Login is restricted to DCN Publisher Members. If you are a DCN Member and don't have an account, register here.

Digital Content Next


InContext / An inside look at the business of digital content

Leveraging LinkedIn: a guide for media companies

March 21, 2024 | By Damian Radcliffe, Carolyn S. Chambers Professor in Journalism – University of Oregon @damianradcliffe
The topline: Despite the shifting priorities of social platforms, LinkedIn has remained a reliable business partner, one that many media companies are focusing renewed energy on for audience building.

In the rapidly evolving digital landscape, content producers constantly seek new ways to engage with audiences and promote their brands. That’s especially important right now as traffic continues to fall from sites such as Facebook and Twitter/X

One weapon in their arsenal with some powerful potential is LinkedIn, a site that may offer a higher likelihood of referrals and engagement than some publishers have historically considered. 

Image via LinkedIn

Three reasons why media companies shouldn’t overlook LinkedIn

1. LinkedIn has a bigger user base than you might realize

The site, which was purchased by Microsoft for $26.2 billion in late 2016, has more than one billion users globally, including over 200 million in the USA. (about a third of which are active). The U.S. is comfortably LinkedIn’s biggest single market, although 75% of its audience is outside of the States

2. LinkedIn users tend to be millennials and professionals 

LinkedIn is typically described as a social network for business professionals. As a result, it doesn’t yet attract much of Gen Z, but it is a site they transition to as they enter the workforce. Worldwide, 60% of users are in the advertiser-friendly 25-34 age bracket.

In the USA, a 2023 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 40% of 30-49-year-olds had used the site. That’s on a par with Pinterest (40%), TikTok (39%) and WhatsApp (38%) and some way ahead of Twitter/X (27%) and Snapchat (30%), platforms many publishers continue to invest considerable energies in.

Gen Z media habits, via ComScore

3. Around 1 in 5 American users harness LinkedIn for news 

Further data from Pew finds that 17% of U.S. adults using LinkedIn regularly get their news on the platform. Interestingly, in contrast to other social networks, LinkedIn has the greatest gender parity among news consumers. 

Its news audience is not huge, c.5% of U.S. adults. However, this is on par with Snapchat (4% of the total adult population) and WhatsApp (3%).  

The site also offers a more educated demographic, 60% of regular news consumers on LinkedIn have a college degree, and just over half (53%) of their users enjoy a household income over $100k per annum. For many media companies, these are appealing demographics. 

Image via Pew Research Center

Five fresh ways media companies can use LinkedIn

Many media companies will already be using some of the most obvious functions on LinkedIn. This includes posting job ads, sharing company news and creating business landing pages.

Those functions will continue to be useful. However, they only scratch the surface of some of the wider potential the site potentially affords publishers and creators. 

Tactics for publishers to try on LinkedIn:

1. Publish newsletters

Image via The Economist on LinkedIn. Screenshot 3/18/24.

“In the past year, LinkedIn has seen a 150% increase in the number of newsletters being published by publishers and journalists on the platform,” Axios reports

These newsletters might be native to LinkedIn, offer a remix of content produced elsewhere, or simply be republished on the platform. Audiences can read them on the site, or have them emailed to them. Either way, they can potentially reach large, professional, audiences. Users have more than 450 million newsletter subscriptions on the platform. That’s up 3x year-on-year. 

The Wall Street Journal’s Careers & Leadership newsletter, for example, has nearly 3 million subscribers and over 100 editions on LinkedIn. With the WSJ’s company page enjoying 9.7 million followers, that’s a high percentage of users who are digging deeper. 

Another LinkedIn behemoth, The Economist, reaches over 3.1 million weekly subscribers with its “week ahead” newsletter, while Harvard Business Review’s Management Tip of the Week reaches over 5 million subscribers with a short article that takes just 1-2 minutes to read. 

At the other end of the scale, you can find more niche newsletters related to media news, such as the excellent Muck Rack weekly, a 500-word weekly recap from the Media and Journalism Research Center, as well as countless other topics.

2. Host and stream live events

The pandemic demonstrated the potential for publishers to livestream events. Although we have seen a renewed interest in the ability of in-person events (particularly to diversify revenues), many media companies have retained an online component. Some media providers, like Harvard Business Review, continue to run live events that remain 100% virtual

The Forbes Sustainability Leaders Summit & sponsor list, via Forbes

Online-only, or hybrid events, are more inclusive, helping to overcome geographic boundaries. But they also present additional income streams.

Forbes, for example, attracted several blue-chip sponsors for their Sustainability Leaders Summit last Fall. If you were unable to attend in person, you could view a live stream on various platforms, including LinkedIn, sponsored by Toyota.

As with other platforms, publishers and creators can host audio and video events live on LinkedIn, using existing tools like Zoom, WebEx or Vimeo. Events can be gated or open to all, as well as promoted to target audiences on the platform.

