LinkedIn Execs Debate Stage of Mobile Monetization

Company's Q3 earnings beat estimates

“The last few months have marked the most significant period of product development in LinkedIn’s history.” That’s how CEO Jeff Weiner kicked off the company’s third-quarter earnings call on Thursday. From redesigning the homepage, profile pages and company pages to rolling out endorsements, notifications and sponsored job listings (to name a few), he had a point.

LinkedIn’s been grinding it out of late and has reaped the benefits. Third-quarter revenue hit $252 million, an 81 percent year-over-year jump that beat analysts’ estimates and immediately sent the company’s stock up nearly 8 percent in after-hours trading. 

LinkedIn’s hiring business Talent Solutions remains the real earner, growing 95 percent year-over-year to $138 million in revenue. But Marketing Solutions held its own at $64 million, a 60 percent rise compared with last year, and 25 percent of total revenue. That business has been bolstered by an increase in eyeballs seeing the display ads running across LinkedIn’s sites. The 187-million member site notched 134 million monthly unique visitors during third quarter, up 52 percent from last year, and generated 8.9 billion pageviews when excluding document-sharing site SlideShare that it acquired in May.

But there is one area that’s lagged behind the others: mobile. While LinkedIn has tended to be a Wall Street darling of late—no doubt benefiting from frustrations with Facebook—it wasn’t immune to the mobile monetization questions that plagued Google’s and Facebook’s earnings calls. Ironically those two companies answered back with numbers proving success in mobile, whereas Weiner and LinkedIn CFO Steve Sordello split over whether it was still early days for LinkedIn’s mobile business.

“An increasing area of focus for us is the monetization of our mobile channel,” Weiner said, noting that LinkedIn now shows jobs in its mobile apps and has been testing display ads in the iPad app it rolled out in April.

Sordello chimed in later during the call to say it’s “still early days for us” when it comes to monetizing mobile, and observers are “likely to see more there next year.”

A few questions later an analyst asked about the early days comment regarding mobile monetization, and this time Weiner answered that for Marketing Solutions "it’s less about early days [in mobile] and more a question of time now,” the chief executive responded. He clarified that it’s “more apropos” to describe the company’s smartphone monetization efforts as early days whereas any lag with tablet monetization has more to do with a still-maturing sales pitch. “The sales force is out in earnest selling against it,” he said.

“We’re generating momentum in the things we’re working on internally,” said Weiner.

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