LinkedIn Today: News meets Professional Social Graph

Social news has got its latest avatar. LinkedIn Today, launched this morning, making the professional social networking site the latest entrant in the growing trend of social discovery and consumption of news

LinkedIn today invites publishers to contribute editorial content on the LinkedIn platform. Users of the platform can configure what they get to see in terms of industry news (I suspect LinkedIn snoops your profile to create the industries of interest. For me it was quite accurate to start with). The Facebook “Like” button is replaced with a “Share” button that looks quite like the action buttons in i-pad applications like Twitter and GMail. The whole initiative is powered by Twitter & LinkedIn, which probably explains the “Follow” metaphor to subscribe to content from a publisher

What I liked about LinkedIn Today

Analytical News: I am a big fan of news that analyzes – as opposed to news that merely informs. There is no “breaking news” thing in LinkedIn Today (great news doesn’t rush) and all the articles that showed up in my – what does one call it in LinkedIn? Timeline? – were good quality analytical stories. “Like”

Email digest: I get to configure my e-mail newsletter. This is a great plus and completely does away of having to discover the most interesting news stories from e-mail newsletters

Save feature: You can “save” a news article for reading later. I find this approach more convenient than bookmarking. Though I am yet to test, LinkedIn informs that the saved items can be read on mobile devices as well (kind of syncing web and wireless activity streams). By the way, LinkedIn also gives the world the word “Unsave” – in case you want to change your mind after saving a news story

Interface: The display of  the news is nice. It has the i-pad design metaphor of news widgets that croon “touch me” even when rendered on a desktop browser

“Like” button for websites: Growing trend popularized by Facebook also gets adopted by LinkedIn. You could add a small script to your webpage that will allow users to publish stories from your webpage onto their LinkedIn ecosystem (actually, I haven’t yet made my mind up if this feature is a good thing or bad – but that’s just me)

What I did not like

Social?: There is nothing social about the first (“beta”) release of the service. I get to see what looks like the most shared articles. And these could well have been shared by people I don’t know and are completely out of my network. There has got to be a better algorithm to show me those stories that my network peers have shared (I guess today being the first day there wasn’t much sharing data to go by. Benefit of doubt to LinkedIn) Update: There does exist a section called “From your connections” buried in the bowels of the page – bad design. Even worse intent (withdraws benefit of doubt)

Post click: Click on the news you wish to read and you leave the user experience of the parent platform. That is, the news service that contributed the story takes you to their platform. This experience is jarring. Facebook does a neat job of serving the information and retaining the experience of the platform

LinkedIn has the potential to bring a lot of sobriety in social discovery and consumption of news, much like the professional social networking (serious social networking, as a colleague had once described) it pioneered. It has the serious capability of handing back the control on consumption to the reader (and not ruin their experience by the ever encroaching ad space). It will be sad though if LinkedIn Today pretty much becomes yet another media aggregator service

Disclosure: Reuters, the media division of my employers is a contributor to the LinkedIn Today platform. The views above are entirely my personal

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