In a promising technology mash-up, the New York Times (NYT) has entered into an agreement with LinkedIn that displays a list of suggested content for readers on the NYT web site based on information in their LinkedIn profile. For now, the service is confined to the Business and Technology section. (Thanks to my virtual colleague Tish Grier who pointed me to this story.)

The NYT has placed a LinkedIn widget on Business and Technology article pages. When you click the widget for the first time, a dialog box opens and you are prompted to either join LinkedIn or sign into your LinkedIn profile. I tried this and was directed to my LinkedIn profile page where it was unclear what I was supposed to do next. After some hunting and pecking , I refreshed the NYT Technology page and a list of suggested articles appeared in the right-hand column, which based on the information in my LinkedIn Profile was for Technology Professionals. So far, so good.

The Times takes this one step further, by including a LinkedIn choice in the Share tool. You click Share, select LinkedIn, then you can share the article with up to 10 members of your LinkedIn network. The obvious missing link here to me, is an option for displaying these same article links on your LinkedIn Home page so you don’t have to go to the NYT site to monitor them.

Paul Bradshaw writes of this in the Online Journalism Blog, “The significance of the NYT’s move is that it recognizes that the walls need to come down, that your content needs to be where the reader is, and not the other way around.” While I agree with Bradshaw, it’s not completely clear to me how this breaks down those walls in any significant way beyond using information from another vendor’s site to display customized content. That’s certainly a big leap as far as it goes, I’m just not convinced it goes far enough.

Marshall Kirkpatrick wonders in his ReadWriteWeb blog entry on the NYT deal, just how LinkedIn will make money sharing its network in this fashion, but speculates that the content vendors are paying for the privilege of accessing the LinkedIn network. A safe bet I would say, and one which could explain why the NYT is taking it slow and putting this feature in just two sections to see how it plays out before bringing it to the rest of the site and making an additional investment.

In a related story, EContent reports that LinkedIn and legal premium content vendor LexisNexis announced a deal to link information in the online version of Martindale-Hubbell with members who belong to the LinkedIn community. EContent describes the relationship as follows:

When searching for attorneys, users will see LinkedIn icons within the profiles of attorneys who are members of that network. If the user is also a member of LinkedIn, he or she can access the LinkedIn connection with the designated attorney by clicking on the LinkedIn icon.

LinkedIn may have some limitations in terms of social networking, but it is a completely professional social networking environment where you won't find the noise you find on other social sites such as Facebook. What LinkedIn is doing by partnering with these content vendors is leveraging its professionals database to take advantage of one of its key strengths. That certainly sounds like smart business to me, I just think they could take it further than have so far.