15 april 2013

LinkedIn is catching steam

IT IS A JOB PORTAL! It is a debate forum! It is a social media! It is a news site!
It is
 … LinkedIn!

The ”Facebook of the Pros” used to be overshadowed by its more well-known big brother (who is in fact a kid brother, as LinkedIn can now celebrate its tenth anniversary). From the start, LinkedIn was known mainly as the place to flash your résumé in the hope that some rich employer would see it. And as far as dryness goes, the visual appearance of the site provided a perfect match to its contents.

In recent years, the level of ambition has risen – and with the 2011 signing of Dan Roth, former online director at Fortune Magazine, LinkedIn put itself on the map as a serious player on the publishing field. A position which last week’s acquisition of news-reader Pulse will only make stronger. LinkedIn now operates as an aggregator of news from more than a million publications worldwide, in a selection that accords to the preferences of the user, and as a discussion forum for professionals from all corners of the world. Last year, the presentation sharing site SlideShare was added to the network, showing us that LinkedIn also aspires to becoming a virtual conference room. 

IMPROVED CONTENT calls for more sophisticated design, and in 2012, new costumes were introduced for linkedin.com, as well as for the mobile and tablet apps. Everything now looks much better and more inviting. Not surprisingly however, LinkedIn’s constant expansions and changes in architecture end content has made consistency suffer. For the time being, not much more than a logotype and a black/blue/steel colour style is there to visually connect the different LinkedIn channels.
And one may wonder why the 
iPhone app feels so much more coherent, and even has more functions, than the one for iPad – in which the main division into three columns seems illogical (the mobile app has four, which makes much more sense), old notifications you’ve already read seem to keep popping up forever, and you cannot even edit your profile.

NB: In a flick of fate, this blogpost was published two days before LinkedIn launched a completely redesigned app for iPhone (as you’ll understand, I would have preferred them to take a shot at the tablet version). Anyway, this new one looks like it will take some getting used to. I’ll be back with more comments when I have decided what to think.

While the website’s new concept is clearly inspired by Facebook and Google+, and LinkedIn for iPhone looks more or less like a modern TimeManager – for instance, you can synchronize your calendar with LinkedIn and thereby get sneak peeks at persons you’re going to meet – the iPad edition seems more inspired by Flipboard, the main component being kind of a news gallery with no clear chronology or prioritization. Maybe soon the news section will look more like Pulse?
Anyway, I am not so sure that this rigid distinction between the three platforms corresponds to equally substantial differences in the way people actually use them. From my point of view, LinkedIn has been overdoing this part a little bit. And as already mentioned, one of the consequences is a lack of cross-platform consistency.
But then again, nothing prevents me from using my tablet to visit the website.

LINKEDIN IS MAKING MONEY. Last year’s 86% growth in revenue (to 972.3 million USD) ought to stir some interest in an industry where traditional sources of income seem destined to dry out. Allow me to quote Owen Thomas who predicts that ”LinkedIn is becoming the newspaper of the future”:

”(LinkedIn) sells subscriptions — high-end tools for professional recruiters, simpler offerings for job seekers and salespeople. It sells what used to be called classifieds ads in the form of job listings. And it sells ads to brands looking to target its audience of professionals. Pulse's apps expand the audience for that latter offering.
That mix of display advertising, classifieds, and subscriptions, all riding on top of one core product, reminds me of the newspaper business model of old, back when that was a highly profitable business”.


For LinkedIn.

But hardly a solution to the overall problems of the newspaper industry.

Back in the late nineties, I listened to a talk by Kjell A Nordström – the author of Funky Business – about how to succeed professionally in the future. I remember Nordström stating that on a global business arena, ”the winner takes it all” (of course, a Swedish professor has to 
make an ABBA quotation).

Since then,
 I believe that his point has been proven.
There’s only room for one LinkedIn. One Google. One New York Times.
Why would you want to join the world’s second-biggest network when you can become a member of the number one, and what could possibly make you want to use the world’s second-best search machine?

Bottom line: In order to survive, every player on the future media scene will have to be original. Something special. Number one in their own particular ballgame.

Quite a challenge for all those among us who are just trying to do our job …

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