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Jamie Leonard

Wow, I got close straight off. This must be what it feels like to be Matt Alder.

I had a good conversation today with an old friend of mine, Damien Tidd, Sales Director for Northcliffe Newspapers and we were discussing web usage, but it wasn’t until I got back to the office something rang true and apologies if it has already been discussed but it ties into Alexs comment. An “irreplaceable part of your users life”.

Our head of customer service has band certain sites that "distract" his staff and it made me think about how our use of the internet has changed very quickly. It seems gone are the days of punch in a key word and “surf” the web. A trend seems to have formed (from no other observation that people I work with) where people come into work, skim 5 of their favorite sites and start work. They then do the same in lunch and possibly winding down at the end of the day. This is mine: Yahoomail, myspace, facebook, skysports, bbcnews, ri5.

These sites have become an irreplaceable part of my life and because of that they have my loyalty in both brand and product and if another site comes along and wants a slot in my morning site check with coffee, one of these, eventually, will have to go because if enough come along I wont have time to use them all.

My point (and there is one) is that time online is limited for most people and sites need to be more than a advert of a guy spinning on his chair if they want to break into or indeed keep their slot in a users day. Example…..has anyone ever seen a Google advert?

Kork Desai

Good points Alex/Jamie (though you really should change your pic on Facebook ;0)

Jobs Reunited wasn't making enough money in order to justify it's staff. It didn't become a viable option for rec cons, clients and ad agencies.

The established names in the market (Monster, Fish4, Total and Jobsite) have become the natural choice for placing campaigns and job postings due to the number of years they have been around.

Any company looking to enter the generalist job board market does not really stand a chance, unless they pay zillions of pounds and have a truly amazing USP.


I think we need to be careful not to mistake a business failure (jobsreunited)for a mature and settled marketplace. There are excellent market leading sites but zero market dominant sites (taking market as a whole - not industry sector)and if our estimates are correct on future size of this market - we are still in the early stages of online migration and development.
My view is that it is still eminently possible for a generalist to come in and smash this market up - anyone who thinks Careerbuilder will be in same position this time next year needs to look at some of the global deals they are doing at present, their bank roll and their ambitions for Europe.
Most interestingly though, the fantastic thing about online is the speed of growth of sites and ways of communicating - most of us had not heard of facebook/youtube 12 months ago - so the reality is the biggest competitors to big UK boards in three years time may not even exist yet or may exist but only in the garage of some Stanford University post grad students.

John Whitehurst

I am not really agreeing with some of the points here … I think good points are being made but also some sweeping generalizations in the process. (it is the generalizations I don’t like).

On the one hand you are saying users are not loyal to sites and then on the other side you are saying the big guys are too difficult to take on. You are also comparing sites that are not used by the same audiences, they have different environments and the context of usage is different.

Any product needs to have a great proposition and delivery – if it does not then it will fail. So I am not sure this is anything to debate – it is a given. When you look at how people respond to websites the experience is key, so trust is developed when candidates have a great user experience. Now I ran a few trials on FR and got some great results in volume, cost per application and quality – this does not happen without a good core candidate experience.

You give one hell of a damming analysis of FR without looking at the facts. The site has over 2.4million unique users spending an average of 6mins on the site – 12mins on the dating site. The site is not used by people on a daily basis like facebook - because it is not facebook. It is aimed at a different audience, lifestage and currently with a different user interaction.

Is FR a great product? I think they have a lot of work to do and they have tried to develop revenue over the product offering for users. But some of the recent marketing is moving in the right direction. Was FR jobs the right mix for FR? Personally, I can think of ways to make it work and 100 reasons why it would not - ITV are the only people who can give the answer to why it was closed and I would imagine Kork is very close in that it is just not worth the effort.

It is more complex than, the top sites are too big and powerful and clients are just spending on the big sites – in fact I have seen more clients move away from the big sites as their digital media strategy develops.

With the ‘comfort zone’ developed from lack of time– how many people who use this blog are on facebook? Is facebook an example of people not embracing a new technology and just doing what they have always done! It just shows you how quickly people take on new ideas when they are well delivered. Great products are built up when people stop seeing the Internet in forms of advertising and start looking at it as enabling technology. All the evidence from the UK and US actually shows that media consumption is fragmenting and people are becoming more empowered. If you get a chance look at changing the game from Yahoo – the IAB site has a good summary.

