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Speculation Swirling on HotJobs’ Future

News organizations are reporting that the Yahoo-owned job board is up for sale. Yahoo won’t comment, but the company’s CEO said last month that HotJobs is an asset that is ‘up for examination.’

September 16, 2011
News reports that Yahoo is looking to sell HotJobs have stirred speculation about the third-ranking online employment service’s future.

Yahoo spokesperson Kim Rubey declined to comment on whether HotJobs is on the market, which was first reported Tuesday, April 14, by The New York Times.

On Thursday, April 16, Financial Times also reported that the service was for sale. Both news organizations cited unnamed sources familiar with the company’s plans.

Yahoo acquired HotJobs in December 2001 for $436 million in cash and stock.

Last year, the site ranked third among online job search services with 5.6 million visitors, behind CareerBuilder (9.1 million) and Monster (6.7 million) and just ahead of Indeed (5.1 million), according to comScore, a market intelligence firm. In the survey, HotJobs had the fastest growth rate of the top five sites, with its traffic increasing 146 percent from 2007 to 2008.

One factor that adds value to HotJobs is the strategic partnership that Yahoo formed in 2006 with 150 daily newspapers to provide search capabilities and job listings for their Web sites. The consortium includes major papers such as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Houston Chronicle, and the San Jose Mercury News.

CareerBuilder has formed a similar alliance with the Gannett newspaper chain, while Monster is still trying to build its own newspaper alliance.

Nevertheless, industry analysts have long questioned whether HotJobs is a good fit with Yahoo’s search engine, news aggregation and e-mail businesses. In a March conference call with Morgan Stanley analyst Mary Meeker, newly installed Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz differentiated HotJobs from Yahoo’s core businesses and described it as one of the Yahoo assets “up for examination.”

Standard & Poor’s stock analyst Scott Kessler said that selling HotJobs makes sense, because Yahoo “is in dire need of better prioritizing and refocusing the businesses that mean the most to it.”

Whether Yahoo will be able to find a buyer is unclear.

Kessler declined to identify specific potential suitors, but said that a consolidation with another similar site such as CareerBuilder or Monster might make sense.

Other potential buyers might include a major media company with extensive local operations in the U.S., or a private equity group. He noted, however, that current tightness in the capital markets may hinder potential buyers.

“Capital is difficult to come by,” he said.

Peter Zollman, founder of Classified Intelligence, a research and consulting firm that counts HotJobs, CareerBuilder and Monster among its clients, discounted the sale rumor. He said that Bartz recently met with the newspaper consortium members in Las Vegas and assured them that HotJobs was not for sale.

However, Zollman described an uncertain future for all-purpose job listing services such as HotJobs. He said recent research shows that corporate recruiters increasingly are turning to specialized sites and also to social networks such as LinkedIn as sources of talent. Sites such as HotJobs will have to evolve to survive, he said.

“We don’t believe that the future is going to be general-purpose boards like Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs are now,” Zollman said. “But all three are working to deliver new audiences and new products, so I wouldn’t count them out.”

--Patrick J. Kiger

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