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What Happened III

(March 02, 2007)
Job scraping and aggregation slowly emerged as a tool. Job Ad Distribution companies began to replace advertising agencies. Gen X and Gen Y began to take center stage. Experiments matured and died. Friction kept disappearing. Employers got more and more data.

The Washington Post has been a consistent and stellar participant in the development of technology in our industry. Unlike all of the other newspaper players, the Post has navigated the waters with a clear and steady hand. While there were some failed experiments in Applicant Tracking Systems, for instance, the Post has done well because their focus has been on the market, not on the technology. Paradoxically, that makes them highly successful tech innovators.

For example, in the very earliest days of job boards, the Post used supported and (we think) funded a company called Junglee. (Here's the whole wayback.) Junglee was the first operation to exploit what we now call job scraping (also see this and this). In doing so, they set a theme for the industry that persists to this day. Within 18 months, scrappy little Careercast was on the streets with its Job Replicator technology that did the same thing.

The fundamental idea was that job boards could save employers time and energy by redistributing jobs that were already posted elsewhere. The fundamental technology was "copy, paste, categorize". It was just a variation on search engine indexing but, in most cases, the initial work was manual and had to be updated every time the company employment site changed. Today, a lot of what passes for job scraping is actually the indexing of feeds received directly from the job boards.

Interestingly, the basic idea had been pioneered and executed by Jim Gonyea and the team at HelpWantedUSA.. In order to deliver content for the ever hungry AOL audience that they fed, HelpWantedUSA staff often uploaded copies lifted directly from the newspapers (typed by hand).

 (One source says that when Bill Warren called Jim Gonyea to see if the Online Career Center's postings could be placed in the HelpWantedUSA lists, Gonyea said "It's too late, buddy. I own Electronic Recruiting." Our industry is loaded with early incumbents who stopped watching the ball, thinking that they owned the space. In fact, one way to tell the story is as a succession of those mistakes by newspaper people, job board owners, staffing firm managers, enterprise software companies and applicant tracking system providers.)

In 1999, Junglee was acquired by Amazon. Careercast became Adicio. Job scraping morphed to become part RSS, part HR-XML and part job scraping the old fashioned way.

Today's job aggregators (SimplyHired, WorkZoo, Indeed , Jobster (to some extent), JobCentral) take their cues from this early history. To date, no one has built a profitable business repurposing job ads in a context different from the original source. Although the newspaper industry used to get furious (and sue regularly), most job boards are happy to have their material reused by other operations. It simply increases their customers' bang for the buck.

More to come.

The series so far:

John Sumser © TwoColorHat. All Rights Reserved.
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