Looking for a job is not something we do every day; it is based on a period of intensive research. People make the time for this because they need a job … . The key advantage of the jobsites is that they have opened up the market – so people can look for jobs when they want to. It has increased the level and ability to access information – thus leading to a more open market. It is not that they are part of the daily media consumption., newspaper were but their main focus was not getting people jobs.

You tend to find the USA is far more developed from a technology perspective but the UK is more developed from an advertising perspective (a bit of a generalization but this helps to explain the point). This is backed up by the fact the percentage of advertising spent online in the UK is higher than in the US. Internet usage is very similar in the UK to the US. We are not three to four years behind; we are just looking at it from a different business perspective to the US – one that fits the natural competitive advantage of the UK.

The market will develop in different ways; but the confusion is nothing to do with the volume of job boards. It is because people don’t really understand how the technology should be used – in fact we keep on viewing it from an advertising perspective rather than technology. We need to re-think; it is not advertising and it is not a medium that follows the rules that formed mediums such as the press. When you look at the sites listed by Jamie; Yahoomail, myspace and Facebook are all bits of software that improve communication. They are deeply engrained in human behavior – not information and advertising mediums like press and radio.

Kork is almost there with USP, but really it needs to go a bit further to have a behavioral and emotional position to really change a market. That is how facebook and myspace have grown so quickly.

Discuss …

Kork Desai

I see what both Dom and John are saying.

I'm expressing my opinion on why the sales operation closed down. (the site is still operational)

Maybe ITV should have spent more time and cash with this venture in order to gain a foothold into the market.

When the site launched it came with the promise of a sustained TV campaign, i don't think that really happened. Apart from SEO what else was done? Methinks nothing much.

This would relate to Dom's arguement about Career Builder (CB). CB have been in the marketplace for over two years now, it's taken them this long to get strategy/technology/audience and i'm sure they'll do well.

On the candidate issue, my view is the vast majority of jobseekers/browsers go to the websites they know and like. Those tend to be the larger websites who have been around since year zod. Networking sites are great, but are they a passing fad (i'm getting bored of facebook already!) or definately something job boards have to be worried about?


Some good points in all this. Having managed to drag myself away from Facebook long enough here are a few thoughts:-

Friends Reunited - John is right despite looking horribly old fashioned it still gets traffic and still actually makes a fair amount money for ITV (whether this is a good ROI is another question though)

Lets not forget that weak business strategy and technological failings are almost always the true cause when internet companies get into trouble, rather than audience or the market. Boo.com and Friendster are brilliant examples of this. Both took their eye off their technology and sufferend terrible consequences.

FR jobs always seemed like a bit of an add on to me and didn't ever appear to have any kind of strategic grounding. Lets not forget the orginal technology behind it was "Top Dog Jobs" which was hardly at the cutting edge!

America being 3-5 years ahead- Absolute rubbish! the UK proportionally has a bigger digital advertising market and a deeper penetration of broadband, lets not even get onto mobile phones! It may have been true 10 years ago but these days it just an excuse that gets wheeled out to cover up for our failings as an industry

Finally on Jamie's point about there only being a finite time to browse the internet in one day.....I never used to think that until I saw just how much my Facebook addiction has reduced the time I spend blogging!!!!!!!!


An extra point on Career Builder....strong site in the states yes (loved those monkey adverts), been here for a while yes, agressive at forming partnerships absolutely....strong strategic vision for the UK....really? Where on earth is their client acquisition and sales strategy....in all this time I don't know anyone with a siginificant digital spend agency or client side who has ever heard from them. I may be missing something but from where I'm sitting I'd say the jury is out!


Matt - i agree 100% that CareerBuilder have made negligible impression so far in this area - and time will tell if i am being optimistic on their behalf but with that amount of resources and global brand equity at their disposal - they are surely going to do the client acquistion thing in a major major way. Does not mean they will succeed - but it will certainly be interesting. I may be entirely wrong, i guess time will tell.

