LinkedIn Desktop Use Drops As Mobile Heats Up

A new analyst report suggests the shift to mobile devices is having an increasing impact on desktop usage of LinkedIn, putting more pressure on the professional network to ramp up monetization of its growing mobile audience.
Citing comScore data, the research note by Macquarie Securities analyst Tom White points out that desktop engagement of LinkedIn in December declined for the third straight month, with page views falling 10% from a year ago, following a 2% dip in November.
Before that, page view growth had slowed down significantly in October to 3% from 20% a year earlier. The drop-off in page views has come even as LinkedIn’s monthly traffic has seen double-digit increases each month during the fourth quarter, compared to the same period a year ago. LinkedIn had a U.S. desktop audience of 49.6 million in November, according to the latest published figures from comScore.
According to LinkedIn’s own data, mobile accounted for 38% of its traffic in the third quarter, with mobile users about 2.5 times more engaged than its desktop-only users. The erosion of desktop engagement as a result of growing mobile interaction should continue for the foreseeable future, according to the Macquarie report.
It noted that page views in the fourth quarter also suffered because of comparison with year-earlier figures when LinkedIn was launching a raft of new offerings, including Endorsements, its Influencer section and updated profile pages. Subsequent moves, such as the integration of Pulse, Showcase Pages and direct-to-profile certifications for online coursework, haven’t had nearly the same impact on engagement.
Getting users to spend more time with LinkedIn has long been one of the company’s main goals, prompting the series of steps taken in the last two years to build up its content offerings and social features. But the Macquarie report notes that LinkedIn’s page view per user engagement remains low on both an absolute and relative basis—equal to only about 7% of Facebook's in the U.S. last year.
How fast the company can monetize its mobile side will be a key issue in 2014. Central to that effort is the successful rollout of its Sponsored Updates, LinkedIn’s native ad unit that runs in users’ news feeds.
“For LNKD’s Talent and Sales Solutions businesses, recruitment media/jobs should monetize well as mobile ramps, and mobile access improves utility for enterprise customers,” wrote White. “On the advertising side, our checks indicate significant interest in LNKD’s Sponsored Updates ad units, but it's still early and may take a quarter or two to show signs of scaling.”
LinkedIn has acknowledged its ad growth may continue to slow as it makes the transition from traditional display advertising and custom sponsorships to Sponsored Updates as the linchpin of its ad efforts. The company’s ad revenue rose 36% in the third quarter to $85.6 million, but that marked a steep drop from 56% in the prior quarter.
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