Business Mags Should Be Very Afraid of LinkedIn’s New Project

When you think of business mags like Inc., Forbes, or Fortune, the first thing that comes to mind is probably their lists: the Inc. 5000, “30 Under 30,” “40 Under 40.”

The next thing that comes to mind is how it was total B.S. that you were left off those lists.

Then comes the part where you double-check to make sure none of your biggest rivals made them.

Finally, you spend 30 minutes tracking down the LinkedIn profiles of whoever puts these lists together, plotting how you can charm them and buy them enough drinks so you make the cut next year.

Even if you’re not as obsessively insecure as I am, there’s a good chance you still care about these arbitrary rankings, which have become the traffic-driving, life-saving cash cow of business journalism. But if I were an editor at one of those pubs, I’d be a little worried right now: LinkedIn is storming the farm, and it’s coming for Bessie.[note]Okay, no more cow/farm metaphors. [/note]

This week, LinkedIn introduced “LinkedIn Next Wave: Top Professionals 35 & Under,” an incredibly detailed list of 150 young innovators changing 15 key industries. It’s the first iteration in a new, concerted effort by LinkedIn to release detailed rankings every quarter that make us lose our collective shit. (They’re literally calling the initiative “LinkedIn Lists.”)

It’s also the latest step in LinkedIn’s quest to become the definitive professional publishing platform, the place where you not only go to find a job, but also get all your business-related news and advice, learn new job skills, and publish your own thought leadership.

In this quest to obliterate business mags, lists are an incredibly easy and powerful win. Armed with the a treasure trove of data about our professional lives, LinkedIn has the ability to do it better than anyone else.

And that’s just what it did, according to a post by LinkedIn Executive Editor Dan Roth:

In a network of more than 380 million professionals, surfacing 150 names isn’t trivial. We relied on a combination of data, editorial insights, and Influencer ideas to forge the list.

Senior Data Scientist Caitlin Crump looked at information such as which profiles were most viewed by members in the same industry; social engagement performance; the frequency that candidates appeared in the news, using Newsle data; and more. The unflappable Chip Cutter[note]Editor’s Note: This sounds like a character who was cut from Boogie Nights because his name was too unrealistic[/note], a senior editor on our team, managed the editorial process. He searched for the top trending topics, companies and news events over the last year as a way to surface potential names to round out the list. He also polled LinkedIn Influencers such as DonorsChoose CEO Charles Best and Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman to vet and suggest professionals in their industries.

The amount of editorial legwork LinkedIn put behind these rankings is impressive. The editorial teamĀ profiled many of the people on this list over the last year with blog posts, SlideShares, and videos. For instance, check out this EDM-heavy video of Contently co-founder Shane Snow, which our senior editor, Jordan Teicher, initially thought was Shane’s audition tape for Zoolander 2:

These new lists are particularly smart because they bring LinkedIn’s content strategy full-circle. The company initially restricted its publishing platform to an exclusive group of Influencers like Richard Branson and Martha Stewart, as well as up-and-coming entrepreneurs like Shane. Then, 19 months ago, LinkedIn opened it up to everyone, and over 1 million people have published a post since. Now that more users are using the network to consume news and publish their thoughts, these rankings will let LinkedIn shine the spotlight back on the platform’s big appeal: access to the Influencers you want to know.

So what’s next for LinkedIn? Besides publishing a new mega-list every quarter, it won’t be long before Lynda.com, which LinkedIn purchased for $1.5 billion in April, adds a massive collection of educational content to the platform. Also, I expect LinkedIn’s editorial team to develop Pulse sections, like Leadership & Management, into more full-fledged publications. And hell, maybe they’ll even make Zoolander 2. That $450 million on hand isn’t going to spend itself.

Image by LinkedIn

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