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(December 27, 1996): Imagine the awkward plight of the newspapers. In an environment where "content" is a critical asset, it is their chief liability. The Web demands tighter client-customer integration. Every step the newspapers take in this direction steps on the toes of an existing subset of their long term base. Their key strengths are buried under decades of bureaucracy and tenure. Their thin grasp on the employment advertising market, worth Billions in the aggregate, hangs in the balance. The political sophistication required to make organizational changes works against the immediacy required by the medium. The very organizational structure, which works hard to segregate customer - reader interactions, works against the strengths of the web. Companies that make money by placing recruitment advertising in newspapers have gone into outright competition with the papers and act like publishers on the Web. Traditional advertising models assume neither liability nor performance reporting requirements for the media outlet. Several of those ideas bear a deeper look.
Newspaper content is a liability in the employment arena.
The web demands information depth. Though newspapers are a great place to find ads for positions like "Exotic Dancer" where little additional explanation is required, the twin forces of the demographic dip and competitive reliance on content as a filter conspire to make current three line employment advertising counterproductive on the web. The pricing of newspaper advertising, once justifiable based on space constraints, makes no sense on the Web. Job hunters look to make increasing decisions based on the ad itself. Why? Simply because more information is available.
The three line ad creates a lot of additional work for Recruiters and HR departments. With fully described position listings available at newspaper prices, any savvy recruiter will instantly realize the benefits of delivering a more complete job description early in the process. It gives the job hunter the ability to self-select and thereby decreases the recruiting professional's workload. If a newspaper begins its employment advertising development with the assumption that existing ad content is somehow "reusable", it is doomed to failure.
The Web demands tighter client-customer integration.
Look around. For the past 20 years, competitive advantage has been gained by increasingly tight relationships between suppliers and their customers. The Total Quality Movement and Just-In-Time Inventory approaches both emphasized decentralized decision making as a key component of the drive to reduce physical and administrative "inventory". Rather than seeing the Web as a marketplace, we often think of it as a "space reducer". With instantly available in-depth information, the back and forth questions that occupy so much administrative overhead are significantly reduced.
The organizational structure works against client-customer integration. The tribal warfare between the editorial and publishing components of most periodicals is legendary. The "wall" between the two functions was built to prevent slanting news in favor of one advertiser or another. In addition, classified advertising (where influence on editorial content is very unlikely) is a low status department staffed by people who are generally not cut from the same highly educated stock as the rest of the organization. Making a decision to optimize this function as a central, revenue producing strength that requires highly educated sales professionals requires investments beyond the current status of the organization.
Making organizational changes requires political sophistication.
Navigating the craggy, land mine filled terrain of most News organizations requires a combination of delicacy and diplomatic skills that no small entrepreneurial shop has the luxury of having.
But, the newspapers bring several key strengths to balance these nearly crippling weaknesses. We'll look at those in Monday's article.
The Net As A Recruiting Tool
(December 26, 1996): With the year's end upon us, the pundits are circling and pronouncing. Like the final stages of labor and delivery, 1996 was a confusing and chaotic time in the evolution of the net as a whole. Lots of options and new players emerged on the retail fronts. If you read the mainstream press, listen to CNN or visit the major Web comentary sites, you would have to assume that the future of the net is in retail. We think (with our obvious bias) that the untold story of 1996 was the astounding growth and increasing effectiveness of the use of the web in our industry.
By some counts, there are as many as 1.2 Million resumes circulating on the web. By our count, over 2 Million job ads were placed last year. 3500 employment related websites opened their doors. It was labor and delivery and will only be dwarfed by the growth we'll see next year.
To be sure, even the best employment and recruiting websites are primitive when compared with what's possible. Of the 3500 sites, many are a waste of company time and energy. Their results, when measured against other possible investments, lag significantly. Although their owners have had time or money to invest in the future, they've managed to virtually squander their opportunities.
Then again, we've witnessed some amazing things...a California Company placing a high ranking Italian development vice president in a Northern Virginia technology company (none of the Principles ever met, all transactions were electronic facillitated by a Website); a couple immigrating from London to Denver successfully charting their financial and career aspirations on the Web; the remarkable evolution of MindSource (the California firm that integrates the net and social/professional functions into a recruiting wonderchild); the explosive growth of Net-Temps, Job Bank USA and NationJob Network; the hypergrowth of Bill Vick's Recruiter's Online Network; and, TMP's (the owners of Monster Board) emergence as an acquisition force. The year brought amazing success stories.
We're reminded, from time to time, of the CB Radio fad of the 70s. While we wish our enthusiasm for the future of Recruiting as the Web's "killer application" was widely shared, we recognize that a certain level of critical mass has not yet been achieved. There's hardly enough data to proclaim the arrival of an uncertain future.
The Internet (and its potential as a Recruiting tool) is a technology, not a solution. Using the technology is how the solutions are developed. In the aggregate, 1996 was the year that the Industry began using the technology in an attempt to find solutions.
Some of the possibilities run against the grain of traditional views of Recruiting, employment advertising and Human Resources. Because the technology inherently closes the gap between the various players in the game, traditional notions of privelege, secrecy, and value are terribly threatened.
At the same time, a website is a website is a website. Whether the company behind it is a home office, a newspaper, a recruiter or a corporate HR department is entirely unrelated to the website's success as a tool for the end user.
This means that "upstarts" can potentially upset the whole existing order. We are sure that Yahoo! and CareerCity will leave long lasting impressions on the industry with their free employment advertising policies. With their market moves, both companies prove that very different market motives can produce significant changes in economics.
