More LinkedIn/News Corp reports coming in

The plot thickens. Last week I took the decision to go with a very strong lead that News Corporation was in talks with LinkedIn about possibly buying the professional networking site. At the time my sources said the idea was based around the concept that advertising to high-level executives is becoming much harder via print, and LinkedIn could make up revenues for News Corp in that area. It’s now emerging however that LinkedIn could well be wrapped up with the News Corp-owned Wall Street Journal and Factiva, the business news aggregator, something backed up by It now has 17 million members and revenues from $75 million to $100 million next year. Yesterday VentureBeat, another credible venture news blog, picked up the gauntlet and confirmed via their sources that the talks were serious (though LinkedIn still declines to comment as I note here). The driving force behind the deal is said to be Jeremy Philips, a 33-year-old hotshot exec at News Corp close to chairman Rupert Murdoch, who focuses on acquisitions, oversees internet investments and – stealth like – operates an internal department dubbed News Interactive Media (NIM) which runs separately from Fox Interactive Media. Meanwhile Fortune magazine has decided to weigh-in by blogging a chat with LinkedIn’s CEO Dan Nye who is PR-ing some new community features on Dec. 10, and quotes him as saying he is only interested in “building this company” and “It would take a helluva lot to get us off that path.” He does however indicate the sale price at “a lot more” than $1 billion. I have since been back to my main source on this story and they just have one thing to say: “No smoke without fire.”

Kara Swisher from The Wall Street Journal says a LinkedIn deal with News Corp “makes a lot of sense” while Goldman Sachs Internet and media analyst Anthony Noto told the Reuters Media Summit on Wednesday: “I think LinkedIn is an important strategic asset” and “strategically, it would be a great fit [for News Corp].”