In the last few weeks, two prominent tech bloggers -- Michael Arrington at TechCrunch and Om Malik at GigaOm -- have launched jobs boards on their websites. They're following in the footsteps of Rafat Ali, whose excellent PaidContent.org launched its own jobs board a while ago. As blogs become businesses, their authors are looking for ways to generate revenue other than advertising, and jobs boards are low-hanging fruit.
It's easy to dismiss these developments as being little threat to the leader in online jobs listings, Monster Worldwide (NASDAQ:MNST). Although these sites are successful in their own right, their traffic pales in comparison to the industry leaders'. And Monster has strong brand, huge traffic and years of development invested in online job listing functionality.
But the threat is real. The growth of blogs threatens established media businesses because they do a better job of covering their readers' niche interests than more general web sites. And their focus allows them to build communities tightly defined by interest, and in many cases by jobs.
So if Ajax programmers all read Ajaxian.com, what better place to advertise jobs for Ajax programmers? And if most players in the online media business read PaidContent, what better place to advertise New Media jobs? If you're an Ajax programmer, it makes no difference to you that Monster.com offers jobs for other types of programmers as well; all you care about are Ajax jobs, so Monster's scale offers no advantages.
The key for niche sites is to get their jobs boards working right. When Om Malik launched his jobs board, Michael Arrington realised that the market for niche jobs boards can itself fragment into uselessness. To stop that, one of two things needs to happen:
- Winner takes all. Over time, one web site takes all the jobs listings in each niche market.
- Jobs at the edge. Job listings are aggregated for each niche market, so that all listings can be read and listings can be submitted at multiple web sites.
We've thought a lot about job listings at Seeking Alpha -- after all, we're the fastest growing stock market web site, and we have a large audience of investment professionals subscribed to our content via our free email service. So it's a natural fit for us to offer hedge fund and other job listings. But I'm waiting for the right product to allow us to enter this market, and it would look like this:
A hosted software solution that allows web sites to quickly and easily set up their own niche jobs boards. Readers can post job listings on the site they're on, but can also see links to job listings in that niche from other web sites as well. Thus each web site offers comprehensive listings via hosted listings and links, providing an instantly useful solution for jobs listings as soon as it's turned on. This works for users, because the listings are comprehensive. And it works for web site owners, because listings from your users stay on your site and generate incoming traffic from other sites.
However this market plays out, niche jobs boards are here to stay. And that's bad news for Monster.com.