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It is better
to not be on
the web than
to be on and
not know why

John Sumser

is more
it seems.
John Gall

It's better to
do a few things
really well than
than to do
a lot of things
If you can't
make the necessary
commitments of
time and energy
to your
scale back
your plan.
John Sumser

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The Foot Bone's Connected To The Ankle Bone
(July 02, 1998) We're still thrilled every time the browser remembers a password. In the early days of the web, the office desks were littered with little yellow stickies containing the password to this site and that service. When the New York Times launched its service as a registration-required-password-protected tool, it fell into disuse around here. Those early impressions are hard to lose. We generally ignore stories (out of habit) if the link points to the NYT.

It's unlikely that we're alone. Over the long haul, there's a great deal of market share to be gained all over the web from people whose habits reflect an earlier time. It's very important to understand that every user's perception and habits (yours and ours included) are shaped by the time and environment that their usage began. As business people trying to harness this new tool, we need to constantly check and re-check our fundamental assumptions.

Anyhow, a story about the coming wired family prompted us to try the NYT site again. At the top of the story was a *very* effective banner ad for ESpan. "Post your resume or they'll hire someone else", it screamed in neon lime. "Great positioning", we thought. We clicked and visited the ESpan site.

What was the first thing we noticed on the job hunter's page? A pulsating ad for careers.wsj.com (The Wall Street Journal's fantastic offering). At the top of the WSJ page? An ad for the Online Career Center. On the top of the OCC site is an ad that drives you easily to GE's corporate home page (with no ads).

We imagine several nearly simultaneous meetings in each of these organizations. At the NYT staff meeting, the ad rep proudly swaggers and says "ESpan is very happy with us, they're getting a 3% click-through." At ESpan, another ad rep proudly points to WSJ's happiness as a client. The story is repeated at the Journal and OCC. At the GE meeting, giggles are suppressed as the "box canyon" strategy is explained. (A box canyon has three sides. Driving your quarry into a three sided, escape proof "trap" ensures easy capture.)

There is, we think, a non-subtle difference between targeted marketing and inbreeding.

A certified cynic might be tempted to suggest that the ad reps are "picking the low hanging fruit" and only selling ads to customers who are sophisticated enough to buy them. A true curmudgeon might notice the abundance of start-up funding and swear that you can't make intelligent advertising buys unless you have bottom-line accountability for real results. A conspiracy theorist might suggest that industry revenues boil down to GE's dollar being given to OCC who gives a percentage to the WSJ who gives a percentage to ESpan who gives a percentage to the NYTimes. One spender, lots of churn. The drive to produce revenue in start-up endeavors has the tendency to create some odd bedfellows.

The question you have to ask (as a potential purchaser of these services) is: if these companies selling online recruitment advertising can't see the difference between real and inflated results, how can you trust their sales pitches? If they're selling visitors right off the top to the competition, what happens to your investment?

Oooh, Dem Changes

(July 01, 1998) In another move that blurs the distinctions between publishers, recruiters and web services, CareerCentral (maybe we should say "the artist formerly known as MBACentral") has launched a partnership with Computerworld. The venture appears as a portion of the Computerworld IT Careers page. While it's apparent that Computerworld has larger ambitions (career fairs, for instance), the hype surrounding the partnership with CareerCentral is quite interesting.

Career Central uses its own proven Internet technology to link companies seeking software developers with top-notch candidates - quickly, confidentially and economically. Qualified candidates from Career Central's extensive pool of software developers are sent the job descriptions that closely match their career objectives via the company's JobCast(R) e-mail service. Interested candidates reply via e-mail with a current resume. Career Central delivers these resumes to the hiring manager's desk within five days - guaranteed. If the search does not identify at least 10 candidates who match specifications provided by the company, there is no charge for the service.

"The biggest complaint we've heard from hiring managers and human resource executives is that they simply cannot find enough qualified technical applicants. On the other hand, developers tell us they're deluged with job offers - many of which do not interest them," said Jeffrey Hyman, president and CEO of Career Central. "Career Central now offers a hassle-free solution for both employers and developers. We don't waste their time with positions or candidates that aren't a good fit. This targeted approach means we can match the best technical people with the very best jobs. " (emphasis added)

Pricing? It's closer to a headhunter's fee than it is to a job posting charge. The guarantee (a trend initiated by Classifieds2000) is a new market dynamic that is rapidly taking root. CareerCentral-Computerworld have taken the kind of step that moves them into direct competition with traditional third party recruiters.

By positioning themselves as a filter for Technical types, CareerCentral has established a beach-head in the coming market. If you take a look at yesterday's article (or your email inbox), you'll discover that email is overwhelming. Imagine being an in-demand specialist. While we're not certain about this particular incarnation, it is clear that a subset of the recruiting game will evolve to include these kinds of protections for potential candidates.

