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A vision of LinkedIn as a place that "makes the business world smarter" lured MediaNext keynoter Dan Roth from a successful career in traditional media to lead the editorial operations at the social network for business professionals.
Informing business professionals had always been top of mind for Roth, who spent many years as a writer for Fortune and Wired, and who eventually led Fortune's digital offerings. However, the opportunity to directly reach the vast network of digital professionals that LinkedIn serves by building up its information-sharing infrastructure was too appealing to resist.
But why, as Roth's keynote topic at FOLIO:'s MediaNext conference in New York posited, does LinkedIn actually need an executive editor? While LinkedIn "used to be focused on connecting people," he says "now it is as much about connecting people with ideas."
That connection of people and ideas is something Roth believes all modern media companies should be focused on. "The role of the media is being a conversation starter," he says. "A great headline, a great quote-these are great reasons to reach out to someone."
While he says there are certainly people reading to educate themselves on a subject and to "get smarter" the vast majority of readers leverage media as a means to put forth a view, interests, and opinions to their network to generate interaction and help develop their social and professional connections and standing (and, he points out, they used to do so by clipping and sharing newspaper articles, so this isn't something that is entirely new to the social media era).
Roth provided specific guidance for publishers seeking to increase their visibility in LinkedIn's curated content sections on its homepage and at LinkedIn Today--which Roth says can "drive enough traffic to crash your servers"--such as including that all important "share" button at the top and bottom of every page and being sure to share their own articles on LinkedIn (the more it is shared, the more LinkedIn's algorithms view it as "important to the business community).
He also provided some broader insights based on his experience in new and old media, as well as his own media consumption (and sharing) habits. He suggests that every article include pictures, as they are a consistent driver of traffic. He also says that snappy, opinionated headlines lend themselves to social proliferation.
Above all, sites must provide an opportunity for reader feedback, engagement, and conversation. "I can't stand reading sites where there aren't comments," says Roth who points to the incredible quantity and quality of comments on the LinkedIn Influencers pages, but also to those on sites he really enjoys, such as Mashable where almost all of the articles end with the line "What do you think?"
"When I get to the end of an article, no matter how brilliantly written," Roth says, "if there are no comments, [it] feels unfinished to me. I want to hear someone add something that carries the conversation forward or says why it is wrong." And he is not alone. Roth points out that "despite a lot of people expressing concern about people consuming media, we can see that people love the news. They are reading at a furious rate, but occasionally," he says, "I hear about a media company that has issues with sharing and social media. We're all struggling to make money, but you need to make sure your readers have a voice."