LinkedIn's Newsle buy a boost for b-to-b communicators

LinkedIn is poised to become an even more valuable tool for b-to-b communicators after incorporating Newsle into its platform.

LinkedIn has become a more attractive tool for b-to-b communications following its acquisition of Newsle, a Web app that alerts users when their contacts are mentioned in articles or blog posts, say PR execs who use the platform.

While the app will continue to operate as a standalone service, it will gradually be incorporated into LinkedIn, both companies said in separate blog posts announcing the deal on Monday.

Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Rick Summer, senior equity strategist for technology at investment research firm Morningstar, says the deal could help LinkedIn boost user engagement. Earlier this year, the company revealed that page views had slipped for two consecutive quarters. If Newsle can increase page views, Summer suggests LinkedIn may be able to charge more for advertising.

However, above all, he notes the likely goal of the acquisition is to strengthen the business-focused service’s ability to help users share their professional ideas online.

"The idea of professional identity has become very important and one of the ways people are trying to express that is through content," Summer explains. "We see a lot of product synergy with this deal. It also helps LinkedIn protect the data it has by encouraging users to update and maintain their professional identities."

Newsle is the latest service to add another layer of content to LinkedIn. Over the past 18 months, the professional social network has given users the ability to publish long-form posts, as well as add photos, videos, and presentations to their profiles. In April, LinkedIn unveiled its Certified Content Partner Program to help companies expand their followings by connecting them with content producers, publishers, and tech platforms.

Thomas Gensemer, chief strategy officer at Burson-Marsteller, explains that agencies were using the service as a thought-leadership platform for clients and their executives.

"We were already preaching LinkedIn to our clients, especially in b-to-b, as a great platform for corporate reputation work," he says. "It is a way for companies to harness their storytellers internally and find an audience for them."

Gensemer contends that Newsle could make LinkedIn even more crucial to a corporate-reputation strategy because it bridges content about connections from outside LinkedIn’s own social network.

"A tool that constantly updates with more recent news and thoughts is a nice fit so long as the integration goes well," he adds.

LinkedIn has more than 300 million members worldwide, with 100 million in the US, says Joe Roualdes, senior manager of corporate communications for LinkedIn. Founded in 2010, Newsle has about 2 million users. Cofounders Jonah Varon and Axel Hansen, along with the startup’s team of engineers, will stay onboard following the acquisition.

Roualdes says Newsle will help PR pros keep tabs on reporters, analysts, clients, and business-development needs. The company also sees it as a way for recruiters to stay abreast of potential candidates.

"Newsle can help recruiters track a hot prospect by alerting them when he or she is featured in blogs and articles," notes Roualdes. "They can then use that as an opportunity to follow up and continue to build the relationship."

Though Roualdes declined to provide specifics, he says LinkedIn will continue to make "improvements that will provide members with insights that enable professionals to do their jobs better. We think Newsle is one way to help us in that effort."

Andy Cunningham, president and founder of SeriesC, met Newsle executives about a year ago. She was excited by the direction they were taking.

"Newsle is a perfect fit for LinkedIn," she suggests. "It is a great way to spot and track influencers within a given network. It is also a great way to reinforce influencers – give them encouragement and psychic rewards – for producing coverage of client matters either directly or as sources for thought that relates back to clients."

Linda Perry-Lube, RF|Binder's chief digital officer, notes that Newsle can help agencies and clients, particularly in the b-to-b space, identify influencers within their LinkedIn network.

"This doesn’t replace other tools you would use to find influencers, but it is another way for clients to sift through all the noise and find people who are truly influential," she explains. "It would be especially helpful in b-to-b because LinkedIn is such a great way to disseminate information for those companies."

Cassie Menn, SVP at FleishmanHillard, says there is a shift underway in how some b-to-b enterprises are leveraging LinkedIn. Because it is a content aggregator for business knowledge, she adds, different departments within enterprises are recognizing that it isn’t just a place for résumé-sharing.

Menn discovered that first-hand in a previous client-side role. Before joining Fleishman this month, she spent four years as global social media lead and PR manager for the Americas for Intertek, a multinational inspection, product testing, and certification company.

"LinkedIn has started to create more internal dynamic communications between functions of the business," notes Menn. "That is because HR is using it as a recruitment tool, but you also have marketing using it to reach customers and sales using it as a business-development tool. It forces company departments to really work in a more collaborative way and figure out an overall strategy as it relates to LinkedIn."

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