Is Print Recruitment Advertising Dead?

Jun 24, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

At a time when one of America’s largest newspapers is worth perhaps $1 — assuming it can be sold at all — is there any likelihood that the print industry’s single largest revenue category will ever even come close to approaching the $6, $7, and $8 billion glory days of a decade ago?

Not likely, say observers of the market (here’s just one) who have warned of the demise of the newspaper Help Wanted for years. The Conference Board, which once used the volume of employment ads in 51 of the nation’s newspapers as an index of labor health, discontinued its Help Wanted Advertising Index in July 2008. The Board explained the decision this way, “Because print advertising no longer comprehensively captures changes in labor-market demand, The Conference Board will focus its efforts on other indicators that better reflect today’s labor market …”

Earlier this month the Newspaper Association of America released the results of the first quarter newspaper revenues showing all categories down. But no classified category is down more than recruitment, off 67.4 percent from the first quarter of 2008. That’s a near disastrous showing, made worse because 2008’s first quarter was itself down by 35.4 percent from 2007.

In dollars, the drop means America’s daily newspapers took in $205.441 million in recruitment advertising from Jan 1 through March 31st. Compare that to the $119 million Monster took in from its North American job postings or compare it to CareerBuilder’s $141 million for the same period.

You don’t have to be a math wizard to see that just two online sites — the two biggest, to be sure — took in more job posting revenue than did all of the nation’s 1,400 or so daily newspapers. The newspapers also took in $3.1 billion in online revenue, with employment ads accounting for a piece of that total.

The accompanying chart shows the rise in employment advertising through 2000; its sudden drop with the tech crash of 2000 and then 9/11; it’s improvement into 2006; and, now, what is likely to be its final decline.

So definitive has been the crash of newspaper employment advertising that many newspapers are running help-wanted ads only on some days, rather than seven days a week. The Chicago Tribune, an owner of CareerBuilder, became the first major market daily to curtail recruitment advertising, when in early 2008 it decided to run ads only two days a week.

The rapid decline in newspaper employment advertising coincides with recruiter sentiment that newspapers don’t provide the same value as online job boards, employee referral programs and, increasingly, social networks.

In 2006, ERE in collaboration with Classified Intelligence surveyed several hundred recruiters visiting ERE and found they considered print advertising to be the least effective means of attracting candidates from among the five choices. Those choices were employee referral programs, job boards, career fairs, print, and social networks. We asked the decision-makers among the survey respondents about their spending on various media in 2006. Some 43 percent expected to spend less that year on print, while about that same percent expected to increase their spending on social networking sites, referral programs, and job boards.

The numbers bear out those predictions.

That’s the glass-half-empty look at print recruitment advertising. If there is a half-full point of view, it’s not evident. We could point to ads in The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, and a few others that list available openings and point to online sites for more information. The Chicago Tribune does something similar with ads it runs for CareerBuilder during the week.

Recruitment advertising agencies that used to earn 15 percent commissions on newspaper ads that cost upwards of $3,000 on a Sunday have embraced other media, generating fees from buying online advertising, designing online campaigns and building career sites, and managing search engine marketing campaigns.

Executives from these agencies no longer spend time placing what used to be called in-line display ads in the daily newspaper. Now, they advocate using newspapers for integrated campaigns and for special events like on-site open houses and career fairs, where a wide net is desired.

How do you use newspapers for recruitment? Or do you? When was the last time you ran an ad in the newspaper and what was the result? We’re anxious to hear from you. So we encourage your comments on this issue as we prepare a more in-depth article on the use of newspapers for recruitment advertising.

Post your comments below or email me directly by clicking the link at the top of this story.

This article is part of a series called News & Trends.
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