Matthew Rothenberg

Earlier this month LinkedIn announced and launched its entry into the online news game. As Brafton reported, the internet’s largest professional network has introduced the news aggregator service LinkedIn Today.

LinkedIn is a late player to the news game, which has become a staple of the web. Brafton recently covered Google’s aggregator, One Pass, and there are continuous updates to other platforms (such as Bing News). With this in mind, LinkedIn has some ground to make up. Plus, on the social front, LinkedIn lags behind competitors in terms of shared content. (Facebook released numbers in February indicating that it averages 30 billion pieces of shared content per month.)

However, LinkedIn may have found its own niche in the news sharing market – and depending on how the platform develops, B2B marketers might find they have a new way to share their content with a convertible audience.

LinkedIn Today allows users to set up custom news aggregation according to trending news topics within their professional interests. The company is still working on getting news for certain verticals, but banking, healthcare, insurance, real estate, IT and marketing (among others) are already options. Articles are selected based on the number of people who have shared them within LinkedIn or via Twitter.

The senior product manager of LinkedIn, Liz Walker, says that the driving force behind LinkedIn Today is to allow users „to be great at their jobs“ by keeping up with the news. But I wanted to see if the content, itself, was high-quality, and understand how LinkedIn Today might serve as a channel for content marketing, brand discovery and social networking.

Here’s what I found when I took LinkedIn Today for a test drive:

It introduced me to news providers (and businesses)
A few of the news sources featured on my custom LinkedIn Today page were ones I was familiar with prior to checking out the news aggregator. However, many of the other marketing and online media sources featured were brands I had never heard of before. A lot of the news articles from these unknown sources were really relevant to my industry, and I even shared one within my network.

Translation: LinkedIn Today may prove useful for news-oriented content marketers.
Getting content shared across the web is great for branding, and LinkedIn Today could be a platform for that. LinkedIn already has sharing options in place, but LinkedIn Today would offer brands much more visibility. The caveat is that content marketers have to already have social sharing campaigns in place – the LinkedIn Today articles are posted according to shares. But: If and when content gets enough shares, it seems it can be featured on LinkedIn Today (which encourages more sharing).

For B2B companies that offer content, being featured in LinkedIn Today might be more valuable for building brand recognition and trust than exposure on other channels. As Brafton has reported, LinkedIn is seeing a rapid rise in B2B sign-ins.

It introduced me to new professionals.
By clicking on the „shared“ button next to each story, I’m able to see who else is reading (and who else has shared) an article that interests me. LinkedIn breaks down this demographic according to industry, company and location. Users can filter fellow searchers by searching for specific companies and regions, too.

Translation: It highlights common ground between me and people I want to connect with.
I think one of the best things about LinkedIn Today is that I can see who else is reading the same content as me – this opens me to a window of more connections in a world where who you know can make a big difference. Granted, I can’t easily connect with readers through a „We both read …“ LinkedIn invitation option (hint: LinkedIn, I’d love a feature like that!), but it makes it easy for me to understand what information can be used as a conversation point in a business meeting.

While some articles shared within my industry were popular for obvious reasons, such as „Google Debuts New Online Magazine,“ others – such as offshoot articles of Google’s Panda Update and adjustments to in response to algorithmic changes – were seeing up to 10 times fewer shares. Seeing who shares these more niche articles can help shed light on who I might or might not want to be connected with for professional reasons.

Plus, for brands that get content shared on the platform, this is another way to understand who your content reaches. It offers a great breakdown of the audience that finds your content relevant.

LinkedIn Today still has to build upon it’s offered sources and available industries, but for people like me looking for IT, internet and marketing news, it’s a great way to have professional members help filter the overload and influx of news content you get from many other aggregators.

As the company builds up its news providers, it might turn into a great channel for B2B content marketers who already generate shares, and I’m hoping for options to connect with fellow readers (even if the insight on who’s reading is valuable social data in itself). While we still need to see the overall impact of LinkedIn Today over time, it’s an impressive step forward for LinkedIn, and it will well serve its 100 million members – and the 1 million it adds every week.