Why LinkedIn might regret opening its publishing platform

Think long term.
Think long term.
Image: AP Photo / Paul Sakuma
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Today, LinkedIn announced that it will open its publishing platform to all of its users. The current influencer program of executive and expert blog posts has helped grow site traffic by about 30 million unique visitors (pdf) since it launched in 2012. But the expansion could make the site more crowded and potentially reduce the appeal of spending time on LinkedIn.

Currently, 25,000 users now have the ability to publish to the site and follow each other, even if they haven’t formally connected. This will be extended to others over the next few weeks and months.

LinkedIn’s goal is to offer more than just networking and job search but also career advice and news. That would support LinkedIn’s ad business and its profitable corporate recruiting tools. The influencer program, comprised of around 500 influential writers like Jack Welch and Barack Obama, produces on average posts that receive 31,000 views and 80-plus comments.

But opening the platform up to LinkedIn’s 277 million users could lead to a flood of less than desirable content within individual networks, especially if it’s simply self-promotional. That’s exactly the kind of content that leads people to remove Facebook friends from their NewsFeed or avoid looking at a platform on a daily basis. Facebook has grappled with this and recently changed up its NewsFeed algorithm in an attempt to promote better content.

LinkedIn head of content products Ryan Roslansky believes that users will want to post good content since it will be directly tied to their professional identity. Heavily promotional posts don’t drive engagement, so won’t likely surface or be well-received, he adds. Users won’t see every post but instead those based on their profile, interests, and network.

“Posts that drive a high level of engagement are likely to get surfaced beyond a member’s network by a combination of our algorithm and our editorial team,” Roslansky wrote in email to Quartz.

A post will initially remain in a closed network, shared only with connections and followers. The potential to reach a wider audience could drive people to write. But they’ll have to choose their words wisely. The most read posts on LinkedIn tend to be broad career advice like “11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader,” or posts written by well-known figures like Bill Gates or Richard Branson.