Why LinkedIn's acquisition of mSpoke is good for publishers
Business social network LinkedIn's acquisition of mSpoke, a Pittsburgh-based startup with ties to Carnegie Mellon University, is potentially a big net plus for publishers. LinkedIn is already an important resource for media professionals, who have been building their personal brand using the site for years. The addition of mSpoke to the LinkedIn user experience will provide the self-described hub of professional conversation on the web with personalized news targeting industry verticals. “mSpoke and LinkedIn’s shared focus on generating relevant content make this acquisition a natural fit for us,” Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn's CEO said of the acquisition. “We're actively investing in solutions that help deliver valuable professional insights to LinkedIn members. The addition of mSpoke's talented team of technologists makes it an even more compelling opportunity for LinkedIn.”
A few LinkedIn facts of interest to publishers: LinkedIn has 75 million members in over 200 countries; half of those members are from countries other than the United States (there are over 6 million subscribers, for instance, in India). Executives from all Fortune 500 companies are members of LinkedIn. Over 500 current New York Times employees are members; over 500 current Wall Street Journal employees are members; over 500 Conde Nast employees are members. You get the point. LinkedIn is also a great place – though hardly used -- for publishers to set up LinkedIn Groups to facilitate conversation over content. The Economist Newspaper Readers Group, for instance, created by the magazine, has over 13,000 members. Surprisingly there are no "official" reading groups of The New York Times, which could probably attract more than 13,000 members. Go figure.
It is mSpoke's adaptive personalization engine, however, that the real focus of this acquisition. In addition to the tech team, LinkedIn is betting the tech team's magnum opus, mSpoke's proprietary recommendation technology, will help LinkedIn leverage its highly desirable professional content. The adaptive personalization engine extracts and analyzes information contained in the publisher's content and subscriber histories, observes the member’s interaction with that data, builds a baseline list of preferences of each individual member’s interests and recommends content accordingly. This recommendation technology is in confluence with LinkedIn's philosophy. On their corporate website the company notes, "we believe that in a global connected economy, your success as a professional and your competitiveness as a company depends upon faster access to insight and resources you can trust." That’s where publishers come in.
According to a May report by Edison Research/Arbitron Internet and Multimedia, the user base of LinkedIn has grown 300% since 2008. Once upon a time LinkedIn members logged in not infrequently (but nowhere in Facebook's league) to check up on job opportunities. The recession has made the professional social networking site much more vital (more people are on LinkedIn than Twitter). Any publisher's social media strategy ought to involve LinkedIn, particularly now that recommendation technology is about to make their member's user experience a quantum leap more relevant.