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Why the Trade Press Should Worry About LinkedIn

I started my career in the newspaper industry long before the Internet and 24/7 news channels completely disrupted the business.

I was lucky, I jumped on the Internet bandwagon long before most of my colleagues saw it as a real opportunity (or a threat). While I was busy learning how to code and build commercially viable online properties they, in my humble opinion, fiddled while Rome burned.

LinkedIn - Trade Press

Thinking back, it was staggering how many apparently clever, experienced and commercially minded newspaper people told me that they didn’t consider the likes of eBay, Monster.com, Rightmove, etc. etc. as a threat.

I don’t need to tell you what happened next.

Once robust titles haemorrhaged advertising dollars (the life blood of any print publication) and as a result staff had to be let go. In a vain attempt to survive media companies merged and attempted to diversify their interests (more often than not, desperately hanging on to the coat tails of cooler, more success online brands). Daily titles went weekly, others simply closed down.

While the newspaper industry limped along, the trade press was able to capitalize on its one core strength – the niche audience it serves which allowed them to charge a premium for on and offline content, advertising, events, data, etc. etc.

I would never suggest the trade press have had it easy. I know how difficult it can be to sell space in a publication or trade show (because people try and sell to me every day) and costs can be crippling – but it is amazing what you can do with a small, highly focused team targeting a clearly defined demographic.

I also believe things are going to get much harder for trade publications with the major winds of change coming from Internet behemoths like LinkedIn.

The LinkedIn platform is getting better and better. It is so much more than just a simple social network connecting business people with their peers. LinkedIn is already a powerful recruitment tool taking much needed recruitment advertising revenue away from the trade press.

LinkedIn Pulse

A screenshot of the Pulse Platform. (Via LinkedIn)

Its groups (when well managed) are an incredibly successful tool for engaging niche audiences and now, thanks to its blogging platform – Pulse (which is slowly being rolled out to everyone on the network – you can read some of my Pulse posts here). Linkedin is becoming a highly targeted and engaging editorial platform.

The professional status of the average LinkedIn user helps to ensure that content is of a high quality, meaning there are no Farmville-type games and very few Twitter “cheese sandwich” comments.

LinkedIn already provides the bare bones of a platform to disrupt any niche trade publication. As they develop their content platform – they will have the potential to completely upend the industry.

For several years now, we (the marketers, the PRs, the entrepreneurs) have been led to believe that we have the potential to take on the media at its own game. Some have been able to harness the power of their blogs, their social media and email marketing to make massive strides in this direction.

For the rest of us, reach has always been the challenge. But now we have a platform with a ready-built community – the media world (and in particular the trade press) must be very afraid.

If you work in the trade publishing industry – the time to act and future proof your business is now. The complacent amongst you might be tempted to dismiss this as an idle threat – if you find yourself in this position – perhaps you should ask your peers in the newspaper industry how that worked.

Want a cheat sheet for LinkedIn and 9 other social networks? Download this free Vocus guide now!

Image: Esther Vargas (Creative Commons)

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