So, what's coming? How should an enterprise with an interest in Recruiting pursue the marketplace?
The problems aren't any different than they are elsewhere in your business. The key is knowing "what business you're in". Knowing the right questions to ask is much more important than having the answers. As has been the case for the last 20 years, speed is the fundamental question in business. For anyone with an interest in the employment marketplace, the question is "How do I use this (or any) technology to decrease the time it takes to solve my customer's problem?"
1997 will produce an even more bewildering array of tools. Most will be used poorly. That's what the initial steps always look like. We're fairly sure that the attention devoted to our industry will increase significantly. Recruiting on the web allows a wide range of businesses to justify other web related ventures. It ensures the availability of Human Resources while offering a practical competitive edge to early adopters. It's putting enough crimp in the style of traditional employment advertising media to merit a swift response.
Stay tuned. But When Will They Get The Last One Right?
(December 25, 1996): Netscape has finally released Navigator 4.0, also known as Netscape Communicator. Currently available only for Windows 95 and Windows NT, this suite of products integrates open email, groupware, editing, and browsing tools into one application. The interesting thing about the timing of this public beta is that industry insiders predicted that it wouldn't happen before year's end. The release was originally loosely scheduled for the 4th quarter of this year, but lately Netscape had been avoiding making any promises at all. In an article dated yesterday (also the day that Netscape made the release available), Computer Reseller News posted an article on TechWeb predicting that Netscape wouldn't be able to pull it together before year's end. Since the article quotes many people who believed it was an impossible feat, the fact that Netscape pulled it off leads us to wonder about the integrity of the product (I feel a system crash coming on). However, the article does quote users that found the product to be more stable than Navigator 3.0. Netscape has created Beta Central to provide information on any known problems with the software.
If you want to learn more about Communicator before downloading, Netscape has an overview on their site and there is a review on C/Net . According to BrowserWatch (whose statistics are the more generous to Microsoft than other surveys), Netscape currently has 50.4% of the browser market and Microsoft Internet Explorer's market share is 38.0%. Therefore, this is an announcement that web designers will not be able to ignore.
More About Naming
(December 24, 1996): Domain Names can be considered the web equivalent of the off-line creed of "location, location, location". The problem is once www.yourcompanyname.com is taken, it's gone. This tends to be a real problem for a lot of companies especially for companies who are largely indentified by their initials. But what if after discovering that the name you want is taken you could ease your distress by choosing companyname.inc or companyname.bus. The International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) has announced a plan to add seven new generic top level domains to decrease the competition for commercial domain names. They also proposed that other companies in addition to the InterNIC be able issue these domain names.
While this plan opens up more possibilities for new entrants, this decision could defeat the very advantages of the current system. The commercial domain naming system has evolved into a better way to find a site than all the major search engines combined. Users know that the quickest way to find a site is to type www.sitename.com before utilizing a search engine. Before C/Net launched Shareware.com, they posted it on the net for six hours for testing. During that time they had 6000 visitors who just typed the URL while presumably looking for shareware. Knowing now that there will be seven more top level domains, it seems doubtful users will enter in eight different possibilities on a hunch that they may find the information they are looking for. It also seems unlikely that Microsoft would let me register www.miscrosoft.inc. Already many companies are registering their domain name in several countries to ensure no one else gets the name. It is reasonable to assume that this practice would continue with new top level domains as well.
What's a Newspaper
(December 23, 1996): By now, you know that we're fans of Editor and Publisher Interactive. They have the pulse of the evolution of newspapers as online entities. We particularly enjoyed today's column by Steve Outing. (It will be in their archives after Dec 24.) Outing offers a discouraging look back at the progress of newspapers during 1996. It's a subject we are fond of. One of the significant opportunities open to Electronic Recruiters is the HUGE slug of money spent each year on Employment advertising.
To date, the papers have played "catch-up" and allowed others to invest, innovate and grab market share on the net. 1997 looks like a watershed (a la Custer) for the newspaper industry. But, don't rule out the papers just yet.
Recently, we've been exposed to the sort of visionary talent that is emerging in the newspaper classified business. (It's hard to write visionary and classified advertising in the same sentence, but they're coming.).
As the backbone of the gray market economy and the chronicle of comings and goings, Classified advertising has long played an unsung role in Economic Development. With passion and capital, the papers are just liable to surprise you in 1997. It's the capital behind the passion that just may make the difference.
Singed by the loss of market share in automobiles and real-estate, the papers are slowly re-envisioning themselves as critical economic engines. It's a long journey from the Journalism school hoo-hah of the past 25 years to the real roots of the industry. But, newspapers as economic players was the name of the game at the beginning of the industry. Because they will ultimately return to the roots, it's time for the major players in Electronic Recruiting to take note and begin moving double-time into the future.
Remember Microsoft vs Netscape. The "knowing" insiders wrote Gates and company out of the equation at this time last year. The kids in Seattle have done nothing but grab market share and revolutionize the business. It's entirely possible that 1997 will be the year that the papers do the same for Recruiting.
We've Added Daily News
(December 14, 1996): We think you'll like this one. In partnership with Individual, Inc (the news providers), we're now offering a section of daily headlines for recruiters. Check it out.
(AUGUST 01, 1996): It's here and we're proud. Staffing Industry Resources has published the Recruiter's Internet Survival Guide by our editor, John Sumser.
Order your copy today.
Besides our industry analyses and newsletters, we help recruiters integrate this new technology into their operations. We've added a detailed description of IBN to the website. We'd love to help you.
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