Most every social network offers a news aggregation service to help keep its users abreast of what's happening in the world around them. However, many of these feeds (looking at you Twitter and Facebook) tend to devolve into echo chambers as users both consciously and unconsciously filter out dissenting opinions. On Wednesday, LinkedIn announced that it is debuting its own aggregation service, dubbed "Trending Storylines", which aims to help members of its community break out of their respective bubbles and find more diverse news sources.
Trending Storylines is a curated news feed that highlights the day's trending stories and personalizes what you see based on what the company knows about you. That includes your identity, network, and behavior patterns, Tomer Cohen, Vice President of Content, Search & Discovery Products, told me during a recent interview. It grew out of the company's older LinkedIn Today program, which monitored 150 influencer accounts and promoted posts based on what they were sharing and commenting on.
With the new system, "we wanted to see not just what people are reading but how they think," Dan Roth, LinkedIn's Editor-in-Chief told me. "The guiding principle was: there is incredible insight trapped inside the cubicles of professionals everywhere. What if we gave people the ability to talk about what they know or based on their expertise?"
To that end, LinkedIn has spent the last couple years fully redesigning its feed, resulting in referral traffic from the network to some of its top publishers jumping by as much as 300 percent since last year. A user's feed used to feature a little bit of everything, Tomer said, "but that's not a great way to build a user experience so we shifted it to be completely about professional stories." Therefore, the company is giving users more control over what appears on their feed.
That is, say you're in the solar industry. You can now follow just the topics and people that directly relate to your industry while ignoring unrelated posts from people you may be connected to on the site, such as recruiters or people you know but who work in a different profession. You can connect with and follow two entirely different sets of people on the site if you want to.
Plus, since there isn't really any anonymity on LinkedIn, you don't have to worry about your feed or comments being hijacked by trolls or conspiratorially-minded racist uncles. "People come to LinkedIn for a reason," Roth explained. "Whatever it is they're doing in their professional world is what they want to talk about. That alone rules out a lot of what would constitute 'fake news'. This is not the place where you post conspiracy theories about a pizza chain."
Trending Storylines uses a hybrid curation system to generate its content. On one hand, LinkedIn leverages machine learning algorithms to help surface trending stories and ideas from across its network. On the other, the company also employs around two dozen human editors scattered around the globe that help round out each topic with quality posts and diverse opinions from influencers, industry leaders, even if the user doesn't individually follow them. The editors also serve as reality checks against the algorithms to prevent the system from inadvertently promoting inappropriate items.
The new Storylines feature will begin rolling out in America beginning today before eventually expanding to the entire global network. Stories will initially focus on the fields of tech, finance and health before likewise expanding in due time.