writing on wall for vertical job search engines?

Is it too early to forecast the demise of the vertical job search engines? Maybe. Maybe not. Here are some thoughts to consider:

  1. Indeed – If any vertical will survive on its own, these guys are it. They know the job board business better than their peers and have kept things focused and lean-and-mean from Day One. That said, the recent choice by investor New York Times to ally with Monster Worldwide doesn’t bode well for the current state of revenue generation for Indeed. Their PPC model, a la Google AdWords, is well done, but by the time enough job boards become advertisers (assuming a profitable number do become advertisers), the faucet of content may dry-up.
  2. Simply Hired – Born to be acquired and partying like its 1999. The gang at SH is very talented but their trial-and-error is reminiscent of the early days: resume blasting, untargeted banner ads (a job search for “marketing” in “Cleveland” gives me general ads for Dice, a healthcare job board and Oracle) and giveaway promos for a free HP Jordana, er, I mean iPhone. The Job-a-matic product is nice, but I have doubts the blogging masses will generate enough cash to make it worthwhile. Hell, I write for the Internet recruiting space and only have 2 job postings on my own board … and postings are only $5. Geesh!
  3. Jobster – The evolution of these cats reads like a horror story out of business school. Referral site then vertical job search engine then social network then layoffs then free-for-all and spending God-only-knows to partner exclusively with Facebook. Whew! At least $50 million buys a great roller coaster ride. I look at Jobster and see a site at this point just hoping to 1) drive a bunch of traffic, 2) get a lot of registered users and, most importantly, 3) pull a good number of employers into their database via free job postings, in return for becoming an appealing acquisition target. Maybe if someone like IAC buys Facebook, they’ll throw in Jobster for fun. Dating with your job search anyone?
  4. The periphery – Take a look at the second tier players in this space and there’s not much to be impressed about. Many are experiments, supporting sites to bigger ones, drowning without an acquisition lifesaver or, worse yet, none of the above. I think you’ll see a lot of death and destruction in the coming year.

It makes me sad. I hope I’m wrong. I’m a big fan of vertical search in general, but particularly for jobs. I think users prefer a single destination to search multiple boards and employers. And I still believe the idea can work in the right environment. Google Base is seeing improvement and traffic mammoth Yahoo! has a lot of potential integrating job content from around the Web.

However, the unfortunate reality may be that no matter how much the verticals provide a great service, pleasing the investors who have poured tens of millions into seeing big money probably are not all that pleased right about now.

That said, a majority of the primary verticals have told me to be on the lookout for enhancements that will “blow your mind.” We’ll see. Blowing away the revenue projections would probably be more important at this point.



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