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Not The New Big (JJ-IV)

(October 11, 2006) It's hard to think about what's really happening. Conventional wisdom drives markets, public opinion, ethics, jury decisions, legislation and many other critical components of the social structure. It seems like money is an infinitely extendable commodity then, boom there's a crash. Although the safest bet is that history will repeat itself, that would not have predicted the web.

These days, the history that is supposed to repeat itself is the wild success of Google. It seems like every scenario for the future of the web recruiting industry depends on the belief that Google's good fortune is something more than temporary. Of course, we think that Google is already over. The vast over-commercialization of mindshare is a temporary phenomenon with the life expectancy of any other hula-hoop. One thing you can be sure of is that if everyone believes it's going to happen, it won't. We learned that during the last crash.

At interbiznet, we walk a strange line. Trying to see past the consensual future and into something more likely to happen takes patience and mistake making. The process leads us to discover things in advance of the marketplace. It doesn't seem to stop us from missing stuff. We missed the downturn by a country mile. It does keep us looking for changes that make a real difference.

If you look at Craigslist and Google, it's clear that getting big has erased some (or most) of the original charm. We think it eliminates much of the effectiveness as well. When volume and money are the only discriminating factors in audience reach, there is no community. When permission based marketing no longer requires asking permission, providers will get resentful. When the act of creation is ignored in exchange for reliance on search, something critical is getting lost.

The web won't evolve into a well paved superhighway devoid of shrubbery and scenery. It's going to be much more idiosyncratic and local. For sure, every freedom granted local authors and creators will be matched with an attempt to aggregate it into bigness. But, ask yourself what is the newer more forward moving idea...concentration of power in single media companies or an explosion of a billion small operations.

We continue to believe that the importance of the web is in smallness, not bigness. We think that things become more local, not more global (although the two are not as mutually exclusive as it sounds).

Somehow, the band of critics who see an end to Monster's dominance of the market are championing an even less likely answer...unwilling consolidation at the very expense of precision targeting. It seems particularly unlikely that small employers in local economies are going to jump for joy at the idea that they're going to get resumes from 10,000 miles away. None of the consolidation efforts even think about making it easier for job hunters in x locale. They're all about huge.

Make no mistake, many job board owners are unwilling participants in the aggregation process. Their "lawn signs" (robots.txt files) go completely ignored while the Association of Job Boards refuses to acknowledge a problem. The conviction that they're right serves as the fundamental justification for the aggregators. Questioning is apparently off limits (have you read the harangues?)

Most employers around the world (85%) have between 20 and 100 employees. Their needs will dominate the ultimate solution set. Tomorrow we'll wrap up this sequence with an alternative view of the future.

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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