LinkedIn quietly launches Research Network and DirectAds…let the monetization begin.

June 30, 2008 § 8 Comments

LinkedIn DirectAds
LinkedIn has quietly launched a beta version of a dynamic CPM text advertising platform called LinkedIn DirectAds. No formal announcement of the launch was made on the LinkedIn blog or elsewhere. According to the DIrectAds FAQ, advertisers will be able to dynamically target ads by age, gender, geography, educational institution, industry, and seniority. Minimum order size for an advertisement is $25, with the minimum number of impressions dependant on the targeting audience chosen by the advertiser. The rate that you pay for a CPM (1000 impressions) changes as you add or remove targeting options from your ad. Apparently the product will give click-through rates to advertisers, but billing will be based on CPM. In a unique twist, ads will also include the advertisers name and a link to their LinkedIn profile in hopes of “increasing transparency and visibility into the advertiser.” Much like the Facebook SocialAds platform, advertisers must have a profile on the network to launch an ad, although LinkedIn says they are limiting advertisers by completeness of profile, number of connections, date of profile creation and a number of other factors. I was unable to access the platform through my profile.

The DirectAds platform will bring LinkedIn closer to Facebook’s Social Ads technology, with these two leaving Bebo, MySpace, Plaxo, Friendster and the rest of the social networking world behind for now. I hope to be able to try the LinkedIn platform soon and give a head-to-head comparison. LinkedIn will continue to extract a premium on their advertising, as it seems they will be setting the price per CPM internally. A true market (e.g. Overture/pre-Panama Yahoo) or partial market (e.g. Google quality score) influence on price would likely result in prices lower than they would like, and they are clearly avoiding a CPC model for a reason since they are measuring CTR anyways. I think this slow transfer is very smart on their end especially considering their pre-IPO status, but as an advertiser I wish they would switch to a free market faster. Their ad margins will likely be lower than what they were getting with their rate card (although perhaps not), but the volume of advertisements will definitely spike upwards as you no longer have to go through a traditional advertising salesperson process to launch a targeted ad on their network.

LinkedIn Research Network
Additionally, on Thursday of last week LinkedIn quietly launched the LinkedIn Research Network, a product the company first mentioned back in February. No formal announcement of the actual launch was made on the LinkedIn blog or anywhere else, but the Research Network product page is live and linked to from the Premium Product footer, along with job, corporate, and upgrade links. Also linked is a 2 page product summary PDF. The product page outlines what is essentially a premium version of InMail (pdf). A Research Network subscriber can send send 20 InMails at once, and no monthly or daily limits are mentioned. Previously, LinkedIn BusinessPlus subscribers had the most InMail access and were limited to 10 InMails per month, so this is a dramatic increase in potential InMail volume. In the past advertisers could send targeted InMail blasts through LinkedIn’s advertising platform at $1 – $5 per recipient.

The LinkedIn Research Network is an attempt to move into the expert network industry and will be sold primarily to hedge, private equity and venture funds. According to a recent Integrity Research Associates report, there are roughly 25 expert networks in existence today. Aside from my company KnowledgeBid, every other expert network service operates on a subscription model. LinkedIn is likely gunning for the fat subscription fees that players like the Gerson Lehrman Group are pulling from investors (+$50k for access to one industry vertical of experts for 6 months), but the product they have launched is far more like the resume search/direct email services offered by Monster, HotJobs, CareerBuilder, Dice, etc. than an expert network. Perhaps down the road LinkedIn will try to facilitate the actual expert matching, but this iteration of the product just enables subscribers to send a large volume of cold emails to potential consultants. Additionally, the product page makes no mention of facilitating consultant payment and the only compliance functionality mentioned is a “research history”. Legal compliance is arguably the largest issue faced by expert networks today, and something that expert network users have come to expert from service providers. It’s possible that LinkedIn is intentionally not involving themselves with payment of experts in an attempt to remove themselves from the chain of liability if their service were to be used to facilitate insider trading or the like.

Congrats to LinkedIn on the product launches. I’m glad to see them competing with Facebook on the advertising technology side of things (let’s see an API guys!) and will certainly be keeping tabs on these products as they mature.

Facebook Ads now targeting professional titles, taking LinkedIn head on…

June 17, 2008 § 3 Comments

Facebook continues to quickly and quietly improve their advertising platform. In yet another innovation launched without formal announcement, Facebook now allows advertisers to target ads based on professional titles in user profiles. Previously ads could only target by keywords listed in users’ “interests” field. Now Facebook has indexed professional titles and allows for dynamic targeting through the Facebook Ads platform. Perhaps the recent launch of the advertising feedback function was in anticipation of an aggressive move towards monetization via heightened ad targeting? We’re still waiting on the Facebook Ads API but LinkedIn is still using a massively inflated CPM rate card despite their recent $1B valuation and and MySpace still uses Google adwords, putting Facebook miles ahead of the rest of the social networking pack when it comes to advertising technology.

Import Genius + the value of information

June 17, 2008 § Leave a comment

ImportGenius is an innovating new company organizing the extremely valuable and historically unorganized world of import records. One of the first hedge fund managers I spoke to when researching KnowledgeBid mentioned that he liked to talk to shipping container brokers about utilization rates and import/export trends. I’m sure ImportGenius will have no problem finding customers in the investment community. TechCrunch coverage here (yes, Mac fanboys will like it too). Yet another company taking a unique approach to accessing information value. Good luck!

Facebook quietly launches advertising feedback

June 5, 2008 § 31 Comments

The Facebook advertising platform continues to advance ahead of the rest of the social network pack. We’re still waiting on the API, but they’ve recently snuck out a feature that allows users to indicate whether they like or dislike an ad served up to them. Where previously there was just a link for “more ads”, there are now StumbleUpon style thumbs. Clicking on one of them pops up a window with feedback options. Screenshots below. The fact that Facebook is implementing these kinds of features before they launch an Ads API shows that they are approaching mass advertising very carefully. They know that they need users to make ads have value, and the better the ads are the more valuable their ad space will be. Also, it’s quite possible that having some interaction with ads beyond just clicking them will incentivize users to click more ads. The Facebook advertising platform continues become more and more interesting.

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