The release of LinkedIn Today last month didn’t surprise me. If you’ve noticed the rise of Facebook and Twitter, which effectively aggregate news from our friends and colleagues, the eclipsing of newspaper sites by blogs such as The Huffington Post and Mashable, and Yahoo!’s capitulation in the search engine race in favour of becoming an entertainment news portal, it seems inevitable that LinkedIn would follow suit.
In it’s current format LinkedIn Today aggregates news from three sources: your LinkedIn contacts (i.e. links they’ve shared via their status updates), people in your industry (though at the moment this is limited to a handful of industries), and “trending topics” (i.e. things you ought to be aware of because they are generally popular).
So what’s clever about that?
Well – two things: firstly, news aggregated from people in your business networks is actually quite likely to be useful to you. I’m finding my Today page to be pretty well targeted; like a pre-configured version of Mashable or TechCrunch (my regular reads). Secondly, you get to see who’s “shared” each article. This isn’t instantly useful, but it is interesting and I can see that, over time, it will add another layer to my social graph, i.e. new opportunities to connect and network with useful people.
Is that worth creating a whole new service?
Well, actually, yes, maybe. If you’re a Twitter user, you’ll probably already be using it to create niche news channels that aggregate news from your contacts and colleagues. The problem is, there’s still lots of noise. With this LinkedIn offering the news is self-selecting: it contains only the most popularly shared stories – and there’s value in that. As they widen the scope of topics, as Mashable and other news sites did after they started out, I think it will become genuinely useful.
Having been through a creative black hole in recent years, LinkedIn might have come up with a winner. They’ve still got a long way to go to create genuinely valuable networks around personal LinkedIn accounts, but Today provides yet another reason to visit the site regularly.