This past week, LinkedIn was chronicled in an Associated Press article, which discussed at length the various options available for business users of social networking sites. The coverage on USA Today outlines the genesis of LinkedIn through the history of our co-founder Reid Hoffman’s usage of LinkedIn and concludes with the user experience of Matana LePlae (SVP, Sr. Director at BBDO).

Here’s the rest of the article (By JOE BEL BRUNO, AP Business Writer and photo by Douglas C. Pizac, AP):

An increasing number of professionals are tapping into a new breed of networking Web sites to do more than just boast about how many “friends” they have. Millions of users each day are using the Internet to compare investment techniques, correspond with job recruiters and find help in launching a business. Now, sites are also being designed specifically with professionals in mind. LinkedIn, a  business-contact networking site, has seen its ranks swell to 12 million in just four years.

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“The whole MySpace culture just passed me by, and there’s a whole generation of people that feel the same,” said Matana LePlae, 36, an advertising executive and mother of two daughters.

Then the New York City resident was invited by a colleague to join LinkedIn. “For my kids, these networking Web sites will be part of their lives,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be part of mine.”

In the past, Web sites like Monster.com and message boards were simply a space where members could post a resume or a stock tip and hope someone stumbled upon it. LinkedIn, and other business networking Web sites, allow for more relevant contacts and more private communications. They allow business people to share their network of contacts with others and share their contacts in return.

And that’s exactly what Reid Hoffman envisioned when he and four others launched LinkedIn in 2003. The ad-driven Web site is now growing by about 700,000 new users each month, and is considered to be the model for a growing trend of business-oriented networking sites. Management said the privately-owned company is profitable, and revenue has doubled year-to-date.

The 1,294 contacts on Hoffman’s LinkedIn profile read like a who’s who of Silicon Valley elite — everyone from Internet executives to venture capitalists. Users on the site who know Hoffman, or become one of his contacts, would have access to those names — and vice versa. On LinkedIn, members have to accept contacts — and unlock their lists to others they have approved.

“At this point, if you come in and upload your address book and connect with people that are here, it doesn’t take much experimenting,” he said. “You can be off to the races immediately, and that’s one of the benefits of being at a scale of 12 million people.”

Trade associations have long used the Internet to connect members within a particular industry. However, sites using social networking software allow them to post details on a profile, and use it to directly communicate and access information.

“For many people, these sites will mirror the way we behave off-line,” said Steven Jones, a professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago who specializes in new media. (Source: Associated Press)

The Associated Press article found mention in major news outlets ranging from USA Today to Washington Postand Business Week as well as online media outlets including Yahoo! News and ABC News.

Here’s related coverage of LinkedIn from USA Today