Inside the LinkedIn Newsroom — curating content and making news work

With the digital media climate of today, it’s been proven time and again that journalism is not only for legacy media. The LinkedIn editorial team has lately not only shown their muscles in the journalistic landscape — but have also continued to grow both their team and audience. So, how can a social media platform ‘hit the spot’ for news? What is the expected impact on audiences? How can other newsrooms work together with LinkedIn? And how does the machine learning algorithm help? LinkedIn’s Editor-at-Large, Isabelle Roughol, answered our questions on where the social media giant is taking its journalism initiative next.

GEN: How will Linkedin’s foray into journalism benefit its users who mostly use it for networking purposes/job hunting etc? What is LinkedIn’s mission at this point?

Isabelle Roughol: LinkedIn’s editorial team was founded in 2011 and the platform has rapidly evolved into a content destination since. LinkedIn’s mission is to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful. Content helps you do all of that: What you write and share helps explain to your employees, employer, business partners and more how you see the world, where you excel, what trends are coming, etc. And staying on top of trusted news helps professionals connect dots and stay smart, essential to getting ahead. Some outside research backs it up: According to a recent Pew report, 30% of LinkedIn users use LinkedIn to keep up with the news — a 7 point jump in one year, the largest of any platform they measure. And Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer found that 72% of professionals say they now stay engaged with the news — a 22-point jump in a year. Staying informed is an essential part of building a fulfilling career and an essential part of why people come to LinkedIn.

What is the mission of a journalist working at LinkedIn? What type of stories do they typically work on? Do they need a particular skill set that differs from a journalist working for a more traditional news organisation?

Our team’s mission is to provide professionals with the news and views they need to talk about things that matter today. We are focused on igniting and supporting meaningful conversations on the platform. Our editors create, curate and cultivate content on LinkedIn. Practically, that can mean:

  • writing the Daily Rundown, our daily digest of business news available in 12 editions and 7 languages. Distributed to 60 million people daily, it’s likely the world’s largest business publication;
  • curating Storylines, which highlight the best conversations happening around professional news;
  • editing LinkedIn Lists, such as LinkedIn Top Companies or Top Startups, and other stories that use LinkedIn’s Economic Graph to illuminate trends in the professional world;
  • covering economy-driving segments like healthcare, finance, tech or frontline workers;
  • interviewing business leaders in our New York or Bangalore video studios,

… or any number of other projects. But what sets everything that we do apart from what we did in our past lives is that success is getting professionals talking, not just reading. We’re actively focused on driving conversations from everything we do. We don’t just write a story, publish and let it go. We’re actively engaging LinkedIn members at every step to share their unique — and non-anonymous — perspective.

Our journalists typically come from top media outlets around the world. We’ve hired from The Wall Street Journal, Reuters, The Associated Press, Fortune, Wired, CNN, Sky News, CNBC, Exame, O Estado de São Paulo, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Nikkei, Mint… I was at Le Figaro before joining LinkedIn in 2012. We look for smart, savvy journalists who are entrepreneurial, adaptable to change, willing to learn, experiment and always question what they do, and who are eager to build relationships with the audience and work collaboratively.

How many journalists are part of the ‘LinkedIn newsroom’? Do you call this department a newsroom? And how work this department in terms of workflow, mission, fact-checking, etc.?

It’s very much a news team. We have more than 50 journalists now, in a distributed newsroom split between New York, San Francisco, São Paulo, London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Bangalore, Beijing, Tokyo and Sydney. We work in 7 languages.

Reporting, writing and editing, crafting headlines or mobile notifications, works very much like in any other newsroom. Our main focus is Storylines every hour, Daily Rundown every day and LinkedIn Lists every quarter. We work collaboratively and we also work closely with product managers and software engineers to help build and refine the tools we and our members will be using. That’s where the work has been most different from my past newsrooms.

What is the difference between your first attempts related to journalism and today in 2019? What worked well and what failed?

The main difference is that we’ve grown so much and added a lot to our original mission. We started with just 4 or 5 of us curating content from third-party publishers. We then launched LinkedIn Influencer, which was our first foray into member content on the platform, later opened up our publishing platform to all LinkedIn members, and expanded to other content types like video. From 2015, we hired editors dedicated to particular beats and really stepped up in original reporting. (You’ll see a lot of that content on our LinkedIn Editors page.) We also expanded around the world: We started with English-language content only, mostly focused on the US. I was lucky to be able to lead our international expansion to ten more countries and seven languages. Most of our editors are outside the US now.

We experiment a lot to figure out what works: the Daily Rundown started as a weekly look at trending topics, and went through a dozen different formats over the years before becoming this mobile-first business news digest that goes out to 60 million people a day in 12 editions. The platform, like the Internet, evolves over time. Today you’ll see more fascinating comment threads, rather than one-way broadcasting of ideas, more hard news and less evergreen career content, more original journalism, more conversations.

Conversational journalism at LinkedIn: How do you address such a huge network of professionals with such varied career paths? How do you strike the right tone? Who exactly are you addressing?

Our guiding principle is our professional context: What do you need to know to be an informed, effective professional? What are people discussing at the coffee machine? We aim to help members get the top business news of the day quickly and access the analysis they need to understand what it means to their own professional lives. Major news events of the day are going to matter to all of us, like what’s going on with the economy; other topics are more industry-focused. We’re able to target particular audiences not only for them to read the content, but to participate and share their expertise and their questions.

