23 May 2011

Candidate sourcing and advertising: The sun rises on a new era

There were a number of significant announcements and events over the past four weeks that, from my reading, seem to be compelling evidence that the new era of recruitment advertising and candidate attraction has officially announced itself as serious and here to stay.

Here's the chronological sequence of announcements and events:

29 April 2011 - Fairfax Media announce that they are shutting down their candidate database product MyCareer Head Hunter due to poor employer/advertiser support.  

10 May 2011 - A London stock analysis firm predicts that Facebook's ad revenue would nearly double this calendar year from USD$1.8 billion to USD$3.5 billion. 

12 May 2011 - Fairfax Media CEO, Greg Hywood, announces that Fairfax would outsource its newspaper sub-editing and 82 staff would be made redundant. This announcement does nothing to stop the freefall in Fairfax Media's share price (down 15% in May alone, to a new record low of $1.09 on 20 May 2011). 

13 May 2011 - Seek announces a price rise of 9% for its Australian customers, effective 1 July 2011, a huge jump compared to its New Zealand price rise announced a week later (3%) and the current Australian inflation rate (3.3%). 

19 May 2011 - LinkedIn's IPO exceeds even the most optimistic analysts' forecast with the LinkedIn share price more than doubling on its first day of trading to reach USD$94, making an instant multi-billionaire of founder Reid Hoffman. 

My conclusion on this sequence of events is:
  1. Print media job advertising is in a coma (along with their old media owners). The heyday of print media job advertising was in the mid-1990s. The economy was growing, Seek had not been launched and the only alternative to newspaper advertising was sticking a Position(s) Vacant sign outside your premises (or on the front window). Fourteen years on from the launch of Seek, print media job advertising is unconscious and only a faint heart rate is detected.
  2. The job board heyday is now over, although I am not predicting the death of jobs boards any time soon. Seek is still highly profitable (2009/2010 operating profit of AUD$109 million on sales of AUD$282 million) but their reliance on Australian job board revenue diminishes as they invest more money in overseas job sites and building their profile and success in selling the programs of external education providers. 
Last month, Seek, clearly sweating at the huge local and global momentum of LinkedIn, announced major changes to its candidate database. Regardless of Seek's profitability and growth, the share market remains unconvinced.
The All-ordinaries index is roughly where it was 12 months ago, whereas Seek's share price has declined just over 15% in the same period. The massive price rise for Seek's Australian customers is surely a last gasp to chisel the most amount of money from their loyal customers before these customers inevitably wake-up and spend more time and money on generating candidates via Facebook and LinkedIn. 

It's easy, in hindsight, to see the progression from era to era and how it occurred. 

Newspapers worked for job advertising in its heyday (pre commercial internet) because it was the best available way to attract candidates. Its flaws are now very obvious - the job seeker needed to buy or find the relevant paper, the relevant ad needed to be located then an application needed to be sent in hard copy. All of these steps were both time consuming and imposed a direct financial cost on job seekers. 

Job boards were just an improved version of print media. The best improvements being that a job ad had an online life of many days or weeks, relevant ads could be easily located using a defined search criteria and a potentially unlimited number of applications could be made by a job seeker for $0 direct cost. 

What job boards couldn't do, that newspapers could still do to some extent, was tap into passive job seekers. Job board ads were, almost always, only seen by active job seekers searching online for jobs. Newspapers still survived in the job board age because they offered some hope of advertiser access to passive job seekers. 

The new era changes the game for both newspapers and job boards. 

The very rapid rise in value, of both Facebook and LinkedIn, is all about the power of those sites to very accurately target users with very specific ads.
This is due to the willingness of Facebook and LinkedIn users to provide large amounts of accurate information about themselves, both personally (their likes and dislikes) and professionally (their education and work history).  

This detailed information is the Holy Grail for advertisers/clients as it allows these advertisers/clients to find and target a very specific demographic at a price that makes any other form of advertising (print and job board) seem like very expensive post-and-pray stuff. 

Is it any wonder that the big end of town are falling over themselves to transfer their job advertising and candidate sourcing spend to LinkedIn and Facebook? 

This is exactly why LinkedIn's Job Listings service more than tripled its revenue between 2009 and 2010. 

Fairfax Media desperately cuts costs and hopes to survive. Seek raises prices, diversifies and hopes to prosper. 

Meanwhile LinkedIn and Facebook power on, driving as many users as possible to their respective sites, encouraging those users to both provide as much information about themselves as possible and to maximise each person's site user time. 

Welcome to the new era of candidate sourcing and advertising - it's officially here. 

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4 comments:

  1. Death of job boards? Hardly... LinkedIn now needs to make money to satisfy their shareholders - which in turns means they will have to make more money from recruitment activities.

    Watch out agency recruiters! You are about to be stung by LinkedIn's price rises and new product features which will restrict your free access to the candidates.

    It's interesting to hear recruiters complaining about the SEEK 9% rise. If they are not complaining about competition between RPO/Internal Recruitment teams (+RCSA letter), 457 Visas, poaching recruiters, how much $ they have to buy a new holiday house, they are complaining about the cost of marketing & candidate attraction activities.

    If you have a read of other blogs you will see that there is sufficient justification to merit SEEKs rise.

    There was no price rise in 2010, and over the past 2 years, the volume of candidates SEEK delivers back to advertisers has risen over 80% and new products have rolled out - job seeker profiles, mobile, improved marketing activities that attract over 75% of eye balls in the online recruitment landscape.

    If you are unhappy with SEEKs prices. Go try MyCareer or CareerOne. I wonder how many candidates you will get applying for your roles there. Nothing stopping you using SEEK, but if THAT is where candidates look, that is where you have to be.

    The Australian & New Zealand online recruitment landscape lacks competition. In NZ you have a choice between TradeMe and SEEK (approx 51/49% traffic split).

    Here in Australia SEEK controls the market with 75% eyeballs. LinkedIn may be growing slowly, but it is not taking the traffic away from SEEK. LinkedIn is eroding the businesses of MyCareer and CareerOne.

    Every site needs to justify existence and return enough $ back to shareholders. Fairfax has had to shut down HeadHunter & TheBigChair. How long will it take News/Monster to keep CareerOne alive? You can't keep making multimillion dollar losses.

    The biggest winners: SEEK & LinkedIn

    ReplyDelete
  2. Some very valid points Ross.

    It may be slightly off topic but in my opinion seek's entire success is based on the fact that a reliable alternative is virtually none-existant.

    Both of the other two major competitors of seek are publishing businesses that pay little to no attention to doing better with their job advertising portal. Seek on the other hand does job advertising as it's core business with a lot of effort in marketing their product.

    As a person that has used all major advertising boards and has spoken to countless users of seek and other boards I believe seek is an average product at the best but due to the lack of proper alternatives and heavy advertising they have done well and I suspect they will continue that way for a few more years despite the emergence of linked in and other products.

    For as long as they see demand they will raise their price.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Seek's prices are a rip off. In London I was paying £10 per ad on Jobserve and Seek want to charge 40 times that for an online ad. With the emergence of LinkedIn and Facebook Seeks' days are numbered, especially at their prices.

    I haven't advertised on the job boards for years and my placement rate is far higher, combined with far less duplication.

    Australian recruiters are far too dependent on Seek. It's crack for recruiters. When all agencies are getting their candidates from the same pool, it's no wonder that there are multiple representations of the same candidate. It's lazy, reactive recruitment.

    Whatever happend to the old school skills of real headhunting?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hello does anyone know anything further about the major changes Seek has had to its candidate database? Any further information or links would be greatly appreciated.
    Thanks
    Georgie

    ReplyDelete