Lynda links up with LinkedIn

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The big new news from LinkedIn is that it has pulled off its biggest-ever acquisition – the $1.5 billion buyout of educational online library subscription service (motto: ‘you can learn it’).

Set up in 1995 by the eponymous Lynda Weinman (a former animator) with Bruce Heavin, the firm was an early internet venture, and its fortunes began to rise when it adopted a monthly subscription business model in 2003.

It is known for its ‘how to’ videos on creative subjects like animation, 3D design, photography, blogging and desktop publishing. This has been its core constituency and is still its main engine of growth. The firm has seen the need to raise two rounds of venture capital finance: firstly $103m in January 2013 and secondly $186m as recently as January 2015. Co-founder and cheerleader Lynda described the first round as having these objectives:

  1. Adding more categories
  2. Going deeper into current categories
  3. Creating a better platform
  4. Expanding outside the USA

The final objective was met by two acquisitions, of which one was a Canadian firm and the other was Austrian online teaching classes operation video2brain, which allows them now to offer some courses in German, French and Spanish.

LinkedIn Training

Open for Business?

As to whether has added many more categories since 2013, the evidence is less firm. Looking at the current site, the main hot buttons are still predominantly directing the reader towards creative and design topics.

If you click on the single Business category, you are not presented with any deep or senior courses aimed at managers. Mostly the subjects allow users to familiarise themselves with Office 365, or how to migrate from one IT platform to another.

I used the Search facility to look for courses on social media within Business and was presented with just one course on Social Selling with LinkedIn (so I suspect that number will need to expand) and one on selling though Facebook and Twitter. Both are listed as Beginner-level courses and they appear to be largely aimed at small B2C businesses.

 High Hopes

LinkedIn’s video about the acquisition speaks of some lofty objectives that the network wishes to attain as a result of it.

There is talk of creating ‘the world’s first economic graph’, a profile of peoples’ skills and organisations’ capabilities. LinkedIn wants to do nothing less than “digitally map the global economy”. It is not yet stated how that will be monetised to justify the high price tag on this acquisition.

Clearly the 2 million (mostly American) Lynda subscribers are an attraction, and the network will be hoping to recruit those of them who are not currently signed up with LinkedIn.

There is obviously value in Lynda’s regular income stream from a catalogue of 80,000 videos, authored by over 250 contributors. There are ‘corporate’ memberships, but most of these are educational establishments including Harvard, UCL and Stamford. Disney is the sole business mentioned as a significant user. Nevertheless, ‘catch them young’ must be LinkedIn’s watchword and this will help to achieve that. And there is the fact that Lynda is used for ‘lifetime learning’ by people who want or need to enhance their own skills and knowledge, in their own time and at their own speed.

Despite this, I have reservations about the impact of this style of learning. It has established a place in the market for ‘at home’ solo video viewing – but in the sector that my firm Hannon Digital operates, the B2B corporate arena, you will not mentor and train senior executives and teams without significant face-to-face, individual and group sessions and recaps to ensure follow-through.

Social Media Training

A place for e-learning

In our courses we do of course incorporate e-learning: it would be perverse to train people on using social media without employing online techniques. But we are also realists, and we know that you cannot achieve consistent results on complex subjects without a heavy dose of conventional training methods.

As a company that works closely with LinkedIn London, we welcome anything that is going to strengthen the world’s greatest business-related social network, increase its reach and make it more regularly used by its members. Lynda should provide a useful new piece in the competitive social media jigsaw.