HELP Wanting

By Moses, Lucia | Editor & Publisher, December 8, 2003 | Go to article overview

HELP Wanting


Moses, Lucia, Editor & Publisher


With the economy poised for a rebound, can newspapers win back job classifieds from old -- and new -- competition?

"Help Wanted" has taken on a double meaning at newspapers in the past few years. These days, the phrase applies not only to a category of classified advertising they seek, but also to the new ideas those departments need when facing tough competition and a rough job market. One notable exception to this trend may be The Palm Beach Post.

Florida has actually been a job creator the past year, so help-wanted advertising hasn't plunged like it has in other parts of the country. Meanwhile, the paper has expanded its portfolio of recruitment ad services, better positioning it to capture the market's ad dollars. Thirty newly-installed job kiosks in libraries and other public spaces seem especially promising. So popular are the kiosks, which let people search from roughly 4,000 jobs, that a library had to enact time limits "so people don't spend so much time on them," says Dan Shorter, general manager for the Post's Internet operations.

Still, Shorter hasn't let down his guard. "You've got Monster and others who want to poach your market," he says. "The recruitment business is evolving every few days, not every few years. We'll never feel comfortable again."

He's referring, of course, to the online career site whose flamboyant founder, Jeff

Taylor, threatened to put newspapers out of this business a few years ago. And while newspapers may have fought back and taken a bite out of Monster.com's advantage for now, few are writing off the big board.

And it's not just national behemoths that newspapers have to worry about when the job market starts expanding, as many predict will start happening next year. Niche sites abound. Corporations, community Web sites, and college alumni associations also are helping themselves to the help-wanted ad pie. The efficacy and low cost of searchable online recruitment ads has TV and radio outlets looking at help-wanted as a new source of revenue, too.

"A lot of competitors smell blood because of the hemorrhaging of the business," says Gordon Borrell, president of new media consultancy Borrell Associates, Portsmouth, Va. "The fight is never over," agrees Charles Diederich, director of marketing and advertising for the Newspaper Association of America. "I think Monster is still a very savvy marketer. They're going to continue to be a very key player." He also sees niche and corporate sites growing in importance.

Newspapers today

Since late 2000, newspaper recruitment classified has gone from representing, at its height, nearly 19% of total industry revenue, to less than 8% this year, according to Goldman Sachs research. But inconsistencies in the way companies report their help-wanted revenue and different ways of measuring the size of the overall market make it nearly impossible to say definitively what share of total help-wanted spending newspapers have lost.

Peter M. Zollman, founder of Classified Intelligence LLC, an online classified consultancy based in Alamonte Springs, Fla., says estimates put newspapers' share loss at anywhere from 5% to 15%. In any case, the bigger the market, the tougher the competition with online biggies, which often have a price advantage over the printed newspaper.

In a recent report, Goldman Sachs newspaper analyst Peter Appert predicted good times ahead for newspapers, however, noting their ability to offer print and online at sometimes-lower rates than their online-only competitors. A recent survey of about 240 U.S. dailies by New York-based online classified researcher Corzen showed that 63% let advertisers buy an online ad only, up from 32% in 4Q 2002. And newspapers, to a degree, have awakened to the online threat and are offering more ways for advertisers to reach job seekers, on and offline.

The Dallas Morning News is one such example. …

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