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(September 16, 2005) The death bells are ringing everywhere you look. Monster feels the heat; Google and Yahoo in the Hunt for Monster; The Job of Challenging Monster in the mainstream press are coupled with rumblings around the blogs. There's a lot of noise in our marketplace and Monster is making very little of it. The press and the usual suspects are planning for a big party at the wake. A lot of people have made a lot of points proclaiming that the end is near for the biggest job board.

We remember when the young arrogant company responded like Google to every single criticism thrown their way. There was a time that you could poke and their response would be beyond proportional. Customers hated them uniformly. Everyone had something awful to say. Meanwhile, the arrogant youngsters founded a dot com survivor. The company has matured.

The key to the transition was the development of a culture of customer satisfaction. Steve Pogorozelski tirelessly visited customers, took their pulse, measured their attitudes, solicited their feedback and brought them into the company. The business development crew relentlessly built business that rounded the portfolio (something like 25% of the business at MNST is government contract, a hard foundation to shake). The combination of customer lock-in and smart business development makes it possible for the mature company to keep its head above the fray. They've learned not to manage to change the daily ups and downs of the stock market.

It's been very quiet. Monster issues it's employment index reports, shuffles chairs, makes appropriate charitable contributions, wins bigger contracts than anyone else, plows the traditional fields, hires good people, makes money and continues to grow at very interesting rates. No blimps, no funny superbowl ads, no dot com antics, no more Jeff Taylor.

It's been very quiet. In this dawn of the new VC swirl, some folks read the quiet as a death spiral. We think it's wishful thinking and a deep desire to provoke the sleeping giant. The result of getting a reaction from Monster is nothing but good publicity for the prodder.

That said, there are some interesting issues that we'd love to understand.

  • Since the vertical search companies all depend heavily on Monster allowing them to use their feed, how does the company feel about ownership of data?
  • On a similar note, it seems like the net price of a classified is trending downwards. How will MOnster manage in a market where their product is increasingly commoditized?
  • Have they shifted from proactive vision to a "dial tone" view of service delivery? In other words, have they decided to abandon growth in favor of consistent results?
  • Without compelling advertising/promotion Monster appears to be diluting its brand. Is this intentional?
  • Will the inevitable emergence of a very large competitor (Google, MSN or eBay) change things or are they, as Cendella suggests preparing to be purchased?
  • What about the emergence of Jobster who is shaping itself as a major player in the enterprise market? How will Monster excite those clients?
  • The widely published anti-job board statistics suggest customer di-satisfaction is as high as 70%. Is this true throughout the customer base, in the enterprise business only or in small sectors?

It seems like there is lots of meaningful market pressure and opportunity for growth. While we don't think it spells a death threat, we're sure that Monster can't sit still for much longer. We bet some interesting things are in the offing.


In some editions of yesterday's article, we said that John Younger of Accolo was being interviewed on HR.com. We were wrong, Jon Younger, the actual interviewee is someone else entirely.

Don't forget to check out the blogs on bert.

- John Sumser

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