From left: Josh Quittner, Fortune‘s EIC, and LinkedIn’s Reid Hoffman talk social networking.
“What does a social network have to do with a magazine?” If this morning’s AMC conversation between Fortune executive editor Josh Quittner and Reid Hoffman, chairman and president, products, LinkedIn, could be boiled down into one question on the minds of the hundreds of magazine executives in attendance, that’d be it. In response to this and other questions from Quittner aimed at getting Hoffman to break down what Quittner deemed “the hottest new thing around.” But magazines need to look beyond their own capabilities and brands to draw some of that heat, Hoffman suggested. “People tend to juxtapose user-generated content against editorial content,” he said, an approach that is “partially mistaken.”
“The natural inclination for people who are producing content is [to say] ‘I should have my own social network. That doesn’t actually work,” Hoffman said, urging the magazine industry to look to established social networking players like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn to form relationships that would help magazines take advantage of social networking more speedily — as Quittner suggested, “finding the social network that exists out there where you think your [magazine’s] readers might be.” In referencing those and other hot online startups, Hoffman disclosed his investor status for some, prompting Quittner to joke, “You’re an investor in everything.” “Everything good,” Hoffman shot back tartly. He also pointed out why age means everything, when it comes to users in fear of who’s got access to their information.
“The younger generation is completely understanding of the fact that tons and tons of info is out on the Web already,” said Hoffman. “As long as people start getting the benefit of it, they don’t feel the risk of privacy so much [as older people]. If you actually look … chief privacy officers tend to be over 40.”
Quittner also pressed Hoffman to offer his take on the state of online advertising, a source of concern for many magazine executive who spent the bulk of the conference being encouraged to innovate online, but received precious little guidance on how to financially recoup those efforts. “I think online advertising will be successful when it is more like content,” Hoffman offered. “Banners aren’t particularly good forms of content.” Hoffman pointed out that “social networks generate rich very registration data,” information sure to entice advertisers, so “there is a massive amount of innovation and startup energy that’s going toward trying to solve this problem.”
—Rebecca L. Fox