Jamie Leonard

Basing a sales or marketing strategy around "It worked in the US" in the UK is doomed to failure. Take it from someone that worked in the belly of the Monster for some time. I agree with Dom, jury is out on CB, but from a media sales perspective I can tell you that CB has not once shown up on the radar from my time at both Monster and Fish. They seem to be like a blind man with a Porsche, they're going fast but even they don’t know where they are going to end up. Again, we’re back to the candidate preference, and if you don’t know who your candidates are, you’ll struggle to know if they are enjoying the experience.


Dom I don't disagree they have got enough money in the bank to make a huge difference and anyone who writes them off at this point would be foolish. However as Jamie said they don't seem to be selling at the moment and that leaves me completely bemused. I think it's potential a great brand but at the moment thier large marketing and partnership budget versus no sales doesn't half remind me of Stepstone!

Luke Collier

Unfortunately I am not in a position to expand in great detail on what is happening at FR Jobs. However I can say it is a wider business decision to stop taking new business on that particular brand.
The decision is NOT because it wasn't making enough money to justify its staff! That is very naive. If you understand the relationship between ITV and Friends Reunited you will see it has far more to do with an 18 month business plan than the performance of individual businesses.
I believe there was a place in the market for us....certainly our clients thought so but we were cut short due the need to focus on other areas of the business.
This in turns leads to another interesting point...can a recruitment site ever be really truly successful if it isn't given 100% focus.
Personally I think Careerbuilder has an excellent chance of success because that is what they do....it is all they do....and they have done it very well else where. Adding to that they have an absolute belief they will succeed.

John Whitehurst

I just wanted to make a quick point - for a change

I have found working with Career Builder excellent - a good site and they really know how to make campaigns work.

A much better experience than a lot of sites who just want the cash.


well - 12 comments so far, nice to get some real debate going again :)

Couple of things to come back on:

No way am I saying that the market is mature Dom – just that there’s surely some economic reality coming to bear. And that is driven in the large part by clients – who, and clearly Mr Cheesman at least is in agreement with me on this, will become scared by the sheer scale of what’s on offer and retreat into what they know best – almost certainly with a long tail of smaller deals / trials. But the question is, are the larger sales operations established in a way that will tolerate being just a part of the long tail?

I don’t doubt that you’ve tracked some good response and ROI on a wide variety of sites John, not my point at all though. In fact I would expect that. My point is that clients are still, however, in the main reticent to splash their cash too far a field, too far beyond their comfort zone. And that goes for agencies too. So whilst we await that tipping point of spend and having significant campaign budgets to leverage online (not all of us are as lucky as some of you guys in not getting out of bed for less than a £5k dedicated online spend) then perhaps we’ll have to agree to differ. I'm certain that I can get a good response from a wide number of sites as they've worked really hard to get their traffic right - but most of the budgets I work with are modest and finite, so surely you understand why with candidates spreading their job seeking activity, you'll still get a good result by investing that budget were you know you'll get a return (certainly in an environment where many if not most recruiters still feel out of their depth).

And yes – I am saying that I don’t think users are particularly wed to any job board brand. People come to and leave the job seeking market – there’s little ongoing relationship. Now I read with interest of some software developments coming from the states (itzbig - http://www.itzbig.com/) that may change this in the future, but whilst I’m sure people come back to where they had a good experience / where they recollect it being relevant (back to USPs – god knows jobserve is still surviving on theirs from 10years ago), I’m dammed certain they’ll look around at the plethora of other options vying for their attention too. That’s why the big traditional publishers working hard to improve their online offer whilst enhancing the integration can still retain, maybe even enhance their position as major recruitment forces in the UK.

I still hold that America is 3-5 internet years ahead (you can debate how quickly this gap can be closed, it being internet years) – but I mean in terms of usage and technological advancements, not digital ad spend. Just look at the developments that come from America, even in our space (see the itzbig link above), and then consider technological advances here (Jobsite just getting round to launching an HTML email facility). I’d say that the media are certainly clamouring for new ways to access the market and differentiate their candidate profile (CareerBuilder a good case in point), however I’m not really seeing much in the way of true innovation here. Are you?

And John, I’m sorry, but I do worry you’re a little lost in theory – to say that “confusion is nothing to do with the volume of job boards” is something I plain disagree with. Just like Gordon Ramsey believes – too many options on the menu at a restaurant and I’ll probably stick with what I’m most comfortable with.

