Eric Duffy

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The unheralded flaw in LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda.com

L&D

I love the idea behind LinkedIn’s acquisition of Lynda.com, because it does indeed further LinkedIn’s mission of connecting talent with opportunity.  The promise is that LinkedIn will now not only be able to connect people with jobs, but connect people with the learning resources that will help them get those jobs.

This is absolutely the right direction to take the company.  That said, I’m not convinced that their chosen strategy – acquiring Lynda.com – is one that will ultimately succeed.

They’re all in on Lynda.com

The main issue I see is that LinkedIn now has a very strong interest in seeing Lynda.com succeed.

Well, what’s wrong with that?

Put simply, it’s bias.  Lynda.com is a popular, high-quality learning provider, but it is by no means the only learning destination on the web.  Every content provider has its strengths and weaknesses, and inevitably, Lynda will be weaker in certain areas than the competition.

And yet when a LinkedIn user searches for something at which Lynda is comparatively weak, which content provider is LinkedIn likely to recommend?  I have a hard time imagining that it would be anything other than Lynda.

Why can’t I imagine it?  Why not recommend the best content, irrespective of the content provider?

LinkedIn paid $1.5B for Lynda.com

And that was at 10x Lynda’s revenue.  That means LinkedIn has lots and lots of incentive to push Lynda.com hard to their users, and very little incentive to ensure that their users are being exposed to Lynda’s competitors.

In the short term, this will be a very strong partnership for LinkedIn and Lynda, but I fear that it will harm the user experience in the long term.  It shouldn’t matter to LinkedIn whether Lynda or Pluralsight or Udacity gets chosen by the user.  And yet due to their financial incentives, it will matter.

A better approach

Ultimately I think LinkedIn would have been better off without a dog in the fight. This is the approach we’ve taken with Pathgather.

Our goal is to make it really easy for companies and employees to find the world’s best learning content in one place, to personalize our recommendations based on their interests and learning history, and to empower learners to curate the best content for one another.

It doesn’t matter to us whether our users pick Lynda or Pluralsight or Udacity or any other learning source.  It matters only that we get them to the best choice as quickly as possible.

We believe this approach is far and away the best for our users. I think it would be a wise for LinkedIn to adopt a similar approach as well, even if their near-term financial incentives would say otherwise.

Categories: L&D
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