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Online V's Press

By The Drum | Administrator

May 15, 2002 | 10 min read

Until recently the motions of finding a new job were set in stone. Peeved at your boss? No problem. Buy a copy of your favourite broadsheet or local tabloid and scan the back pages, secure in the knowledge that, even if you couldn’t find your dream job, you might at least spot a recruitment consultancy that could locate it for you.

And then, with the wheels soundly in motion, all you had to do was write your acidic letter of resignation and buy a fresh pack of nails for your boss’s tyres.

Well, not exactly. But certainly if you hadn’t already got a foot in the door of a new job then the press was seen as the traditional way to look for new employment. The thing about traditions, though, is that sooner or later they change.

Once again the internet has been hard at work changing people’s perceptions of how things should be done. Where once a newspaper or magazine would be the obvious place to look for new employment or a recruitment consultancy’s contact number, now the internet is coming into its own as a recruitment platform.

The problem this could cause for newspapers is obvious. If recruitment were to shift totally online then newspapers would lose an integral part of their revenue. So, how likely is this to happen and is it happening already?

With use of the internet on the increase, newspaper and magazine publishers are already starting to use their sites as recruitment portals. But so far opinions are mixed on the damage to offline revenues.

“At this stage there is very little impact on regional press volumes,” says David Simms, advertising director at the Newcastle Chronicle and Journal. “Regional press volumes are actually on the increase, which is good. There are a lot of dual bookings at the moment, so people are not brave enough to trust online solely. The impact has to be measured on volumes and the volumes are up, not down.”

Andy Quigley, classified recruitment manager, says: “I think when you say that there’s anything that can offer a route to recruitment ads you have to take it as a threat. They said a few years ago that online was going to take over everything. That obviously hasn’t happened, but what has happened is that a significantnumber of people have now migrated online.” However, Gary McNeish, managing director of regional press sales house Amra, belives that it is no so much a migration as an extra investment.

He says: “The situation now is that extra money is being found by clients to advertise on the internet, so we’re not noticing a big loss. We’re seeing it as very much for niche markets, such as IT. Trinity Mirror is a major shareholder in Fish4 and a CV matching service currently being tested called Matchwork and we are getting into the internet, but at present we don’t see it as a big threat.”

Bartlett Scott Edgar is a full service recruitment advertising agency with offices in Stockport and London. Agency director David Gooda says: “Whether the internet will replace press recruitment is a question we have been trying to answer for the last couple of years. The answer is that they are inextricably linked. Online is more flexible, but without the power of the press. A good communications agency will be able to determine the strengths and weaknesses of each and act accordingl for their clients.

“The overall point is that you can do different things with both medias. You can attract people through press that you can’t get online, but you can tailor candidates better through online.”

Further reinforcing the regional press view is Paul Walmsley, group regional sales director at Regional Independent Media. He says: “At the moment, I’m not sure. It’s having an impact, but I think press has a lot of different things to offer: it’s there, it’s right in front of you. Despite what people say, it’s not that easy to navigate recruitment sites, you’ve still got to trawl through pages and pages. You can’t relax and look at it in your favourite chair. Regional press is still the main way to advertise jobs.”

On the other side of the fence, however, the recruitment consultancies have begun to notice a higher return from advertising their clients’ vacancies online.

“We are probably going more and more online now,” remarks Nathalie Winder, senior consultant at Creyf’s Recruitment. “We still advertise in press and magazines like we used to, but we take less space now. It is quarter- and half-page ads, as opposed to the full-page ads we used to take. We get a broader response, from websites.”

Winder’s comments are backed up by Andy Rowse, marketing director for recruitment consultants The EMR Group: “From our point of view, as part of the group, we are getting far more applications online than from the papers, particularly in the marketing world. It’s a much more profitable medium.”

Paul Farrer, MD of Phee Farrer Jones, is another recruitment consultant to have discovered the advantages of online advertising. He explains: “We use both online and offline methods to reach the market. A lot of both on- and offline generates traffic to our sites and enquiries by phone, but if you track our revenue back, the amount of business we make from the web completely outstrips print.”