And Matt – perhaps you need a little help – try here http://www.getafirstlife.com/


John Whitehurst

sorry Alex ... but i have seen cleints embrase the greater choice.

and i am coiming from the basis of the TMP client base and the clients i work with direct.

maybe it is the aproach that is taken with the clients - nothing to do with theory.


Thanks Alex but I prefer this!



John - the theory and indeed practice of fishing many ponds to return great ROI is not something I am disagreeing with. I'm saying that the recruiting customer is increasingly left bamboozled by choice and many can be expected to revert to their / a comfort zone (until they've seen one of your powerpoint presentations of course ;).

Where they are or have become digital natives then they know how to (or indeed trust their agency to) leverage the medium to maximum effect to generate best response (quantity & quality). It is of course our job to encourage clients to get themselves in a position to best realise the benefits of a this medium - it's just that perhaps our client experiences to date differ. We're both on the same page though :-)


Right it's been a long week and I've loving this debate. Let’s make it slightly feistier. I simply have three things to say:-

1) You'll be surprised what clients will do when you push them a bit and show them the benefits. I know because I've seen it happen countless times....for example this week we persuaded a county council in the West Country to do a significant campaign with flash banners and comprehensive tracking.....they have one vacancy to fill. What is being delivered for them is still fantastic value for money but is a lot more than a £250 job posting and despite their initial reservations, they are happy to pay to get the results they need. To clarify they aren’t some sort of big corporate that I only have access to because I work for a big agency

2) If you don't provide all your clients with independent tracking on a neutral platform on a campaign by campaign basis, why bother with digital at all? You're not getting any discernable benefit....its all about optimisation and insight at the end of the day. If you’re not doing it then you might as well just stick to the press

3) The nuances in digital advertising, even when using just job boards are so subtle that up front stats, generic research, conjecture and alledged expertise are just worthless. If you want to truly understand what's going on and work with you clients in a way that truly adds value then I'm afraid you need bloody good tracking. If you claim to offer them informed media planning then you need a minimum seven figure aggregated spend across all your clients with tracked results to understand what is really going on.

Right after eight months of blogging and eight years of doing this I've finally got it off my chest!



I glad that if I’ve done nothing else over the past year that I’ve lined up the debate from which you can chest clear Matt. Perhaps my job here is done. As if ;-)

All good points Mr A, but in response:

1) So is it great value for money when actually a single job posting on the right site or a dig around a CV database might have returned the same / better result? Guess we’ll never know when we look at things case by case, but I get your point. Quite a compelling sell / sales force you must have there.

2) “Why bother with digital at all”? – because it’s that much of a no-brainer (once you start to get it – an embarrassment of recruiters / HR departments still don’t of course) that you can still get great ROI that doesn’t need the highest level of tracking to prove itself. Tracking helps both the client and the agency to learn from activity and really really prove ROI yes of course, but the cost effectiveness and efficiencies are pretty damned clear to anyone paying the slightest amount of attention. Now if I’m investing tens or indeed hundreds of thousands of pounds in online campaigns then damned right I should be doing so with the support of a full and evaluated breakdown of what’s doing what where, but don’t think that without it I might as well stick to press – bit of a “cutting of your nose despite your face” kinda approach that surely?!

3) Maybe. Maybe not. I’d say depends very much on your starting point. We’ll continue investing in our team here, with tracking and analysis definitely being an area of focus, but I can’t help thinking your TMP grounding has given you a slightly skewed perspective on the wider picture. Us littler players continue to add value and deliver solutions that really do work, both on and offline - but with (what I guesstimate to be) the online campaign spend of your West Country Council client still often being the exception rather than the rule for the lions share of the work we do here, then we’ve still gotta lot of building to do. And we’ll do it through understanding clients and the full range of options open to clients that befit their budget, we won’t do it through restricting access to the fullness of our digital expertise by spend thresholds. For the foreseeable at least.

And, I can hear you typing the response already Matt, I do understand that as we build our tracked justification of setting higher budget expectations / more expansive online campaigns then the speed of speed of spend migration is likely to only increase – just a bit chicken and egg in agency world sometimes isn’t it? The Monster / TMP background allowing you to start as the chicken, but we’re the egg just about ready to hatch 

I think you’ll find that smaller operations offer added value in ways seemingly long since forgotten by larger players, but still with a significant place in the client requirement mix. Vive la difference!

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