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It is better
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the web than
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not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall


The Electronic Recruiting News is a Free Daily Newsletter For Recruiters, HR Managers, Advertising Agencies and Clasified Advertising Operations

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The More Things Change
(April 20, 2000) The more things change, the more they stay the same. We get over 20 notes each day from companies who are trying to build the number of links that point to their sites. We dug back in history a bit and found a four year old article talking about various types of inbound links.

You weave the foundation for your web enterprise from a series of links. We're very clear that the depth and quality of your inbound links constitute the commercial infrastructure, the playing field, of your enterprise. Since we're located within eyesight of the Golden Gate Bridge, it's hard to avoid the suspension metaphor. Links are the suspension and bridge that allow traffic into your site. By definition, the relationship has to be two way. You must offer some sort of outbound links as a part of your traffic development.

We think that there are several discrete types of inbound link. They vary in quality and effectiveness. Since, for all intents and purposes, your operation *begins* at the inbound link, we think that it's critical to manage them.

Imagine a matrix with one dimension being content and the other, context. Each scale runs from 0 to 9 (like the matrix management courses that I'm sure you've been exposed to).

The simplest and least effective link has neither content or context (0,0). It appears on a long list of links with no discriminating information. These are easy and inexpensive to arrange. The web is full of hot lists. We call them "Commodity Links". Like the mundane parts of a suspension bridge, you must have all of the commodity links you can get. They don't discriminate, they just keep you even.

The second type of link has content but little enduring context. (9,0). Think of reviews that run for a short while and then get lost in the review archives. They provide burst traffic with little sustained volume. The best example of this is being named as a "cool Site". The traffic spikes and your email baskets burst at the seams, little revenue emerges because the traffic source is more important than you as a destination. We call them "Feel Good Links".

The third type of link has context but little content. Yahoo! is our favorite example of this (0,9) type of link. The link endures and gets your operation identified as 1 of X businesses in the niche. We call them "Library Links".

Obviously, your ideal is to have all your inbound links well positioned with very positive reviews in an enduring place. It's why the Top 25 Recruiters list works so well as a traffic generator for the Websites on the list. These 9,9 links, which we call "Relationship Links", usually have some underlying reciprocal relationship. It can be as simple as a trade of links and a simple cross-promotion agreement to complex revenue sharing arrangements.

There are, equally obviously, many shades of link types inside the matrix. Nothing really fits solidly into any of the categories. There's also the question of the volume of traffic generated by the link. A relationship (9,9) link on a heavily trafficked site can make all of the difference to your business. The same link on a site that gets 10 visitors a week is not worth much effort.

Given the complexity of the Web in it's current form, we generally argue that the optimal approach is to create the largest number possible of inbound links. Then, we suggest that you mine that "pile" in search of the commodity links that are most easily converted into Relationship links. So, effectively, you continually refine your incoming traffic as a way of defining your demographic.

Finally, there is the question of site design and your inventory of content. On the web, you can get lots of traffic to a dumb destination. Converting that traffic into return visitors depends entirely on having changing and useful content that is easily accessible, relevant and understandable. In other words, success is dependent on both traffic and audience development.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Let Me Take You Hire

(April 20, 2000) Remember Hiresystems? The extremely entrepreneurial company, well on its way to securing a slot as the third largest supplier of applicant tracking systems, is moving forward under a series of new identities. (You know how we love new identities; they are the government work of marketing genius.) Joboo (who we've mentioned before) is the company's new spokes-ghost (complete with ghastly music). The company itself has been formally integrated into BrassRing (The Ultimate Technology Information and Career Portal) the Washington Post-Chicago Tribune-Central Newspapers joint venture.

Joboo is also the name of the company's new recruitment web site hosting product line. BrassRingSystems is the company's new name (they are now a division).

Confused? We are too and we sort of get it. The distinctions probably only matter to those of us who can't figure out how to update our rolodexes. BrassRing, you see, is composed of a number of interrelated endeavors that may or may not share a customer base.

According to the company, BrassRing is:

  •, formerly incpad by Westech
  • BrassRing Career Events, composed of Kaplan Careers Services, Westech ExpoCorp, Terra Starr, and JobsAmerica
  • BrassRing Systems, formerly HireSystems
  • BrassRing Campus formerly the CSO businesses
  •, formerly
  • BrassRing Diversity, formerly Crimson & Brown
Beneath the confusion is an astonishing set of market results. We believe that BrassRing is (among other things)
  • The fastest growing applicant tracking systems provider
  • The largest job fair company
  • The combined remains of a number of job boards
  • Newly integrated into the next release of SAP
  • A powerful player in the college recruiting market
  • Positioned to serve most markets except Executive Search, Free Agents and Auctions
With these amazing credentials, its not surprising that the marketing message is cluttered. The pieces are only recently joined. And, marketing clutter only matters if it confuses customers, not analysts at 30,000 feet. But, we wonder if the naming conundrums aren't obscuring the market's view of a company with a good deal of traction and potential.

In our opinion, the company's strength lies in the powerful relationship capital that the company has built through various alliances and advisory boards (we sit on one). It may well be the case that the network will sustain the company while it tries to adjust to its new identity. It will be one of the interesting stories of this year's trade show season.

