Given how much personal information and business relationships are exposed on social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn, I'm continually surprised that I see so little activity from the news media utilizing the updates each of those services bring. If I were a reporter, I would want to "Link In" to as many potential news sources as I could to companies I found relevant, and I would watch their activity to gain early insight into partnerships, promotions, and comings and goings.
As the use of LinkedIn grows in a wide variety of markets, not just those in technology, one can also gauge company size and growth relative to its peers by the total number of employees using the service. While it's not scientific, as one company's LinkedIn penetration can vary widely from the next, it's a good rule of thumb.
Current Company = Facebook: 191 records
Current Company = MySpace: 403 records
Current Company = SmugMug: 12 records
If I were a reporter linked in to spokespeople, management or even the PR flacks at a company, I would watch for "Profile Updates" that showed changes in title or responsibility, or if they had left one firm for another. I could see if that person had added a new connection - possibly to a new hire, or signifying a new partnership or customer. I could even do a search to see how often companies showed up as having been where someone had previously worked, but no longer does. If more people formerly worked for a company than are still there, would that signal unrest or a layoff? A good reporter could put two and two together to get the answers.
ValleyWag shows a great example of this, where they found Facebook and Microsoft "making friends" before the companies' announced investment.
Just within my own LinkedIn network, I can get early alerts showing people's changing career path. I've seen people become friends with customers or partners before their announcements hit the press wire. Often, by the time the media gets it, the story has had weeks or months to bake.
Want to know what's going on at the latest company in "stealth mode"? Search for their name, and see who they're hiring. Where did they come from? How many employees do they have? LinkedIn just might have the answers.
In a world where more data is becoming transparent, LinkedIn is a killer resource to gain information on industries, companies and competition. Reporters who figure it out and use it to the best of their ability will be a step ahead of everybody else.