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Hot Jobscraper?
(July 20, 2005) - We love Bill Warren, he predictably forecasts the end of Monster at each juncture in the marketplace. This week (see below), he's certain that Yahoo's new job scraping entry is the harbinger. Usually, he thinks it's one of his pet projects.

Yahoo, like the newspapers it competes with has an odd bi-furcation in the way that it reaches its audience. Content categories, useful for sorting stuff into piles, are not the way that human beings usually organize themselves. So, while they're busy reading the sports section, they're also busy thinking about the job they should be looking for.

The problem makes newspapers irrelevant to the multitasking youngsters who might have been their next generation of customer. For Yahoo, the problem of multitasking customers is even more daunting because they can (technically) offer a solution. This is at the heart of the decision to include scraped listings in Yahoo HotJobs search results. The goal of a "comprehensive experience" is directly at the heart of Yahoo's constant challenge to balance categorization and search engine results. The question is whether can (the ability to offer a solution) translates into should.

That's important enough to say again.

Yahoo has, embedded in its underlying architecture, a tension that will always haunt its policies. It's history as a content categorization system is at odds with its future as a search engine. Google experiences the same tension in an inverse way when it steps out into functional offerings (like gmail or maps). Probably as long as both companies exist, they will make key decisions along this fault line. The tension between categorization and aggregation has one rule: know who you are and never be muddy.

As many commentators have noted, job scraping is nothing new. Given FlipDog's recent whimpering demise, we wonder why anyone at all is headed down this road. Job scraping, which is marginally legal at best, is an old idea whose time simply hasn't come.

There is one very interesting possibility that doesn't seem to have been mentioned by any of the pundits.

If Hotjobs were repositioned as a loss leader (like IM and email), does Yahoo's balance sheet work more effectively?

We don't think so, but in the light of Craigslist and eBay as critical competitors, maybe it makes some sense. We bet, however, that the reasoning is otherwise.

Views from around the industry:

  • Charlene Li (Forrester): I spoke with Dan Finnigan, who runs HotJobs, about their plans. He said that the #1 goal for HotJobs and Yahoo! is to provide a comprehensive job search experience. They were noticing that consumers were starting to conduct job-related searches on the general Yahoo! search pages, and advertisers were buying up job-related keywords.
  • SearchEngineWatch: I would argue that job scraping (for example, crawling company web sites for employment listings) would fall into the, "what's old is new" again category since a major online employment database once provided this type of service. (FlipDog)
  • YahooSearchBlog: More jobs means more choices, whether you're hunting or hiring. And we really don't think you should ever have to use more than one job search engine to find a job listing (just like web search).
  • SearchEngineJournal: Not wanting to be "disintermediated" by Oodle, SimplyHired, WorkZoo, Indeed and other existing and potential classifieds aggregators, Yahoo!—as reported on several sites—has developed its own metasearch for jobs.
  • SocialPatterns: Yahoo has been aggregating job listings from local job listing sites like Careerboard, Jobvertise, and Backpage. In addition to collecting job listing sites, Yahoo has also been pulling job listings from corporate, school, and government sites.
  • Marc Pincus (former CEO of Tribe):
    • what drives audience? i've never seen any proof that most comprehensive is a key driver for jobs or dates. in all our focus group studies at tribe we never found this to be true. popularity of sites like craigslist for jobs and jdate for dates proves opposite.
    • people want to connect with people - job seekers have always told me they use CL because they can get to the actual hiring manager (via email) and avoid recruiters and hr people. this makes me think the winning site will have a perception of connecting people more directly.
    • what drives listers? every job lister on craigslist will tell you, 'omg, i got 10 responses in the first hour'. they do seem to care more about the immediate gratification. from this perspective aggregation is a good thing in driving more widespread viewing and responding.
    • its all about brand - i believe the reason monster and careerbuilder can persist and charge such high prices is that they have brands. brands take a really long time to build in classifieds where your audience may show up once a year or once ever. for this reason, i dont see any scenario where the aggregators win on better mousetraps. my bet is on craigslist, monster, careerbuilder and of course tribe.

  • OnRec: Yahoo has entered the vertical search market, quietly launching a vertical search engine on its HotJobs recruitment site. Now, a job search turns up listings from HotJobs advertisers first, but also includes listings from other job boards and from employer sites.
  • Joel Cheesman: I love Bill Warren's quote: "This is the beginning of the end for Monster and CareerBuilder ... This is really Monster's worst fear."
  • The Merc: It's unclear whether Yahoo really has a choice in the matter. A slew of hungry start-ups, including Indeed and Mountain View's Simply Hired, have launched similar Web-searching technology to scoop employers' jobs onto their sites. Some even take the jobs directly from the sites of the big three job search companies and craigslist, often without explicit permission.
  • Lloyd@work: And one cheeky question - how will Yahoo react when people start scraping their own site and turning it into a suite of RSS feeds which completely disintermediate Yahoo?

John Sumser

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