Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mining Business Networks: Murdoch Pursues LinkedIn

TechCrunch picked up over the Thanksgiving holiday on a rumor that Rupert Murdoch is pursuing the acquisition of the LinkedIn social network, a rumor later denied by News Corporation in The Telegraph but which has more than a grain of strategic sense in it nevertheless. [UPDATE: VentureBeat provides comfirmation with details that parallel our original post.] With Fox Interactive Media head Peter Levinsohn confessing in a Reuters interview that he finds Facebook "substantially more entertaining" than their own MySpace, there's an acknowledgement that MySpace is more about traditional media in many ways than it is about the multi-dimensional networking that Facebook enables for adults in professional and personal roles. While MySpace's upcoming personal feeds will no doubt give MySpace a little more boost against the rapidly growing strength of Facebook it's clear that Murdoch has many fish to fry when it comes to attracting adults who are at the core of many of his holdings' revenue streams.

A LinkedIn acquisition would help News Corp to fill in not only dwindling business-oriented classifieds revenues as more jobs and services are posted and found on social media networks but as well give them a well-established network of professionals that could become the focal point of hard-core business information services that bridge media and enterprise markets. It's not likely that Murdoch's Dow Jones division will come up with a social network on its own to compete with financial communities on Bloomberg and Reuters networks, but with LinkedIn they would have the ability to have a key tool to help professionals network and execute enterprise business well beyond investment bank trading floors. That's likely to bolster revenues as Factiva database subscription revenues face tough times in a softening economy.

To some degree this might also help to solve some of the question marks as to how best to leverage the highly valuable network of Wall Street Journal subscribers, many of whom no doubt are LinkedIn members as well. What better way to give this elite business publication a powerful business social network than to equip it with the most popular business networking tool available to date? It's doubtful that the WSJ crowd would ever take MySpace seriously as a social networking environment, no matter how much News Corp tries to re-engineer it, so why waste time building one from scratch as potential rivals gear up their own efforts for business-oriented social networking? All of a sudden the idea of premium content takes on a whole new meaning in this context that can transform the WSJ community into an elite social networking community. In the meantime LinkedIn infrastructure can be repurposed to give MySpace some more adult angles as well for younger people who are looking for a Facebook alternative.

There are realistic options for LinkedIn other than News Corp, but few that would be able to leverage all of LinkedIn's value to its maximum potential. It's a logical and potentially powerful marriage of social media via an organization that understands both media and enterprise content value fluently. Murdoch is one of the few old-line publishers who really understands that the value in publishing is already way beyond the inventory that any one newsroom can create. In an era in which user-defined context is king, consider LinkedIn a key acquisition plum that's likely to be pulled out by a major player like NewsCorp sooner rather than later.
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