Ian Burrell: People take what they read on LinkedIn very seriously

The media column: Recruiting 60,000 user authors shows LinkedIn means business in the publishing world, says co-founder Allen Blue

Before he co-founded LinkedIn – in fact, before he even worked in the technology sector – Allen Blue had a sense of the importance of communications networks and the competitive advantage they can bring.

In his previous life as a theatre scenery designer in California, he created a set for Richard III with translucent panels so that characters could be seen by the audience plotting in the wings and eavesdropping on the conversations of those in the scene.

It seems prescient, given the revelations by Edward Snowden of the way that the intelligence services in the United States and Britain have been monitoring activities on social media, the world in which Blue is now a power player.

But in truth LinkedIn has largely escaped the reputational damage that the Snowden affair caused to internet firms such as Google, Facebook, Yahoo! and Apple, which were associated with the National Security Agency’s Prism surveillance scheme. LinkedIn was a co-signatory to a letter from the tech giants to Barack Obama calling for a ban on mass data collection by spy agencies.

The website’s audience, comprised almost entirely of professional people, must be pound-for-pound the most valuable among the big social media platforms.

Until now, LinkedIn has been seen primarily as a recruitment tool. I met Blue at The Guardian’s Changing Media Summit in London last week, where it was suggested that he worked for “a glorified public CV database”. He corrected this impression by setting out LinkedIn’s new plans to become a publishing platform for tens of thousands of articles contributed by its members.

This is a critical moment in the evolution of LinkedIn. The idea is that professional people will offer their insights into the fields in which they have expertise, prompting discussions with their industry peers.

So far only 60,000 LinkedIn users have been invited to be “Authors”, a tiny fraction of the 277 million who have signed up to the site worldwide. Many more will crave the opportunity to enhance their “public CV” by being given the chance to publish their observations. LinkedIn has set up a “Waiting List” for the next generation of authors.

At a higher level on LinkedIn’s publishing roster are the “Influencers”, an elite group that includes Barack Obama, David Cameron and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. This list has been extended to “C-Suite” executives (CEOs, CFOs, etc) of large or prominent organisations and will, no doubt, be a holy grail of corporate PR people who see how Sir Richard Branson has grown a LinkedIn following of 4.1 million (more than he has on Twitter). Mary Portas and Sir Martin Sorrell have joined a list of Influencers that now stands at 500.

This development should be of concern to traditional publishers. Potentially big name writers for newspaper comment pages have a new platform where they can reach a coveted professional audience. Blue tells me that smart publishers, such as The Economist, The Washington Post and the Harvard Business Review, have seen an opportunity on LinkedIn and are curating “groups” where their articles are discussed. The Economist has 106,000 readers in its group.

The UK is one of LinkedIn’s most developed markets with 15 million members. That includes 375,000 engineers, 49,000 solicitors and 12,500 journalists. More surprisingly, there are 146 chimney sweeps, 59 bodybuilders and five “mermaids” with profiles, in addition to 4,000 farmers, 2,500 detectives and 744 magicians.

Ambitious students – rather than shunning a website populated by older generations – regard having a strong LinkedIn profile as an essential career move. The most-followed companies by British students are Google, Apple, Microsoft, Deloitte and BP, in that order.

Of course, there are lots of people out there looking for new jobs – or better ones. But will these people come to see LinkedIn as a place to go to read articles as well as monitor the career paths of people they know?

At a café table, Blue explains to me why he believes this business-oriented content will find its way to LinkedIn rather than rival platforms, such as Facebook. “The difference is the professional context,” he says.

The first authors on LinkedIn’s open platform have remarked on the high-quality responses they have received compared with the uninformed and even abusive debate that emerges in other forums. “You will see hundreds of comments between commenters and the author,” Blue says.

LinkedIn members, though they might have alter egos on other sites, are still very much in work mode when using this service. “On LinkedIn, you don’t speak anonymously,” says Blue. “You speak on behalf of yourself and your company, so everyone thinks before they shout. It means the conversation is more thoughtful, more civil and very frequently more productive.”

Surveillance isn’t such an issue because LinkedIn is essentially a showcase and naturally outward facing. “On LinkedIn you intend to be public,” says Blue.

The aim is that, in time, all members will have the opportunity to become authors. There are no plans to pay writers for this material but I think it is likely, in an era of ubiquitous management books and TED conferences, that large numbers of members will want to mark themselves out as industry opinion formers by posting articles that are attached to their career profiles.

