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LinkedIn Tries to Address Its Yogi Berra Popularity Problem

LinkedIn has a Yogi Berra problem: "Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded." As my BNET colleague Jim Edwards wrote, the company's IPO filing indicated that most users don't even visit once a month. In a bid to get more user engagement, the company announced LinkedIn Today, a service to deliver professionally related news.

At first glance, LinkedIn Today sounds like an interesting angle. There are various so-called social news services that present what the people to whom you are connected are reading, watching, and sharing. LinkedIn Today does the same thing, only with a business focus. You can look at suggestions from your network or news that is popular across one of several specific industries.

That's the happy face view. But LinkedIn still has a problem. For social news services to be effective, people have to use them regularly, not only to see what is available, but to share stories that could potentially become part of the feed. They make sense for users who already go to sites like Twitter. And that's exactly what doesn't happen at the company, as its IPO filing states:

The number of registered members in our network is higher than the number of actual members because some members have multiple registrations, other members have died or become incapacitated, and others may have registered under fictitious names. Given the challenges inherent in identifying these accounts, we do not have a reliable system to accurately identify the number of actual members, and thus we rely on the number of registered members as our measure of the size of our network. Further, a substantial majority of our members do not visit our website on a monthly basis, and a substantial majority of our page views are generated by a minority of our members.
So LinkedIn doesn't know how many unique users it has, a "substantial majority" doesn't visit even on a monthly basis, and most of the traffic (and, presumably, shared links) come from a minority of users.

To make use of the new service, members will need to change their habits and actually stop by. However, there doesn't seem to be enough in this new service to make them change their habits, and that's not likely to make the company's IPO look any sweeter.

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