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It is better
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John Sumser

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Salt, Sugar, Hot Sauce, Mustard, Pepper

(July 22, 2003) - The industry news has been pretty quiet over the course of the past couple of years. Heads down, we've all been struggling with new market realities. The abrupt change threatened survival first. After the initial waves of failure and aggregation, the industry seemed to be treading water for a long time.

Changes in market conditions produce changes in business behavior. It's that simple. Behind the appearance of endless water-treading, something had to be happening. We've been thinking hard about the way that innovation works when it's quiet and there is more punishment than reward for publicity.

So, we've looked at one great market leverage opportunity for Monster and the progress made at HotJobs over the past year. What we discovered, we think, is a fundamental shift in the way that the marketplace works. The quiet spell has produced some rethinking and a lot of refocusing.

A couple of years ago, when everything was still seen in the reflection of the dot-com bubble, the proposed HotJobs/Monster deal was often framed in the  "Coke-Pepsi" metaphor. A little awkward at the time, we think we're seeing the emergence of multiple products who have buyers in common rather than identical products for identical customers.

HotJobs appears to be shaping itself as a passive candidate acquisition tool. More like the newspapers than not, Yahoo has a huge subscriber/member base and hundreds of thousands of existing customers. The problems, opportunities and focus of the HotJobs machine are unique. The essential demographic reach is different. The output (in terms of candidates, quality, timing and billing) will therefore be unique. HotJobs is becoming, as we heard from Dan Finnigan, a central component of the "daily information utility".

Monster, on the other hand, is the active-candidate acquisition tool. We're certain that heads will shake negatively at first in Waltham. This is a powerful market position that allows the firm to move aggressively into some key, previously untouchable areas. Monster is really moving into a position that could allow them to simply eliminate much of the ATS market.

The two companies are differentiating in ways that make them complementary products (like salt and pepper) rather than tightly focused competitors. They provide access to differing levels of quality and demographics. They only compete, in some ways, at the level of customer attention and budget. Both HotJobs and Monster have become more mature businesses with a track record of surviving and transforming during economic change.

The labor market is huge. In America alone, there are 7 Million employers (customers) and 130 million candidates (employees). It's big enough to support another six or seven entries the size of the two current giants. We're seeing (first hand in some cases) the development of new businesses that make a range of post dot-com assumptions. Business formation and further revitalization seems to be ticking upward. It's the start of the next generation.

John Sumser

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