Newspapers Shouldn’t Write Off Monster.com

By: Lucia Moses

Newspaper help-wanted advertising salespeople might be inclined to gloat over the woes of Monster.com parent TMP Worldwide. But critics shouldn’t write off the job board, long a sore spot for newspapers, just yet.

Beleaguered by the soft labor market, TMP said it would replace its president and chief operating officer and cut 1,000 of its own jobs by year’s end. The news followed an anemic second quarter in which the company’s commissions and fees dropped 24.1%, to $291 million.

But, according to TMP, Monster remains one of its most profitable businesses. And having sunk millions in promoting Monster, TMP is likely to retain the unit rather than try to sell it in a down economy, said Christa M. Sobel, a research analyst for merchant bank Thomas Weisel Partners. Anyway, she added, “Who’s going to buy it in this market?”

Meanwhile, Monster — having failed thus far in its attempt to partner with newspapers in their markets — remains committed to extending its local reach through services such as JobMatch, its nascent blue-collar job-search service.

“Monster’s carrying the rest of the company right now, and it’s the biggest growth engine they’ve got,” said Peter M. Zollman, who consults with newspapers through his firm, Classified Intelligence LLC.

Newspapers, whose classified-recruitment dollars declined 20.9%, to $1.1 billion, in the second quarter, are responding to their own help-wanted problems by juicing up their print and online offerings. One of the E.W. Scripps Co.’s solutions is to sell want ads that appear on its newspapers’ online news pages. Passive job seekers are more likely to see them, and, as a result, “advertisers love them,” said Bob Benz, Scripps’ general manager of interactive media/newspapers.

Just as newspapers package their print and online job ads, TMP is offering its recruiter clients a two-day Monster posting for $99 — if they buy a newspaper ad via TMP. But Benz said he is confident that TMP “cannot offer the flexibility and breadth of product we do.”

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