LinkedIn is sometimes forgotten in the huge shadow of Facebook, but it has managed to carve out a distinct niche as a professional network–and even beat Facebook to public stock status last year. It has also crafted a business model that, unlike many Web sites, even social networks, doesn’t depend chiefly on advertising. In its fourth quarter, its $168 million in revenues included $85 million from hiring solutions, $33 million in premium subscriptions, and $50 million in marketing solutions (advertising).
Will ads, the slowest-growing part of the business at 77% growth from last year, become a bigger part of the business? That’s what I was curious to find out from CEO Jeff Weiner, a former longtime Yahoo executive before joining LinkedIn in 2008. Here are some highlights of Weiner’s talk today at Federated Media Publishing’s Signal SF conference in San Francisco with Federated Executive Chairman John Battelle:
Question: LinkedIn is a media company, but many people may not think of it that way.
Weiner: A third of our business is generated through marketing solutions, or advertising. There’s the LinkedIn home page. LinkedIn Today is essentially your personalized trade magazine. And LinkedIn Groups, more than a million groups. All of these are environments for marketers to get their messages out. You can target these folks like you can’t anywhere else–that is, people in their professional lives. Because people are updating their LinkedIn profiles, we can target them with relevant ads.
Question: Are things like Facebook’s Timeline where you’re going, or already are?
Weiner: That’s where we already are. We’ve got a series of marketing solutions products. We have a company-following feature. A company like IBM has 600,000 followers. That follower ecosystem is proving to be very effective for marketers.
Question: How do you deal with marketer fatigue in social? Will there be consolidated?
Weiner: Marketers have only so many cycles. The marketers are going to gravitate to their target audiences and where they can get the biggest bang for the buck. That will serve us well.
Question: Will there be a lot of applications built on top of LinkedIn and its API? Anything as big as Zynga on Facebook?
Weiner: We do offer applications on LinkedIn. They just don’t happen to be as big a priority as [our own] features. Update: In the heat of liveblogging, it seems I misinterpreted what Weiner said. He actually said while the company encourages apps both off LinkedIn, using its API program, and onLinkedIn.com, it prioritizes the former.
Question: Would you ever integrate with Facebook somehow?
Weiner: We’re open to integrating on whatever platform makes sense. With a very clear focus on creating value for our members, 80% of whom want to keep their personal and professional lives separate.
Question: What’s going on at Yahoo?
Weiner: One of the biggest challenges for Yahoo is that its core value proposition was helping people organize the Web. But it becomes increasingly difficult when you get specialists to compete in every one of those categories. The company still has amazing assets–audience scale, data, advertising infrastructure. The more focused the company can be and the better it can articulate its value proposition, the better off it will be.
Question: What’s your take on Google today?
Weiner: You have to give a lot of credit to Larry and the executive team. It’s not easy to reorient a company of that size. The fact that they’ve been able to get everyone rowing in the same direction, toward social, is impressive. It will be interesting to see how it comes out. They’ve got an incredible team at scale–engineering, technologies.
Question: When is the LinkedIn iPad app coming?
Weiner: We don’t preannounce anything. But it’s the single most demanded product or service and we like to please customers. We see a big spike up in traffic on tablets at 8 a.m. just before people come into the office, and again on the couch after work.
Question (audience): Will LinkedIn data be available to advertisers for targeting?
Weiner: Only the public stuff if members allow it.