Rumour: News Corp to buy LinkedIn

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[UpdateHoffman has responded]

An unconfirmed rumour has reached me via a reliable source that LinkedIn is in talks with media giant News Corporation over a possible buyout in January 2008. The reason I am running with this, is that the source is very well-placed. Furthermore, the rumour has the fundamental ring of truth about it. Consider the following.

LinkedIn is firmly in the mainstream. Most of its users are mature professionals and it has a healthy number of early adopters. These people are gradually abandoning recruitment advertising in newspapers. Instead they use LinkedIn and sites like it – even, increasingly, Facebook – to build their professional network and advance their careers. In particular, LinkedIn appeals to the top of the professional market because older business people have a tougher time seeing the value of Facebook’s wackiness. News Corporation, headed by the shrewd Rupert Murdoch, owns some of the premier advertising properties aimed at top-tier professionals including The Wall Street Journal and (in the UK) The Times and The Sunday Times. (Murdoch was smart enough to buy MySpace when it was ‘just’ $580m in 2005, long before the billions associated with Facebook).

In the new environment of professional online networking Newspaper classified advertising is becoming an anachronism (as I have argued in the distant past), and this trend is reflected in the decline of the advertising market in the newspaper sector.
Newspaper advertising is plummeting in the US, down 7.4 per cent year on year. In the UK classified advertising was down 8 per cent in 2006 and will decrease further this year, according to a forecast by media-buying network Zenith Optimedia. Meanwhile online spending grew by more than 41 per cent in 2006 to just over £2 billion, according to figures released by the Internet Advertising Bureau.

However, while online revenue is growing it isn’t offsetting the declines in print revenue. So newspapers need another way to monetise their online operations, and social networking – which is eating into classified revenues – is the natural route to take.

LinkedIn is also on an upward growth path which makes it a good acquisition target. It has more than 16 million registered users globally, spanning 150 industries in more than 400 economic regions and in the last year it experienced 189% growth. It is now the largest professional networking site in the UK, with over 1m users. It has a high calibre of members too – senior executives for 96 of the FTSE 100 companies have their own LinkedIn profile pages. In the US, all of the Fortune 500 companies have an executive level presence.

In January LinkedIn, which has been profitable since March 2006, announced a $12.8 million round of financing led by Bessemer and the European Founders Fund, bringing the total raised since launch to$26 million. The company had something over $10 million in revenue in 2006, and said they’ll do substantially more than that in 2007.

In the UK LinkedIn competes to some extent with with Ecademy, and in Xing in Europe/Asia, though its biggest competitor globally is Facebook. But the latter is too expensive a prize for News Corporation, even allowing for the tactical errors it’s made in recent weeks, which will have downgraded it from its $15 billion valuation, and the launch of Google’s competing OpenSocial platform for social applications.

There’s a further reason that LinkedIn could be in talks with News Corporation. Chairman and founder Reid Hoffman was this week in London to speak at MediaTech and an Oxford University event, affording him ample opportunity to visit News Corp executives here.

Although Hoffman hired a new CEO and became chairman in February he is still deeply involved in the business. Interestingly, in an interview with the Daily Telegraph this week, he was quoted as saying: “I would make LinkedIn a public company – but not until we’ve finished innovating. I find companies are more innovative when they’re private.”

This may indicate that LinkedIn will spend the remainder of this year working on the OpenSocial integration, prior to a sale. With Facebook snapping at its heels, it’s hard to see another route for it to take.

  • I Am Not Posting To Spam My Blog

    I’ve only just started reading the UK edition of TechCrunch. Are the terrible Photoshops a running gag or are they meant to be genuine illustrations? Or is this one a clever visual statement that LinkedIn doesn’t fit into Murdoch’s business picture unless you squash it horribly?

  • Mike Butcher

    The photoshops? Just a little fun.

  • http://www.techcrunch.com/2007/11/22/news-corp-looking-to-buy-linkedin/ News Corp Looking To Buy LinkedIn

    […] Newscorp is said to be talks to buy business social networking service LinkedIn, according to TechCrunch UK. Full story here. […]

  • http://www.lucafiligheddu.com/2007/11/news-corp-to-buy-linkedin.html News Corp to buy LinkedIn ? | LucaFiligheddu.com

    […] TechCrunch UK: An unconfirmed rumour has reached me via a reliable source that LinkedIn is in talks with media […]

  • Paul Smith

    I heard this rumour from the same source. It’s not true. Why not post News Corp is going to buy Digg which is another bogus rumour just because they used the service. Mike Arrington was write Techcrunch needs a break before it becomes ValleyWag

  • Mike Butcher

    @Paul Smith – Why? Because Digg is not a good fit for News Corp. LinkedIn is, for the reason’s stated.

  • http://www.clearmymail.com Dan Field

    Yes.. would make sense for News Corp – its a very good match.

    As a profitable and very useful business, it will be interesting to see sale what value is put on LinkedIn.

    Also interesting to see which direction LinkedIn takes… be good to see them add more social features now that they are part of OpenSocial.

  • http://paulmwatson.com/journal Paul M. Watson

    True or not I’d remove all my details from Linked In if it was bought by Rupert Murdoch. Don’t trust him as far as I can throw him.

  • http://www.searchtoppers.com David Hurowitz

    If the rumor is true then this would be a very timely acquisition, LinkedIn, would not only be a great compliment to the suite of online properties owned by News Corp. But it would further level the playing field amongst the larger corporation try to manage the future of this space.

