Tuesday, July 29, 2014

LinkedIn and the End of an Affair

Not long ago, it was all the rage to ask, always rhetorically, whether Facebook, Twitter and Google were media companies. The answers, as convincing as the sound of one hand clapping, still hang in the air, largely ignored.  We now know every X, Y or Z will sooner or later become a media company, even LinkedIn.

LinkedIn, the trusty service that helped me network my way up through those treacherous New York media ranks, is more ubiquitous these days and therefore potentially a pain in the ass. What used to be a friendly reminder to congratulate friend John Smith for surviving one more year in that hell-hole of a company, is now a daily reminder to congratulate someone in my muscular network for crossing the street, showing up on time or having a tight epigram retweeted to the masses.  While I applaud the powers-that-are for trying to meld me and my LinkedIn connections into one highly-connected and indulgent family, I’d like to remind them that it is not necessary or even wise corporate policy.  Aren’t we doing enough for your business by letting you market our names to your growing list of advertisers who are improving your share price?  You don’t need to bombard me with tons of emails.  I will still love you in the morning.

Now let me count the ways.  I appreciate that LinkedIn sent me a personal invitation to write for their new Special Edition site.  How could I refuse?  The template is one click away and so are the instructions.  First, I should write thoughts, presumably my own.  Second, I should not misspell any words or offer images that don’t look good.  The example offered is about writing killer content for LinkedIn. 

Dear LinkedIn: for a site devoted to media professionals and anyone else you can collect, I am surprised you provide a writing template that might be better suited to a sixth grade class in the Bronx (no offense, Bronx).  I realize you are casting a wide net and are trying to be helpful. But we have been together a long time, and I thought you really knew something about me. Have all those data points I provided been wasted?  And what if I really want to write about the psychology of dreams or the Catholic Church’s suppression of the feminine?  Do I really have to go to medium.com to exercise these particular muscles?  What if that is a bridge too far? (medium.com/ChuckMcCullagh).

I don’t mean to sound like a spurned lover, but this is not the first time I’ve been disappointed.  Now about Pulse, the news readers you purchased in 2013 for a cool $90 million!  I liked Pulse before the purchase and was excited about the prospects after the purchase.  I’m sorry to say that I’m guessing all the “new” Pulse editors must work for LinkedIn because most of the content seemed very similar to the LinkedIn updates that I’ve grown accustomed to ignoring.  I like and have flown Virgin Airways but don’t think Richard Branson has much to teach me about hard-scrabble ways to manage my small business.  Or the other rich and famous you offer me on a regular basis.

Since we now have this personal thing going, I fully understand why you are shifting the company focus away from media professionals like me who just want to puff up our resumes and brag about our “connections” and move in the direction of a genuine B2B platform.  Though you might have been late to the game, your purchase of Slide Share for $119 million in 2012 makes sense.  Who doesn’t like to share a slide show?  And your recent acquisition of Bizo, the ad-tech platform for $170 million, is a dead giveaway that you are moving into that bland, impersonal, automatic ad sharing world that is driving Facebook stock price through the roof.  I understand that now I will be even more of a keyword, a data point, or a hiccup on a cluster.  Use me as you see fit.  Anyway, the arrangement has always been uneven.

I’m not saying you’re wrong and am definitely not pointing the finger.  I’m hardly a bystander.  But you’ll be the first to know when that # Executive Recruiter calls me for the very first time. 

Count on it. 

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