The Facebook algorithm change — looking for more meaningful interaction between people while making news less of a priority. What do you prioritise on the Linkedin feed, personal updates or news from the industry?

We’re focused on building experiences and features that help our members stay up to date and have conversations with people they know on the topics, industries, and organisations they care about. That can be a range of things, such as a hiring manager asking their community to help them hire the perfect candidate, a working parent finding a community to talk about how to balance family and work life, or a company talking to its customers and learning how their products and services are doing. A big part of this is also helping people know what’s going on so they can talk about news that matters to what they do.

At the heart of the LinkedIn Feed is a machine learning algorithm built to identify the most relevant updates for each member. Flowing into this algorithm are thousands of signals that fall into three broad categories:

  • Identity — who you are, where you work, your skills, your network.
  • Content — what your update is about, how old it is, and what type of engagement is it getting (views, likes, comments, shares).
  • Behaviour — things you’ve liked or shared in the past, people you interact with frequently, where you spend the most time in your feed.

As you can imagine, our algorithms are always evolving, but what remains constant is the key ingredients that make for a great content experience on LinkedIn — keep it authentic, timely and relevant.

Storylines is so far only in the US — how will you adapt this to other language markets? How is the international desk growing?

Our team has grown quite a bit internationally in the past 18 months, and will continue to. In fact, a majority of our editors are now outside the US. These editors will help to curate Storylines in different regions as they roll out over the coming months.

As senior editor-at-large, what do you mostly cover?

I’m looking at big ideas and how the world of work is changing, and that’s — luckily for me — pretty broad, giving me a lot of freedom. Before the holidays, I worked on our annual Big Ideas series, looking at the emerging trends that will shape our world in coming months and years. Today, I’m working on a story about the new soft skills employers are looking for. I’m gearing up for our 2019 Top Companies list, where we’ll look at what the most in-demand employers do to stand out. I also write a column for globally minded professionals, based on my experience working on four continents, and I’m focused on telling more stories informed by the Economic Graph, LinkedIn’s unique data mapping of the professional world.

How can LinkedIn help news organisations? How are you doing in terms of referral traffic? Is it one of your aims?

The single best thing publishers can do on LinkedIn is build connections with their audience. We’re seeing journalists do impressive things with the platform: David Gelles uses it to source questions for his Corner Office column in the New York Times. Nick Thompson has built a large following and shares daily videos, priming his audience to read and trust his Wired stories. Stéphane Lauer publishes fascinating posts that give you a taste of what he’s writing for Le Monde. Freelancers too can build audiences that will follow them wherever they publish: environmental reporter Juliette Nouel in France or financial journalist Heinz-Roger Dohms in Germany are great examples. Our storylines often feature journalists sharing and discussing their stories with the readers. The Edelman Trust Barometer shows us trust in media is low, trust in institutions is low, but trust in people is high and so is engagement with the news. Media companies that build up their people and help them connect authentically with their audience will see benefits. Smart publishers will use this to build up a loyal readership and subscriptions.

Do you have agreements with some news organisations? How are media partnerships working at LinkedIn?

Working closely with news organisations and nurturing that relationship is key to making news on LinkedIn work. Around the world, we work with partner publishers to curate their content and ensure it is shared with a wider, relevant, professional audience. Our editors work closely with a wealth of different news organisations. We also partner with select publishers on a case-by-case basis when it comes to piloting early access to new products and tools. For instance, when we launched native video functionality back in 2017, we gave Business Insider, The Economist and The Financial Times access before anyone else.

Mixing pro journalism and amateur journalism: can this be a messy ground for users to navigate? Can it hurt the legitimacy of your growing news brand?

The content developed by our editors is clearly differentiated, and they put their byline on everything they do. The professional context and absence of anonymity keeps everyone accountable. Our ability to provide a platform for professionals to share their expertise and ask their questions is something we’re really proud of. Being able to read first-hand and discuss with them the experience of a US government employee who’s been furloughed or a founder about to take her company public, that’s what makes the platform unique. Conversations are truly illuminating and that adds more value for members.

What are your objectives for 2019?

We’re continuing to expand, launching Storylines to more markets, and growing our LinkedIn Lists franchise. Personally, I’ve recently transitioned from managing back into reporting and writing. I’m finding my rhythm and looking forward to putting a lot more stories out into the world that can start meaningful conversations.

Isabelle Roughol is senior editor-at-large at LinkedIn. She joined the company in Paris in 2012 and built a global team of editors across Europe, Latin America, Asia and Australia, who ensure LinkedIn members get the news they need today and join in the professional conversation. She now creates regular columns, stories and interviews on the world of work and business, and is helping build LinkedIn’s data journalism program. Isabelle got her start in traditional ink-on-fingers media; she received a Bachelor’s of Journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked as a reporter and editor at The Columbia Missourian, The Cambodia Daily and Le Figaro.

Isabelle Roughol will be a speaker at the GEN Summit 2019, in Athens 13–15 June.

Global Editors Network

The Global Editors Network (GEN) was the worldwide…

Global Editors Network

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The Global Editors Network is the worldwide association of editors-in-chief and media executives. We foster media innovation and sustainable journalism.

Global Editors Network

The Global Editors Network (GEN) was the worldwide association of editors-in-chief founded in 2011. It ceased its activities in November 2019 due to lack of sustainable finances.

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