In general, the product feels and operates like a side project, not a truly core feature. If I were running the company, I’d move it higher on the list of things that are strategic as opposed to tactical. I’m told that news is strategic, but I don’t see remotely convincing evidence.

It also seems obvious Google and Facebook are going to try to capture the aggregation-recommendation space — and they have at least as much ability to do so, if not more, when it comes to technical talent and user bases. Google, in particular, needs to figure out how to combine Google+ with Google News ((and other parts of the empire). Facebook’s news feeds send huge amounts of traffic to linked items, but in my experience (before I closed my FB account) the value of those links to me was low at best.

What neither Google nor Facebook can boast — yet — is the business-oriented membership base that LinkedIn has made its unique selling proposition. Again, it’s essential who makes the recommendations, along with who’s doing the programming in the cloud, and that’s why LinkedIn still has every chance of being preeminent in business/economic news aggregation if not more.

Bottom lines: Aggregation and curation — sorting the good from the bad, the useful from the useless — are still in their early days. But LinkedIn Today is an extremely interesting step forward.

3 thoughts on “Why LinkedIn’s News Site Could Be Huge

  1. I think that aggregation has a huge place in the evolution of modern news. i currently use the app Zite which is based on this premise of bringing you news that is best suited for you. My only concern with this, and curious about your thought on this, is the narrowing of people’s “field of view”. Meaning that people will only read what an algorithm determines they should read based on what they have previously read. Essentially, based on your biases, you will only read one side of the story, which I think is harmfull. If Google News, Facebook and other such sites start becoming the major players in the news industry and they use aggregation I feel as though a narrowing of peoples perspectives may occur. The obvious solution is to ensure one reads from multiple news sources but I assume that the majority of people are to in the habit of this.

  2. It is even worse. (Social) Networks are filters in themselves and bad ones too. Friends, business connections, shares and likes can be bad for news. We call this the Like Paradox. Sharing is often not truly a recommendation. It is often more about the connection, trying to separate oneself, to promote something or to acknowledge someone. For even better news algorithms you should ignore or demote the warmest connections you have and remove the strongest influentials. This will already improve your news dramatically. Would you remove LinkedIn connections to get better news? Probably not. This is why social and news networks are two different things. Take it one step further and try nineconnections.com(shameless plug), more discovery from the long tail of news, hidden in networks.

  3. One of the problems I have with LI news and the LI Today newsletters is that it doesn’t include links to sites behind registration or paywalls. At least, that’s the response I got when I asked why Modern Healthcare news wasn’t featured, especially when I count point out stories that were shared on LI more times than the stories that they did feature. A LI Today staff member told me that they won’t share or link to sites that have a paywall or require registration. As more sites move to a revenue model, that will have to change, especially if LI cares about the credibility in their aggregation. I asked them to put a note on their newsletter pointing out the limitation, but they didn’t respond.

Comments are closed.