Scribd Buys SlideShare

The purchase of SlideShare from LinkedIn by Scribd raises questions about slide and document sharing.

Scribd announced on 3 August 2020 that it had agreed to purchase SlideShare from LinkedIn. The price of the acquisition was not made public. Scribd will take over the operation of the SlideShare business on 24 September 2020. That's when Scribd will take over the management of SlideShare accounts plus any content people have on SlideShare. Scribd's privacy policy and general terms of service will then come into force. Those who wish to opt out must close their SlideShare account. The URL for SlideShare will remain the same.

SlideShare has been around for 14 years, having launched in October 2006. LinkedIn bought it in May 2012 in a cash and stock deal valued at $118.75 million. LinkedIn was then acquired by Microsoft in 2016 for $26.2 billion. In July 2020 LinkedIn made 960 employees, or 6% of its total workforce, redundant. Whether this was pandemic-related, given that job listings and recruitment activity have probably declined, or reflective of a more general business decline is unclear.

Scribd is only a year younger than SlideShare, having been founded in 2007. It calls itself an "open publishing platform," offering ebooks, magazines, audiobooks, documents, and even sheet music. It also uses the phrase, "digital library" to describe itself. For those who equate libraries, particularly public libraries, with free borrowing of materials, this is a misnomer. As a subscription service with a price tag of $9.99 per month, Scribd works on a very different business model from the free service that SlideShare offers.

Scribd co-founder, Trip Adler, in a SlideShare welcome blog, said, “Our acquisition of SlideShare is a major step towards creating the world’s largest digital library. Scribd has accumulated a unique collection of user-generated and professional content that we make available to our readers via personalized recommendations. The addition of presentations from the SlideShare community advances our vision. It allows us to continue diversifying our offering while driving even more readers to the books, audiobooks, magazines, and other professionally published works in our digital library."

Scribd claims to host 1 million licensed items and 100 million documents uploaded by subscribers. SlideShare will add over 40 million presentations to the combined services, although the intent is to run them separately. Global Legal Chronicle notes that, "In addition to SlideShare’s archival content, Scribd is acquiring its 100 million users, as well as its presentation-upload and hosting tools."

SlideShare was at its peak in popularity when LinkedIn bought it. It has lost some of its lustre under the Microsoft umbrella. In December 2019, Brad Stephenson at LifeWire commented, "Nowadays, it’s rarely seen as a primary focus for either individuals or companies with the majority of SlideShare’s most-popular presentations having been created several years ago and the website being used more to drive traffic to paid LinkedIn Learning courses rather than support user-created content."

One problem with SlideShare is the antiquated search user experience. It offers only one bare bones search box with no advanced search capabilities. Relevance of search results is often very questionable, frustrating searchers. As search has evolved, SlideShare has not. However, its LinkedIn ownership did create opportunities to integrate SlideShare content with a LinkedIn profile. Cross-posting to LinkedIn is often an effective marketing tool and raises the visibility of an individual's expertise, whether for personal business reasons or as a representative of a library, company, or some other entity.

Quality control for user-uploaded content on both platforms is close to non-existent, because anyone can upload their content with no quality control checks. On SlideShare you can find presentations that originated as classroom exercises and on Scribd people have uploaded their resumes (which sometimes require a user be subscribed to view, which seems to defeat the purpose). Of course, you can also find very valuable, high quality information as well.

The acquisition of SlideShare by Scribd raises several questions. Will Scribd continue the integration options with LinkedIn profiles or will it gradually withdraw from them? Since Scribd is a subscription service, will it initiate a paid "pro" version of SlideShare, much as SmugMug did with Flickr accounts. If either of these events happen, it will not be immediately. Plus, there's always the opportunity for Scribd to drive SlideShare users to become Scribd subscribers. Perhaps more importantly, researchers hope that Scribd will improve the user experience on SlideShare, making search more robust and relevant. Maybe even something worth paying for.