.com colliding web 2.0: Monster.com and LinkedIn

Photo by Myles Davidson
Photo by Myles Davidson

Before the advent of internet, employers and job seekers communicated through job advertisements in newspaper and certain other printed media as well as bulletin boards, and, of course, through networking. Sometimes, the employer will engage head hunters or recruiting agencies to help them search for candidates. To try to get enough potential candidates know about the job vacancy, they must advertise in multiple newspapers. But they have to choose relevant newspapers to advertise in. The value of each newspaper is in their circulation, that is, how many people buy and read that particular newspaper. Some has higher circulation than others. On top of that, different newspaper may attract different demography. Some has broad circulation to broad demography, but some has smaller circulation in very focused demography such as business people, sports, etc. Upon reading the advertisement, interested candidates would then send their resume to the employer, usually via mail

.com bubbling & bursting

Photo by Fernando Quartarolo
Photo by Fernando Quartarolo

With the birth of the internet, some people realised that they could make money by providing alternative place for employers or head hunters to advertise their job vacancies. One of the first one was The Monster Board in 1994 by Adion, a recruitment advertising agency owned by Jeff Taylor. By putting vacancies on the internet, everyone from everywhere in the world can see it at anytime of the day. Similar to newspapers before it, here the value of the on-line job listing is in their reach, as in how many people are actually aware of this web site and are visiting it. Ease of finding the web site through internet directories like Yahoo, which was critical component of internet experience back then, was important. Not to mention word of mouth. People will only visit the site if the site has many job vacancies listed.  Employers will only advertise in the site if there are many people visiting. It’s a classic chicken & egg problem. So, it’s only natural that this on-line job listing market became fragmented as well. In 1995, TMP Worldwide acquired Adion. In 1996, TMP Worldwide became a public-listed company in NASDAQ stock exchange. In the same year, RBL Agency, a head hunter, entered the market with what would later evolve into HotJobs.com. In 1998, JobsDB launched in Hong Kong. In 1999, HotJobs.com also became a public-listed company, taking full advantage of the .com bubble. On-line job listing were mushrooming all over the world.

To make the job application easier, the internet recruitment web sites has another advantage: job seekers can post their resume on-line. This has advantages both for the employers and job seekers. A job seeker’s resume becomes easily searchable by employers or head hunters on-line. And when a job seeker decides to apply for a job vacancy, his resume can arrive at the employer or head hunter with single click of a button.

The period after the .com bubble was used by the on-line recruitment players to start to consolidate the fragmented market. In 2000, Monster.com acquired JobTrak.com, a similar player focusing on university students. Yahoo beat Monster.com in acquiring HotJobs.com in 2002

Web 2.0 arrival

Photo by Davide Guglielmo
Photo by Davide Guglielmo

Social network started becoming main stream phenomenon with Friendster‘s arrival in 2002, although it certainly wasn’t the first social network. Reid Hoffman, a former technopreneur who worked for PayPal, saw that social network could also be used for posting job vacancies and applying for job. After all, networking has always been one of the ways people can get jobs from. In 2002, he launched LinkedIn. Whereas Friendster was focused on personal interaction between friends, LinkedIn was focused on business relationship between professionals. Aside from recording business social network, the site allows professionals to list their resumes on-line, get verbal recommendations from their connections, and join meaningful discussions in groups built around specific topics like ERP or insurance, etc. The site also allows posting of job vacancies. Initially, job posting on LinkedIn was very few, and searching for jobs there was and is not as stream-lined as in purpose-built internet recruitment sites like Monster.com. Job vacancies are still not centrally listed in LinkedIn up to today. The job vacancies can be posted in the dedicated job listing area, as simple status update, or as discussion topic in the discussion group. However, it has one advantage over internet recruitment sites: even people who are not looking for jobs regularly visits it just to know the update about all their professional connections like status, job change, opinion, discussion, etc.

Parallel to the birth of general social network like MySpace and Facebook in 2003, other business-focused social network was also born in the same year: Open Business Club which will later morph into Xing. In 2003, TMP Worldwide changed its name to Monster Worldwide. In 2004, another business-focused social network was born: Viadeo.

Different approaches on collision course

At the same time, a new approach for consolidating this fragmented market came up in the form of the launching of job search site like Indeed.com in 2004, which would search job vacancies placed in many different internet recruitment sites, employers’ own job vacancy listing, and other sources. Monster.com continued its consolidation of the fragmented market. In 2004, it acquired Military Advantage, a recruitment and community site with focus on military personnel. In 2005, it acquired EmailJob.com & JobKorea, recruitment sites in French & Korean market, respectively. In 2008, it acquired Affinity Labs, a group of niche recruitment sites such as FireLink for firefighters, PoliceLink for police, NursingLink for nurses, etc. The annual revenue of Monster.com was very near its peak at $1.3b, while LinkedIn’s was still much smaller at $79m. Monster.com’s revenue will drop significantly in 2009 to $874m, while LinkedIn’s grew 52% to $120m. In 2010, Monster.com acquired HotJobs.com from Yahoo. Monster.com, however, doesn’t seem to consolidate every one of these acquisitions into single platform, except for EmailJob.com and HotJobs.com. Until now, the individual web sites still have different look & feel. This must have cost the company in terms of continuing to maintain separate development teams as well as separate elastic infrastructure. LinkedIn, on the other hand, continued to focus on having single best practice social network infrastructure which has become case studies in few places (click here for example).

The different nature of the 2 approaches also has other consequences. People visits Monster.com when they are looking for a new job, whereas they visit LinkedIn regardless of them needing new job or not. Since 2007, the number of visitors to Monster.com has stayed pretty much steady at around 3-4 millions per month. Whereas in the same time frame, the visitors to LinkedIn soars 16 times from around about 5 millions to 80 millions per month. By 2014, Monster.com is only the world’s 759th most visited web site, while LinkedIn is 11th, according to Alexa.

MWW vs LNKD revenue and opexIn 2011, LinkedIn became a public-listed company. By 2012, LinkedIn’s revenue grew 86% to $972m, eclipsing Monster.com for the first time, which stood at $890m. In the same year, Monster.com incurred “loss from discontinued operations, net of tax” of $317m, roughly 36% of its revenue, due to discontinued operations in few countries. By 2014, the internet recruitment market is still very much fragmented with different site dominating different geography (e.g. JobsDB domination in larger part of South East Asian market). Business-focused social network is also fragmented, though to much smaller degree with LinkedIn as the largest being almost 6x larger then the 2nd largest, Viadeo, in terms of registered members (LinkedIn’s 295m vs Viadeo’s 55m)


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