Strongly reinforcing this view is the fact that many publishing companies are now using their websites to sell recruitment advertising. In addition to dedicated recruitment sites such as monster.co.uk, reed.co.uk and mad.co.uk, companies such as the Guardian and Observer and Trinity Mirror are launching their own recruitment sections online.

MEN’s Quigley says: “We are investing heavily in our website, manchesteronline.co.uk and are selling it as package along with the newspaper. We’ve also got a stake in fish4. That’s where as a newspaper we’re quite strong, because we’ll have critical mass.”

The Guardian has a separate site for each regular supplement in the newspaper (Jobs, Media, Education, Society) and registers over four million unique online users.

Anne Waterson, northern advertisement manager at the Guardian and Observer, says: “I think they [specialist recruitment sites] are having an impact. We don’t do a lot of recruitment up here, but it’s a massive part of the business down in London and I know they have been hit pretty badly. The reason we’ve developed these sites is to complement our press offering in order to increase added value.”

But what is it about the online recruitment arena that is making it so successful?

First, the internet’s 24-7 existence means that it can be updated at any time, meaning that even the regular delivery of a daily newspaper can be beaten on accuracy. Also, many recruitment sites charge very cheaply for placing ads. And why shouldn’t they? After all, it’s cheaper to maintain a website than it is to publish a newspaper or magazine.

There’s also the factor of increased use of the internet in general.

According to user statistics for The Guardian’s websites, as many as a quarter of online users don’t usually read the newspaper itself. The web is coming into its own as a recruitment resource.

With internet use on the rise, the casual observer could be forgiven for thinking that some of the newspaper recruitment market could become obsolete. The experts have a different opinion, however. Toby Windsor is a managing partner of SMRS, a Manchester-based media agency specialising in recruitment.

Windsor claims that, rather than replacing print, online will join it as part of the recruitment mix. He says: “I think there’s been an awful lot of talk of how online recruitment was going to overtake and outdo ads in every other medium. As with every other sector, it’s about finding the best and most effective route to whom you want to reach. Recruitment is now an integrated application which involves press, online and broadcast.”

Quigley agrees: “We quite often get agencies saying ‘we have x amount of money and we want to spend it on cross media’. As part of GMG we have got as big a piece of that budget as possible. It’s a matter of covering all our bases. You can’t rest on your laurels.”

Rowse at The EMR Group believes the prestige of newspapers will continue to draw big money positions. “I think the big, six-figure jobs will always be advertised in the papers because it’s good PR as well,” he says. “There are also a lot of people who, unlike in the business world, still don’t have access to the internet on a daily basis.”

Reed.co.uk is one of the biggest recruitment sites in the UK, carrying over 80,000 jobs a month. Yet, despite the site’s increase in business, marketing director Katy Nicholson also doesn’t believe that press advertising is in danger of becoming extinct.

She explains: “Our experience at reed.co.uk does not lead us to believe that recruitment advertising will ever disappear from newspapers. For some jobs, in some sectors, or just as an additional channel for response, terrestrial recruitment advertising looks like a survivor.

“However, undoubtedly online recruitment is becoming more and more important; above all because skilled job seekers like using it. It is also becoming increasingly cost-effective, as the expense of posting jobs online continues to plummet.”

If anything, the main complaint about the internet as a recruitment tool is that sometimes it can provide too much of a response. With the internet open to anyone anywhere in the world who owns a computer and modem, the potential flood of CVs from candidates could be too much for some people.

Pharrer reinforces this, saying: “A lot of line managers might be very upset when they open their inboxes and get a mass of CVs from people who are not relevant. The web is a big net and catches a lot of different types of fish.”

At present, the threat to press seems to be more on a national basis, with national newspapers being forced more and more to get involved in the online sector. However, with cross-selling packages between on- and offline, the national papers may not be at risk of losing as much business as would have otherwise been the case.

The regional press claims not to be feeling the pinch as yet, and with regional papers being bedded in as part of their communities this may well be true. But how long will it continue? If the internet’s popularity continues to grow and more recruitment consultancies continue to trust it as a medium, then the regional press might have to go along with it as well.

If it comes to a choice between going online themselves and losing chunks of their recruitment business, even the regional press may have to change. When it comes to recruitment the internet is steaming ahead, and soon both the regional and national press may have to decide whether to jump aboard or get off the tracks.

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