3. Gather audience insights 

Events, newsletters and posts by a company – or its staff – offer multiple means to engage with users on LinkedIn. Aside from blasting them with news and information, they’re also a space to dig beyond the analytics to garner insights from your audience. 

As Meredith Turits, the former editor of BBC Worklife – a vertical that includes the Worklife 101 newsletterexplained to Nieman Lab last year “content that does well is, of course, shared and clicked on, but some of our most important insights come from the comments on the newsletter,” she said. “We’re always looking at conversation in the comments or shares.” 

These audience insights can shape future editorial efforts. Moreover, by sharing content that stimulates discussion and offers insights from LinkedIn members, publishers can act as a convener for conversation. That’s an approach in line with the goal of many publishers to move beyond scale by developing direct relationships with audiences. 

“Don’t treat it as a traffic play, full stop,” Turtis advises. “One of the things that’s most unique about LinkedIn is that people want to talk, and will talk — it’s UX makes that easy and encourages it.”

4. Drive referrals, subscribers and registrations

Posts on company pages, the feeds of the people who work at them, as well as newsletters published on LinkedIn, can all play a role in encouraging audiences to dig deeper. 

USA Today’s weekly consumer news newsletter, The Money, breaks down stories from the past week, and includes links to other USA Today stories. It also highlights that you can sign up for a daily newsletter offering more of the same, more often. 

Screenshot via USA Today on LinkedIn 3/18/24

Other outlets, like CNN’s PM Plug In, lean into when audiences might be using LinkedIn. In this instance, providing “a weekday newsletter to catch you up on important news you may have missed during your busy day.”

Meanwhile, Business Insider uses the platform to offer a “shorter version of our flagship newsletter,” which they then encourage readers to sign up for. 

The Economist ends their newsletter with a registration link offering three free articles a month, as well as linking to their main subscription page. 

Collectively, these approaches demonstrate some of the different ways that publishers are using LinkedIn to support their wider engagement and revenue strategies. 

5. Humanize your brand and staff

In some instances, LinkedIn may be your first engagement with a company. A good initial impression can matter, therefore, in terms of attracting potential consumers, subscribers and prospective employees. 

Because of this, some media companies are making their LinkedIn presence more personal and approachable. 

Screenshot via LinkedIn, 3/18/24

The Editor’s Digest, a newsletter from the Financial Times, sees an editor pick their top stories from the FT that week. Each hyperlinked newsletter is simply signed off by the author using their first name (e.g. Patrick, or Roula). It offers a casualness one might not expect from such an august brand, even if I personally would love to know their surname and job title! 

Elsewhere, Nicholas Thompson the CEO of The Atlantic publishes a monthly newsletter that  highlights his picks of The Best Things To Read. Most of this content is from places outside of The Atlantic, increasing its usefulness and making it feel much less like a PR exercise. Thompson also posts casual hot-take videos on different topics, which also makes him – and by osmosis his publication – more accessible and relatable. 

Moving forward

According to Daniel Roth, LinkedIn’s Editor in Chief, the platform works with 400 preferred news partners to help maximize their work on the site. These efforts, as Axios reports, include sharing trending topics with partners so that they can tap current audience interests, as well as featuring content on LinkedIn News

However, for content creators not in this club, there are still multiple things you can do to leverage LinkedIn more effectively. Journalists can get free training on how to use the platform, as well as a free premium membership. They can also use the platform to promote their work, and the work of others, as well as engage directly with audiences. 

Your digital and social teams can – and should – do that too. Newsletters, events and posts can create high-quality, relevant content that resonates with LinkedIn’s professional user base. In doing this, outlets may reach new audiences as well as serve existing ones. That can drive traffic and engagement, increase subscriptions and take-up of other products. 

Image via Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism

As a result, according to the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, more media companies are investing in LinkedIn. A survey of 314 media leaders in 56 countries, revealed that four in ten (41%) of executives said they would be putting more effort into the platform in 2024. This is only just behind the proposed prioritization in YouTube and Google Search.

As Sara Fischer the senior media reporter at Axios recently put it, “LinkedIn alone won’t be able to make up for the dramatic reduction in traffic referrals from social media sites to news publishers, but it does offer outlets and journalists a platform to meaningfully grow their audiences amid a broader tech crackdown on news content.”

Put another way, as the tech journalist Ryan Broderick outlined earlier this week, “the traffic firehose days of the 2010s aren’t coming back. And LinkedIn is not the secret to infinite pageviews.” But, he adds, “finding a home for news publishers in 2024 isn’t about finding a perfect fit, but rather finding one that’s close enough.”

For some content creators and media companies, that might just mean leaning more into LinkedIn in the year ahead.

Liked this article?

Subscribe to the InContext newsletter to get insights like this delivered to your inbox every week.