  • http://www.centernetworks.com/rumor-news-corp-to-buy-linkedin CenterNetworks

    LinkedIn To Be Gobbled Up By News Corp?…

    Mike Butcher from TechcrunchUK has a source on a rumor of News Corp. acquiring LinkedIn in 2008. I like this a lot. This makes absolute sense for News Corp who needs to get deeper online and since LinkedIn works for the business crowd and there is some…

  • http://fr.techcrunch.com/2007/11/22/newscorp-racheterait-linkedin/ TechCrunch en français » NewsCorp rachèterait LinkedIn

    […] Newscop serait en pourparlers pour le rachat du réseau social business LinkedIn,  selon TechCrunchUK. Billet complet ici. […]

  • http://handelaar.org John Handelaar

    Will they screw up their time-spent-per-session numbers if page load times come down to under 2 minutes each?

  • gregory

    @ john handelaar… nice comment.. lol

  • incredulous

    There’s a further reason that LinkedIn could be in talks with News Corporation. Chairman and founder Reid Hoffman was this week in London to speak at MediaTech and an Oxford University event, affording him ample opportunity to visit News Corp executives here.

    are you high or bored or stupid?

  • http://www.lostremote.com/2007/11/22/news-corp-looking-to-buy-linkedin/ News Corp looking to buy LinkedIn? - Lost Remote TV Blog

    […] of all, TechCrunch says “an unconfirmed rumour has reached me via a reliable source,” so take this with a grain […]

  • http://www.techaddress.com/2007/11/22/linkedin-to-be-gobbled-up-by-news-corp/ LinkedIn To Be Gobbled Up By News Corp?  »TechAddress

    […] Butcher from TechcrunchUK has a source on a rumor of News Corp. acquiring LinkedIn in 2008. I like this a lot. This makes […]

  • http://techwag.com/index.php/2007/11/22/rumor-mill-newscorp-to-purchase-linkedin/ Rumor mill Newscorp to purchase Linkedin | TechWag

    […] Linkedin has a clean interface, if they go to the 15 ad per page model that Newscorp uses on MySpace, there will no longer be a compelling reason to use Linkedin, nor will the user experience be anything nice, clean and simple. Nice clean and simple works, it works well. While there is nothing wrong with monetizing a web site, there are clear benefits to not going overboard like many web sites seem to do. LinkedIn is firmly in the mainstream. Most of its users are mature professionals and it has a healthy number of early adopters. These people are gradually abandoning recruitment advertising in newspapers. Instead they use LinkedIn and sites like it – even, increasingly, Facebook – to build their professional network and advance their careers. In particular, LinkedIn appeals to the top of the professional market because older business people have a tougher time seeing the value of Facebook’s wackiness. Techcrunch UK […]

  • http://www.broadstuff.com alanp

    Even if this particular rumour is untrue, its not such a daft idea for the strategic reasons Mike outlined.

    The “pro” Social Network market is still undervalued, whereas in the (somewhat) overvalued consumer sector News Int’l owns the 800lb Gorilla already.

  • armchairanalyst

    Makes sense, but could also be just a business deal related to the new business news section that LinkedIn is beta testing. Plus, Microsoft would always outbid News Corp. They couldn’t afford to let LinkedIn get away.

  • http://crenk.com/2007/11/22/linkedin-in-talks-with-news-corp-murdoch-on-the-prowl-again/ Linkedin in Talks With News Corp: Murdoch On The Prowl Again | Crenk

    […] has been reported this morning on Techcrunch UK that Linkedin might be in talks with News Corp about a possible buyout in January 2008.  Mike says […]

  • http://www.digitalpodcast.com/podcastnews/2007/11/22/will-news-corp-buy-linkedin/ Will News Corp Buy LinkedIn? » Digital Podcast

    […] TechCrunch UK is reporting that: An unconfirmed rumour has reached me via a reliable source that LinkedIn is in talks with media giant News Corporation over a possible buyout in January 2008. […]

  • http://www.incubaweb.com/2425/rumores/linkedin-en-fase-de-venta-a-news-corp/ Linkedin en fase de venta a News Corp - Incubaweb 2.0 Bitácora del Software, Web 2.0, Beta, Windows, Linux, Mac OS X, Open Source, ....

    […] Vía | TechCrunch UK […]

  • http://ogston.com/blog/2007/11/news-corp-to-buy-linkedin/ News Corp to buy LinkedIn | matthew ogston: social publisher

    […] UK starts an inevitable rumour News Corp to buy LinkedIn. Share this…: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover […]

  • http://siddman.wordpress.com/2007/11/22/rumor-news-corp-in-buyout-talks-with-linkedin/ Rumor: News Corp. in buyout talks with LinkedIn « Darker Me

    […] News Corp. in buyout talks with LinkedIn TechCrunch UK is reporting an “unconfirmed rumour” via a “well-placed” and “reliable” […]

  • http://pulse2.com/2007/11/22/rumor-news-corp-to-acquire-linkedin/ » Rumor: News Corp. To Acquire LinkedIn? || Pulse 2.0: Web 2.0 Reviews & Profiles || » Blog Archive

    […] Butcher of TechCrunch UK is reporting a story that News Corporation may acquire LinkedIn.  Butcher mentioned that nothing is official, but his […]

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