Now that we are all having second thoughts about Facebook, maybe it is time to start logging in to LinkedIn again. I did that for the first time in a few weeks and was surprised to find a new widget on the lower right hand side of my home page called “News for You (Beta).” It appears to be a news feed informed by my profile, perhaps by the companies I’ve worked for.
The LinkedIn news widget has four headlines that link out to the original stories, and the whole thing is “powered by Google.” (Not clear if it is Google News or something else.)
This really is a beta because there is no way to click for more headlines, and the stories seem to be associated with my former employer Business 2.0, even though I’ve updated my profile to list TechCrunch as my current employer. The four headlines LinkedIn picked are one about SAP (boring), one about Salesforce.com (newsy), one about tech conferences (got me pegged on that one), and one about Facebook (right company, wrong story—no mention of the Beacon controversy). The four stories are all from trade publications or newspapers. No blogs. I am not super-impressed.
But maybe you have to train it to make it relevant. Above the widget is another box that says “Help build “News for you”: Click here to help LinkedIn build a custom news feed for you and your colleagues at Business 2.0.” When I click on that, it takes me to another page where I can enter company names and topics that I want news about. I type in a few names and keywords, and go back to my home page. Still the same headlines. Maybe this thing really isn’t turned on yet.
But customized news feeds based on the company or industry you work for could help motivate business types to check in to LinkedIn more often. My suggestion: Give members the option to choose their favorite news sources (including blogs) when they are training the application. Then favor those sources in the feed, but still surface stories from elsewhere below. That way you’d get both self-directed targeting and serendipity.