Welcome To The Monkey House
June 18, 2002) - They're at it again. The combination of too much money, too little sense, and an adolescent feeling of immortality in a potent stew of extraordinary arrogance, when it's a trust fund that finances a business.  From here, it looks like the big newspaper company business strategy is "screw things up often, disrupt the business, and play a war of attrition." With a bankroll that size, we suppose that you can afford to antagonize customers and suppliers while waiting for the competition to wear out.

BrassRing released the 5.0 version of its software recently. Even Microsoft, with all of its market dominance, understands that a complete revision of the interface, no matter how useful, is the single best way to cause customer attrition. Faced with an entirely new product that is all but unrelated to the prior version, customers now have the exciting opportunity to choose between an array of new products. Staying with BrassRing now means investing the same energy as hiring a new supplier. And, early user reports suggest that debugging has become a customer obligation.

Not to be outdone, CareerBuilder has launched an interesting approach to accounting and receivables management. Even though the Headhunter/CareerBuilder accounting integration is in tatters, they are punishing customers for the inaccuracies in their billing. We know of cases where Job Ad Distribution Companies were terminated when they asked for an account reconciliation. Even Microsoft understands that terminating service, when an account is under protest, constitutes restraint of trade.

Finally, from the "Mouse that Roared" Department, the Wall Street Journal-owned CareerCast launched a 'national network' recently. The one-size-fits-all strategy leaves customers completely dependent on their vendor for critical market innovations. Effectively, all system changes must be vetted through the ownership leaving clients, who want to build their own businesses, in the lurch. Dissatisfied customers, who have had a series of missed improvement projects, are subjected to settlement fees before departure. Between the little company initiative and the CareerBuilder network, we're imagining a field day for antitrust lawyers, who are searching for a post-Microsoft target.

Still, rich guys can screw things up until the trust fund money runs out. 

 -John Sumser