Yahoo! HotJobs, Newspapers Close to a Deal

This isn't officially confirmed, but Yahoo! is apparently close to finalizing a major deal that would pair its lagging HotJobs recruitment site with a consortium of "non-CareerBuilder" newspapers. The deal has been in the works since at least July. Apparently, it has become a high priority for new Yahoo! listings head Hilary Schneider, who was recruited from the embers of Knight Ridder, where among other things, she oversaw the company's share of CareerBuilder.

A deal would help ease the doldrums that have seized Yahoo!. Since this summer, the portal has been hit with a mountain of bad news. Its contextual search service has suffered delays, it has entered a sales slump, it suffered a bad earnings announcement, it lost market share to Google, and it "lost" YouTube to Google.

Leading the newspaper side has been Dean Singleton and his lieutenant Eric Grilly at MediaNews Group. MNG has been emboldened by its takeover of The San Jose Mercury News and some of the other former Knight Ridder properties — and its apparent inability to buy into the CareerBuilder consortia.

My source told me that as many as 12 newspaper companies have been involved with the negotiations, but as few as six may end up participating. At this point, contracts haven’t been signed.

One can assume that none of the CareerBuilder owners (Tribune, Gannett, McClatchy) will "quit" the alliance to join HotJobs. Then again, some of CareerBuilder's affiliates might. One source told me that "Dean Singleton is the ultimate pragmatist." This source could envision that Singleton would always seek as broad a distribution for his want ads as he could: even putting ads on Monster.

HotJobs has been led by Dan Finnigan, a predecessor of Schneider's at Knight Ridder. It isn't clear if he will remain in charge. Whether it is Finnigan or someone else reporting to Schneider, the effort will hinge on the ability to leverage the promotional might of newspapers and their online/offline synergies.

Here's the playbook to level the playing field with CareerBuilder and Monster (if the deal is completed). The first thing they are likely to do is to re-brand newspaper recruitment sections as "HotJobs." CareerBuilder has done the equivalent. The second thing they'll do is build up a national presence, probably taking out expensive national ads and other marketing. HotJobs hasn't been a contender in this area.

Over time, they might go "a step beyond" by integrating newspaper and Yahoo! content — a step that could lead to an even broader alliance. Separately, they may also step up the site’s technology. For now, however, it is apparently "all about jobs."

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