Mar 5, 2024 - Business

LinkedIn doubles down on news as social rivals retreat

Data: Similarweb; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: Similarweb; Chart: Axios Visuals

LinkedIn is investing more in journalism and news amid a broader pullback by tech rivals from the industry, the company's editor-in-chief and vice president Dan Roth told Axios in an interview.

Why it matters: LinkedIn alone won't be able to make up for the dramatic reduction in traffic referrals from social media sites to news publishers, but it does offer outlets and journalists a platform to meaningfully grow their audiences amid a broader tech crackdown on news content.

  • Unlike Facebook and X, traffic referrals to news publishers have increased slightly from LinkedIn over the past three years, per Similarweb.

Driving the news: LinkedIn works with over 400 news publishers globally, Roth said, after expanding to 12 new markets in the last six months.

  • Those publishers are approved by LinkedIn to work with its in-house development and editorial teams to optimize their content across LinkedIn, whether that be through text posts, newsletters, podcasts, or increasingly, video.
  • LinkedIn editors communicate daily with publishing partners through Slack channels and email to help inform them of what's trending so that they can better optimize their posts.

Professional-grade content from journalists and publishers is often used as a starting point for everyday LinkedIn members to engage more, Roth said. Because of the company's professional focus, political and polarizing content is not intentionally elevated the way business content is.

  • "We believe that when members and professionals come to LinkedIn, they should be getting insights that help them be better at the job they have or the job they want to have," Roth said, noting that the firm is "very guarded" about the kind of content that we know members want to see.
  • LinkedIn has made a concerted effort to court all types of news sites, but it's particularly focused on those that cover business or professional topics.

How it works: Unlike its rivals, LinkedIn is constantly looking for ways to drive traffic to relevant news content with things like publisher notifications and featured posts from LinkedIn News that draw from the published content on its site.

  • Overall, news publishers have amassed a collective following of over 240 million on LinkedIn.
  • About 44 million, or 4.4%, of LinkedIn's member base engage with content weekly in their LinkedIn feeds, a spokesperson said.

Context: Over the years, LinkedIn has shifted from providing mostly text-based support and links to now providing newsletter, podcast and video opportunities for publishers, journalists and creators on its platform.

  • In the past year, LinkedIn has seen a 150% increase in the number of newsletters being published by publishers and journalists on the platform.
  • The amount of newsletter subscribers publishers have "often dwarfs what they get on their own native newsletters," Roth said.
  • The Wall Street Journal's careers and leadership newsletter has nearly 3 million weekly LinkedIn subscribers, for example. CNN's PM Plug-In newsletter has 600,000.

Zoom in: In addition to engagement, the company is also pushing to help publishers monetize their content better through advertising partnerships.

  • LinkedIn launched a podcast network two years ago for professionally relevant shows and sells ads for some podcasts on behalf of the creator or publisher.
  • Roth wouldn't say how many publishers it works with to monetize their podcasts but confirmed it was in the "dozens" not "hundreds" range.
  • The company is currently testing a video sponsorship pilot with a small group of publishers, Roth said.
  • "There's high engagement around video," he said. "We're working on making sure that that is actually showing up in LinkedIn, and we want to make sure that they are also being rewarded for that content," he added, noting that premium video is expensive to produce.

The big picture: LinkedIn offers newsrooms an outlet to grow their followings amid a broader news retrenchment by social media firms.

  • Meta said last month that it won't recommend political content on Threads or Instagram, a similar process to Facebook. It's shuttering the Facebook News tab, once a destination for high-quality journalism, in the U.S. and Australia amid a broader news retreat.
  • X owner Elon Musk said he values "citizen journalism" and won't give news publishers special treatment over other content creators. Musk has temporarily banned reporters from the platform, including those who have covered him critically.
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