LinkedIn, once little more than a resume-hosting platform and professional networking site, is moving rapidly to transform itself into a bigger, broader digital media company.
In the latest move toward that end, the site is reportedly in talks to purchase the newsreader Pulse for somewhere between $50 million and $100 million, according to AllThingsD. Pulse, which launched in 2010, is one of many newsreaders that aggregates content and arranges it in a streamlined, easy-to-read format.
If the deal goes through, LinkedIn would expand its reach into the world of digital publishing while snapping up Pulse's 20 million users.
In particular, the deal would represent a deeper foray into news dissemination for LinkedIn. Steve Jobs and The New York Times both praised Pulse (though the Apple store would later pull it from its shelves amid a backlash over its aggregation practices.) And last year, Pulse partnered with The Wall Street Journal to promote the Journal's content to business-minded consumers, a demographic LinkedIn would love to tap.
That LinkedIn would compete with tech heavyweights like Microsoft and Yahoo to snag Pulse should come as no surprise. The company has made a number of splashy moves in the past year to move beyond its roots and compete for a bigger share of social web traffic.
Last February, the company purchased Rapportive, a start-up behind a Gmail plugin that complements users' contact lists. Then in May, the company spent $119 million to buy SlideShare, a platform for sharing business content such as presentations and videos. In doing so, LinkedIn hoped to tap SlideShare's nearly 30 million unique monthly visitors — a vital metric of web clout.
The site even launched its own news aggregator, LinkedIn Today, which tailors content based on users' LinkedIn activity. That proved so successful that the company hired people to produce original content.
Acquiring Pulse would further LinkedIn's expansion goal, and, importantly, allow the company to enhance its previous efforts as well. With Pulse, LinkedIn could gain a more thorough understanding of users' interests, and use that to promote tailored content.
[T]his kind of "interest graph" targeting is the holy grail for both content companies and social networks. It's the reason Facebook is constantly tweaking its News Feed, why Twitter is pouring resources into improving recommendation filters like its Discover tab and other features, and why Google is trying so hard to get people to share and "plus one" more content through its Google+ network. [GigaOM]
LinkedIn, whose strong financial health is based in part on its continued expansion, is betting that it can find that "holy grail" by adding more media tools to its arsenal. Buying Pulse would be a huge step in that direction.