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To stoke interest, LinkedIn opens 'Influencer' blogs to all members

The logo for LinkedIn Corporation, a social networking networking website for people in professional occupations, is shown in Mountain View,
The logo for LinkedIn Corporation, a social networking networking website for people in professional occupations, is shown in Mountain View,

By Gerry Shih

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - LinkedIn Corp is attempting to become more like Facebook Inc by encouraging all members to generate a steady stream of shareable articles, a perk once available only to well-known business personalities.

The move, which the company hopes will generate more interest in the site, comes two weeks after LinkedIn disclosed that page views slipped for the second consecutive quarter.

The professional networking site said on Wednesday it will algorithmically distribute career-related articles written by any users on its "Influencer program," a blogging platform previously available only to businesspeople who were invited to contribute, including well-known names like former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg and billionaire Richard Branson.

By opening the program to everybody, LinkedIn hopes its users will generate a steady stream of shareable content, providing a white-collar twist on how Facebook supplies its users a continuous stream of pictures or links from their friends.

LinkedIn disclosed during its quarterly earnings call on February 6 that, following several quarters of explosive growth, page views had in fact slipped for the second consecutive period, suggesting waning user interest in revisiting the site.

Ryan Roslansky, the company head of content, argued that the "Influencers" program has been successful in boosting LinkedIn's traffic and user engagement, with each post generating 80 comments and 250 likes.

"It's starting to bring a lot of people back to the site more frequently," said Roslansky. "We want to get much more content in front of them and much more niche content about their interests."

With Influencers now broadened to many more writers, LinkedIn will use algorithms to identify articles that gain traction with readers and distribute those more broadly, Roslansky said.

In recent years LinkedIn has moved away from its roots as a dormant resume library for headhunters and job-seekers, instead positioning itself as a social hub that aggregates news, links, and status updates from members.

The company has viewed the transition toward a more lively, Facebook-esque offering as a way to pull in more users on a regular basis and more advertising revenue. LinkedIn inserts ads into users' timelines, an advertising model that has been successfully deployed by social media peers Facebook and Twitter Inc.

In April, LinkedIn acquired Pulse, a news reader app, for roughly $90 million to uncover relevant news articles as part of a daily digest to users when they log in to the site.

Roslansky said LinkedIn's new pitch to users is: "Give us 15 minutes each morning and we'll make you a better professional each day."

Under Chief Executive Jeff Weiner, the company has mostly executed its shift in strategy with few hiccups. It has beaten quarterly revenue targets every quarter since going public in mid-2011 at a $4.25 billion valuation, a sum that was derided by some investors as too high for a company with relatively little revenue.

LinkedIn, which saw its market capitalization double over the past year to $23 billion, closed 3 percent higher on Tuesday at $191.92 a share.

(Reporting by Gerry Shih; Editing by Matt Driskill)

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