Blue says that the site has developed technology which ensures contributors cannot exploit it by writing articles that contain crude commercial messaging. The cherished “professional context” will also act as a potentially intimidating quality control on articles published.

“If you produce things that people don’t read, they’re not going to get distributed through LinkedIn; and if you produce things of low quality [the members] are going to tear you down in the comments,” says Blue. “People take what they read on LinkedIn very seriously and no one wants their time wasted.”

You have been warned.

Voices
Stephanie first after her public appearance as a woman at Rad Fest 2014
voices

Arts and Entertainment
Banksy's 'The Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' in Bristol
art'Girl with the Pierced Eardrum' followed hoax reports artist had been arrested and unveiled
Voices
Oscar Pistorius is led out of court in Pretoria. Pistorius received a five-year prison sentence for culpable homicide by judge Thokozile Masipais for the killing of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp
voicesThokozile Masipa simply had no choice but to jail the athlete
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
Russell Brand at an anti-austerity march in June
peopleActor and comedian says 'there's no point doing it if you're not'
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
James Blunt's debut album Back to Bedlam shot him to fame in 2004
music

Singer says the track was 'force-fed down people's throats'

Life and Style
The Tinder app has around 10 million users worldwide

techThe original free dating app will remain the same, developers say

News
news

Endangered species spotted in a creek in the Qinling mountains

News
Bryan Cranston as Walter White, in the acclaimed series 'Breaking Bad'
news
News
peopleJust weeks after he created dress for Alamuddin-Clooney wedding
Life and Style
A street vendor in Mexico City sells Dorilocos, which are topped with carrot, jimaca, cucumber, peanuts, pork rinds, spices and hot sauce
food + drink

Trend which requires crisps, a fork and a strong stomach is sweeping Mexico's streets

Life and Style
tech

Company says data is only collected under 'temporary' identities that are discarded every 15 minutes

Life and Style
health

Some experiencing postnatal depression don't realise there is a problem. What can be done?

Arts and Entertainment
Gotham is coming to UK shores this autumn
tvGotham, episode 2, review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £30000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Do you feel your sales role is l...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £45000 per annum + uncapped: SThree: Key featuresA highly motivated ...

Vendor Services Manager (IT) - Central London

£50000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Vendor Services Manager (...

C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML, JavaScript, CSS, MSSQL

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: C#.Net Developer - C#, ASP.Net, HTML...

Day In a Page

Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth
Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Will there be an all-female mission to Mars?

Women may be better suited to space travel than men are
Oscar Pistorius sentencing: The athlete's wealth and notoriety have provoked a long overdue debate on South African prisons

'They poured water on, then electrified me...'

If Oscar Pistorius is sent to jail, his experience will not be that of other inmates
James Wharton: The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

The former Guard now fighting discrimination against gay soldiers

Life after the Army has brought new battles for the LGBT activist James Wharton
Ebola in the US: Panic over the virus threatens to infect President Obama's midterms

Panic over Ebola threatens to infect the midterms

Just one person has died, yet November's elections may be affected by what Republicans call 'Obama's Katrina', says Rupert Cornwell
Premier League coaches join the RSC to swap the tricks of their trades

Darling, you were fabulous! But offside...

Premier League coaches are joining the RSC to learn acting skills, and in turn they will teach its actors to play football. Nick Clark finds out why
How to dress with authority: Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear

How to dress with authority

Kirsty Wark and Camila Batmanghelidjh discuss the changing role of fashion in women's workwear
New book on Joy Division's Ian Curtis sheds new light on the life of the late singer

New book on Ian Curtis sheds fresh light on the life of the late singer

'Joy Division were making art... Ian was for real' says author Jon Savage
Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

Sean Harris: A rare interview with British acting's secret weapon

The Bafta-winner talks Hollywood, being branded a psycho, and how Barbra Streisand is his true inspiration
Tim Minchin, interview: The musician, comedian and world's favourite ginger is on scorching form

Tim Minchin interview

For a no-holds-barred comedian who is scathing about woolly thinking and oppressive religiosity, he is surprisingly gentle in person
Boris Johnson's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Boris's boozing won't win the puritan vote

Many of us Brits still disapprove of conspicuous consumption – it's the way we were raised, says DJ Taylor
Ash frontman Tim Wheeler reveals how he came to terms with his father's dementia

Tim Wheeler: Alzheimer's, memories and my dad

Wheeler's dad suffered from Alzheimer's for three years. When he died, there was only one way the Ash frontman knew how to respond: with a heartfelt solo album