Meanwhile, the CareerCentral-Computerworld alliance makes sense for several other reasons. Most importantly, Computerworld is the working person's IT Trade magazine. There is no better platform in the business for reaching out to the real workers in the industry. The alliance moves beyond eyeballs and into the next territory...the right eyeballs.

It's a smart, trend setting move.

Luncheon Meat

(June 30, 1998) We were wandering the net trying to figure out just how a company protects a trademark like "JobCast" or "ecruit". One of the beauties of the major search engines is that they pick up the oddest kinds of information. It's a hassle when you're doing a very focused search but interesting if you're trying to build a mosaic of information. Those little pieces sometimes make the big picture gel.

Along the way, we started running across an interesting page of statistics (it is amazing what's out there). The particular statistics describe one day's worth of Usenet news feed (the way usenet is transmitted) on a web server owned by a commune in Sweden. There on the stats was an item we'd never seen called "Summary of SPAM Activity (Top 25 of 1028)." We dug a bit further.

It turns out that Diablo is a piece of software that manages the flow of usenet postings and provides statistics on their contents. Each daily report (often posted on the web) includes a Spam Summary. Who's on the list?

It turns out that this kind of data is distributed in another form as a part of a project to monitor Usenet Abuse.

You probably know our historically mixed feelings about Spam. Mass e-mailings and over-distribution of Usenet works. (So does strip mining.) We don't use them for practical reasons...we want long term relationships with our customers and are too busy to build the tools required to protect us from hate mail. To date, we've maintained that, used responsibly, spam is just another tool.

We're getting less certain.

If you look at a larger picture, the bulk distributors of job ads who use Usenet to accomplish their work are (politely) taking advantage of the generosity of the Swedish Commune (among others) who volunteer their resources to the Web Community. Translated...the pricing that these services offer assume that it's okay to add burden to the shoulders of volunteers and then charge for it. That is really the politest we can be.

Whether or not it's just plain wrong is a question we have to leave to others. But, from a long term perspective, do you really want to use a service whose reputation is up there with the porn merchants who dominate Newsgroup spamming?

The Shift

(June 29, 1998) The article is entitled "What Your Boss Should Be Doing to Keep You Happy." Part of a Ziff-Davis special about career management online, "What Your Boss Should Be Doing To Keep You Happy" is the front end of a piece on the "10 Best Internet Companies To Work For". Some of the perks include
...personal concierge services; on-site post office; on-campus running track, volleyball court and soccer field; an employee crisis hotline; a one-month sabbatical every six years of employment; on-site daycare; flex time; job sharing; telecommuting; stock options; bonuses; PalmPilots and Nerf toy wars.
Driven by the IT worker shortage, these companies are setting the pace for expanded streams of benefits and incentives.

Associated with these pieces is an overly short look at The Online Job Hunt that features the following notion:

...who has time to comb through all this career info (unless, of course, you're unemployed)?
The article goes on to cover several well known job search services.

It's (very slowly) dawning on us that the world now has a place for PR specialists who focus exclusively on our market. From where we sit, PR in the Electronic Recruiting Marketplace is a very mangled art. We're certainly deluged with half-baked notes from services who claim to be the biggest, the best, the newest and so on. Like most beginning entrepreneurial efforts, the announcements and bulk mail are timed to coincide with product launch.

Effective Public Relations isn't about writing and shipping great press releases (although that certainly is a fundamental skill). It's about developing relationships that make journalists successful (does this have a familiar ring?). The launch of your product is not noteworthy to someone reporting about this area. His or her deadline is much more interesting. How he or she gets the next raise, promotion or award is even more interesting

The ZD Net Career Rescue Kit (a part of the suite of articles described above) made us think about all of our friends and associates who must read pieces like this and begin the chant of sloppy PR people all over the world..."Those "big" guys have an unfair advantage." Well, of course they do. They were here first (for the most part). Writing that advantage off as a marketplace given is a sign of sloth.

The way solid PR works in other areas is that the person in charge of press relations builds relations with the press. When you have visible reporting landmarks like ZDNet, the trick is to have the editors and reporters owing you favors. Currently, most of the folks in our business play the game the other way around (and fail). A motivated manager of an online employment service, recruiting firm or HR department would see the opportunities missed as target definition. On the internal checklist would be the name of the editor; the name of the piece; the results of the phone call that asks "How often do you write these things?"; and, the plan to have the right information in the reporter's hands for the next article.

4 work continues to raise the bar. Take a look at this gem extolling the values of a career in marketing. Recruiting Online:
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