Regular readers know that I am a big fan of LinkedIn. My interest, of course, has been in its database, which may be the most important biographical database ever created. But LinkedIn can’t rest on its laurels. That’s because it depends on user generated content, and the biggest threat to LinkedIn is if users start questioning its value. LinkedIn is already jokingly referred to by many as “the boring social network.” And while LinkedIn now benefits from lots of buzz and momentum, it needs to remain fresh in the eyes of users and give them a reason to interact with LinkedIn as frequently as possible, and to continue to deliver back some tangible value as well. LinkedIn thinks it can address all three of these requirements with content. As Deep Nishar, the company’s SVP of Products and User Experience puts it:

“We believe LinkedIn can be the definitive professional publishing platform – where all professionals come to consume content and where publishers come to share their content.”

So is LinkedIn positioning itself to become sort of an iTunes for professional content?

As of now, it’s hard to see how LinkedIn as a publishing platform will evolve – and the company itself may well not have a full vision. But I have already seen conference companies with their entire businesses based on LinkedIn groups. It’s entirely possible we will see new trade publications where the entire audience is composed of LinkedIn members, delivered via LinkedIn, with LinkedIn potentially supplying those members by somehow matching them to relevant publications.

But with this intriguing vision comes lots of equally intriguing – and potentially worrisome - questions. Will publishers be able to distribute advertising via the LinkedIn platform? Who will own the audience? Will LinkedIn seek transactional revenue of some sort from publishers? The more you look at it, the more you see the potential for a B2B ITunes Store, with all the attendant issues.

We may be at the early stages of a truly transformational shift in business and professional publishing as LinkedIn begins leveraging its massive audience of business people to move into content distribution. Exactly how it chooses to do so could have profound implications for B2B publishers.