Don't know if you noticed, but LinkedIn has an editor now.
Just think about that for a second. A professional social networking site has hired a content focused executive away from a traditional media company's digital arm. Isn't LinkedIn doing terrifically well with it's recruiting focused business? Isn't ad-supported content a tough place to be? Why would LinkedIn hire away Dan Roth from Fortune a few months ago.
What LinkedIn is realizing is indicative of a recent trend--that the best use of online content as a business might be as a synergistic compliment to other activites. Take Refinery29, for example. The "HuffPo for Fashion" site has seemlessly integrated its Reserve deals with the same fashion brands it often writes about. Conflict? Please! Picked up a fashion magazine lately? For years and years fashion magazines have known for years that editorial and advertising is a blurry one at best--and it's what the consumer wants anyway. The consumer picks up a fashion magazine with the mindset of "Show me what to buy." That might mean a great branding initiative or deal from a sponsor or it could mean a story on a cutting edge trend. Either way, quality and relevancy seem to ring more authentic to the consumer than the economics of how it got in front of my eyeballs.
LinkedIn realizes that it needs to be not just a place to get a job--but to be knowledgable enough to be on the cutting edge of your industry. In a way, it has a responsibility to keep it's "product"--the professionals on the site--in the know. In this case, content improves the offer. Similarly, when I'm reading a piece of content, I may want to spread it across my professional network--and especially when I'm publishing one. I can't wait until I can write a post about startups and make sure it gets to every entrepreneur within two degrees of me on LinkedIn.
The Wall Street Journal is getting into the community and content game as well with their soon to be released stealth GetSocial effort.
Publishers like TechCrunch and Business Insider are active in the events business, just as O'Reilly has been for years. There are a ton of synergies here. Having an online audience enables you to sell an event to your community--lowering cost of customer acquisition--but it also allows you to create unique. exclusive content out of what happened at the conference. Why cover news without any information advantage when you can setup a forum for news to break right in your lap?
Brands and advertisers are getting into the fold, too. Content brings communities of shared interests together, allowing brands to tell their message directly to their audience. Agencies like Beyond are helping brands become little publishers themselves.
Quite a blurry little content world we're creating. Seems to me that anyone wanting to get into the pure content business or have a career in it needs to start thinking more creatively about what business goals of the stakeholders in their field are complimented by content.
Other publishers are looking at these new models and the tools needed to find synergies, pivot, and move forward, and thinking that innovative startups might be able to help them.
Take CNN/Money. They've invited the startup community to come pitch them on what they can do to help CNN/Money innovate. If you're in the business of helping publishers transform, improve, and jumpstart their offering, you absolutely need to apply to pitch (deadline is today). The winners will pitch their wares in front of a live audience and a panel of experts (VCs, executives at CNN/Money) for a chance at a real business offering.
The last time this nextNY event was done with the Daily News, one company, Olapic, got a distribution deal (and revenue) that changed the nature of their business. If you can use CNN/Money as a partner, there's no excuse not to give it a shot. If you just want to attend and see what startups are changing the future of publishing, you can RSVP here.