‘The Cincinnati Enquirer’s Monster Battle

By: Lucia Moses

When The Cincinnati Enquirer learned late last year that Monster.com had picked its city as the staging area for its push into the hourly-job-posting business, it didn’t take the threat lightly. Three months later, the paper went live with its own online job service for hourly workers — a full week before Monster’s March 25 site launch.

The Enquirer did it using technology licensed from the Center for American Jobs (CAJ), a recruiting-system company that hopes to become newspapers’ answer to Monster. CAJ has just a handful of other newspaper clients, including The New York Times, but hopes that number will grow to more than 150 within a year now that Monster has made its plans to target blue-collar job seekers well-known.

CAJ has registered about 600 domain names that combine city names with the “NowHiring” suffix, and it will set up local Web sites for newspapers at a reduced rate, says Jonathan D. Ahlbrand, CEO and president of the private Harper Woods, Mich.-based company. “Monster wants to roll theirs out in 100 markets by the end of the year,” Ahlbrand says. “I want to be ahead of that curve with newspapers.”

Unlike Monster, CAJ isn’t competing with newspapers, Ahlbrand says. CAJ makes money by charging newspapers setup fees and other fees based on the number of r?sum?s generated by telephone or the Web.

Like newspapers, which worry that Monster is gnawing away at their most profitable revenue source, CAJ has reason to have ill will toward Monster. A year ago, it pitched its technology to Monster, only to see that company develop a similar solution on its own. (Monster declined comment for this story.) Both systems enable hourly job seekers without Web access or r?sum?s to apply for a job by phone. They also package and sell data about applicants to employers based on employer specifications.

Ahlbrand, who comes from a technology-service sales background, helped form CAJ in 1999. The company started out trying to form an online job board with newspapers, but, after the Monster local ramp-up began, it realized it could serve newspapers better by licensing its technology to them.

Now, momentum seems to be gaining. In a month or so, The New York Times plans to implement CAJ’s service that lets job seekers apply by phone to a number listed on a print ad. “It allows us to develop the nonexempt area of the work force, which just happens to be 85% of the work force,” explains Andy Wright, group director of recruitment for the Times.

Ahlbrand says CAJ is talking to major groups such as Enquirer parent Gannett Co. Inc., while “significant discussions” are under way with CareerBuilder Inc. Barry Lawrence, a spokesman for CareerBuilder, wouldn’t confirm that, but says the company is planning to target the local job market hard in the next several weeks, through the launch of new services similar to those offered by Monster and CAJ. CareerBuilder, whose presence is concentrated in big cities, also is seeking more newspaper partners in secondary markets, Lawrence says. “We’ve been moving in that direction,” he says, “and Monster, to their credit, still sees value in what we’re doing.”

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