Meanwhile, Joboo's tour just missed us. We've been locked in a cheap motel located at an interstate rest-stop out on the Coast for most of a week. The Joboo tour drove right by on the interstate with nary a wave. We were only slightly more hurt than we were when Joboo forgot to visit our corporate jacuzzi.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Wisdom Automation

(April 19, 2000) We continue to wrestle with the notion that software is a form of media (like a compact disc or a piece of paper) and will eventually be priced accordingly. The question, we think, is how to maintain high margins in an environment that is continually turning high margin business into commodities at an extraordinary pace. Reaching far beyond the realm of Electronic Recruiting, this question is central to the long term success of any company in or out of our business.

Simply, the question is "How do you continue to provide your customer with novel, high value services?". Like we see everyday in Electronic Recruiting, the moment a good new idea hits the market, the competitors begin to copy it. Either market advantage is fleeting and dependent on a continuing stream of innovation or it requires a non-repeatable (or labor intensive) method. We think this question is at the center of the development of a workable strategy in our industry and the rest of the Internet industry.

One approach to solving the problem is to institutionalize a wisdom department. You may remember the scale of value that goes something like "Data - Information - Insight Wisdom". Wisdom represents the highest value, data the lowest. We believe that all wisdom has a half-life. At the half-life point, wisdom degrades into information and can be automated. A Wisdom department would be in charge of developing a constant stream of new wisdom and figuring out how to deliver it to the customer.

The other, more widely practiced approach (demonstrated by the HRXML consortium among others) is to wait until wisdom is totally degraded and becomes repeatable data. This approach, appropriate for a large institutional player, assumes that commodity pricing is a good thing and that low margins are the key to market dominance. In this model, survival is sold rather than the opportunity for a customer to gain real market benefit. We believe that this approach values mediocrity and consistency over innovation. It's much easier to execute (particularly if you are a big player with relatively limitless budgets),

We tend to look at the market as leaning towards one extreme or the other. The highest return on your investment is likely to come from the former while reliable performance, at rates consistent with all other players, comes from the latter. In a "War For Talent", no one can really afford the luxury of market performance. It is, by definition, declining.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.


(April 18, 2000) In what will certainly bring a boost to their slow to develop stock price, has agreed to acquire CareerMosaic for $109 Million in stock. The basic reason that a dot com company tries to build a strong valuation for its stock is so that deals like this one can be executed. The combined company will be able to make a strong case that it is really the number 2 player in the market. (Our research suggests that the traffic may be somewhat lower than anticipated.)

This is pretty amazing news. CareerMosaic, an industry pioneer, has struggled over the past couple of years because of its bad fit with its parent company. Ad Agencies simply can not offer objective advice when the sales force is recommending an internal product. As long as the Hodes organization directly owned CareerMosaic, the job board served as a drag on the larger company's growth. Now, positioned as an investment (apparently $109M is a 40% stake in the combined company), Hodes can focus on bringing its customers objective value. Word on the street is that Hodes is headed into service territory that directly serves its customers. We're rapidly developing a deep respect for the emerging Hodes strategy.

"The combined company will have one of the largest direct sales forces in the industry, the companies said, adding that they plan to integrate quickly to build a single identity", says the press release. But, the rumor mill says that all of the CareerMosaic management team is going to stay at Hodes. Making the cultural fit work (New York vs. Georgia) is no small challenge.

Maybe we're still to stupid to get it, but the real value seems to be the brands. A single identity means that either CM, HH or both will hit the trash can. It seems like an expensive proposition. While the consolidation of brand identity worked for Monster when it absorbed OCC, we're not so sure that it is a repeatable trick.

The challenge facing the combined company is not insignificant. Niche job boards are gaining in presence and importance precisely because building a global brand is so expensive. A $250 M company hardly has the budget to stay the long haul. (At $250 M, they are half the size of HotJobs, even with its currently depressed stock price.)

The move is a bold one for Proving that they can absorb and digest large acquisitions will be central to their future. We wish them luck.

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

Get Ready

(April 17, 2000) Any moment now, the doors will open on the annual trade show season. While there are a few very serious events in the fall (except HR Technology in September), the endurance contest for vendors and customers alike begins in earnest about May 1.

With eight conferences in nine weeks, we expect the usual frayed nerves, near divorces, crowded hotels, semi-empty vendor halls and extra boxes of undifferentiated hype. This season boasts the most crowded schedule in the history of the Recruiting Industry. We're particularly tickled by the way that hard-line members of the Recruiting Industry establishment have remade themselves into E-Recruiting experts. After six years, it's probably more than a fad.

Here's the list:

May 03-05, EMA Retention and Recruitment, Orlando, FL
May 08-11, 2000 eHR Tools & Applications Anaheim, CA
May 16-18, IQPC Recruiting & Staffing Summit New Orleans, LA
May 18-19, Kennedy E-Recruiting Conference, Las Vegas, NV
May 21-24, Computerworld Training and Retention: Orlando, FL
June 11-13. Talent 2000, Austin, TX
June 19-21, IHRIM: Spring 2000 Hynes Convention Center Boston, MA
June 25-28, SHRM 2000 Las Vegas Convention Center Las Vegas, NV

- John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.

© 2013 interbiznet.
All Rights Reserved.

Materials written
by John Sumser
© TwoColorHat.
All Rights Reserved.

Mill Valley, CA 94941
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