Eager to protect want-ads turf, papers try Team approach, flankers

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Newspapers, under monstrous attack from pure-play online job sites, are linking up to give their want ads added punch.

These joint efforts, most notably CareerBuilder, go beyond a newspaper posting local help-wanted ads on its own Web site. In the case of CareerBuilder, Knight Ridder and Tribune Co. combine their recruitment ads on a Web site that has national reach and can compete with Monster and HotJobs.com. The CareerBuilder site in turn can give employers access to individual markets through participating newspapers' print want ads.

It's crucial for newspapers to protect their recruitment-ad turf against the national dot-coms. Classified advertising generates up to 40% of a daily newspaper's revenue, says Bob Jordan, co-chairman of Media Audit, a product of International Demographics. Recruitment advertising accounts for 44% of total classifieds, or about 18% of total ad revenue.

The recession and competition from online recruitment sites hit newspapers hard in 2001. Newspapers' print recruitment advertising tumbled 34.5% to $5.7 billion last year, according to the Newspaper Association of America. At the same time, online recruitment advertising increased by 19% to $877 million, after soaring 80% in 2000, says Charlene Li, research director-media and marketing at Forrester Research.

Mr. Jordan believes that online recruiters have taken share from newspapers' print want ads. "Newspapers have always felt that they owned the recruitment advertising pie," says Mr. Jordan, whose company revealed research earlier this year showing that only 41% of regular visitors to employment Web sites are also regular readers of newspaper want ads.

Newspapers are fighting back by bundling their want ads into Web sites with a national reach that can fight the likes of TMP's Monster and HotJobs, whose acquisition by Yahoo! became final in February.

Also, The New York Times Co. and Dow Jones and & Co. have linked up and in January began allowing employers to place want ads simultaneously on the Web sites of the Times Co.'s New York Times and Boston Globe, and Dow Jones' Wall Street Journal.

Even the NAA is linking its member newspapers via Bona Fide Classified (bonafideclassified.com), which provides access to those papers' online classifieds, including job ads.

"Bonafide Classified.com has two major functions," says Tony Marcella, NAA VP-classified advertising. "One is the opportunity to search over 1,100 individual newspapers' classified sections. ... The second allows newspapers that don't have real online placement capability to run recruitment advertising across the country, by using us as a portal."

CareerBuilder gets upwards of $20 million in ad support and this month put its account in review. Incumbent Martin Agency, Richmond, Va., part of Interpublic Group of Cos., declined to participate in the review.

Newspapers' intensified online efforts reveal that the "industry is going where the customers are," says Charlie Diederich, NAA director of recruitment classified advertising. "If, in fact, the end game is that everything is going to the Internet, then we have to go there, too."

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