JobCentral Talks Tough On Job Redistribution

Jun 26, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

A cryptic post on the Chad suggests DirectEmployers Association may be ending or at least limiting the use of its job listings by other job boards.

Calling the mass distribution of job postings “problematic,” Chad Sowash, VP of business development, says DirectEmployers will be changing its terms of service in a way he expects will not be popular. “Will the answer to this problem be a popular remedy?,” Sowash asks. “Magic 8 Ball says “Outlook, not so good.”

Sowash could not be reached to clarify his blog post. The implication, however, seems to be that DirectEmployers intends to impose some restrictions on the use of its job listings by aggregators.

That could pose an interesting challenge since DirectEmployers lists a number of job boards as partners, including the two biggest aggregators online — Indeed and SimplyHired. Neither of their CEOs could be reached, so we can’t say what they might know about this development or if it will even affect their sites.

I suspect it won’t. At least not directly. Both Indeed and SimplyHired are more than redistribution partners to JobCentral, the DirectEmployer job board. Their brand and job links appear prominently on the search results pages of JobCentral, so a search for accounting will turn up the matching jobs from DirectEmployer members, while a sidebar widget lets job seekers know they can find more jobs from the two aggregators and Google, too. Click into them and their jobs appear on a JobCentral branded page.

What Sowash is complaining about are the job boards that have built their traffic off JobCentral’s feeds and by leveraging postings collected by SimplyHired and Indeed and, to be fair, a few others, though the former are the 800-pound gorillas. Both SimplyHired and Indeed make it a snap for a startup job board to go live with hundreds, even thousands of listings. That builds traffic, which a startup uses to sell job posts.

Sowash calls the mixing of redistributed listings with those sold by the individual site cross pollination. “Many job sites receiving this clean job content (from JobCentral) would then mix it with their own making it seem organic to their site (cross pollination),” writes the Chad.

Where the practice begins to become objectionable to Sowash is when these job boards provide feeds of the same jobs to the aggregators. If I’ve got Sowash’s chronology correct, what happened was that as JobCentral made its content available directly to ever more job boards, they, in turn, were uploading it to Indeed, SimplyHired and others as if it was their own, causing a massive duplication.

Inconvenient, but nothing technology isn’t addressing by scrubbing the data, something the job search engines routinely do. The scrubbing isn’t perfect and duplication occurs, but it’s not out of control.

Yet duplication, and job-seeker experience are the issues Sowash cites as reason for the forthcoming changes to JobCentral’s terms of service:

“Although you do expect site owners and designers to think about job-seeker experience, and the use of content that didn’t truly belong to them. Reports of sites using interstitial ads to capture job seeker information, required registration for application, and then repackaging the exact same, now highly duplicated, content and submitting it to other job sites as their own has become an issue for job seekers, employers, and many of the verticals.”

The new terms might limit who gets JobCentral feeds. They are likely to outline how the content is to be used and very possibly restrict its redistribution beyond the initial site. There are plenty of possibilities and, as things are today, not many negatives for the companies who list their jobs on JobCentral. The last thing most employers want are more applicants.

But somewhere down the road, when the U.S. economy recovers and workers who are now hanging on to jobs they had been planning on leaving do quit, recruiters may start bandying about that “war for talent” phrase. Then, the broad nets will again be in vogue and redistributed job postings will look like a positive.

In the meantime, JobCentral could be sparking a trend. Eric Shannon, CEO and founder of LatPro, the Hispanic diversity job board, posted this comment to the Chad’s blog entry:

“Many job boards would not exist at all without these feeds. But, I have recently come to realize as well that just as many job boards would not exist without the traffic obtained by redistributing the same feeds to multiple aggregators. It’s a clever way of building a business out of nothing. I have also been debating whether to post on this topic.

Recently I have had job board owners try to peddle large feeds as their own (probably came from you) and other job boards pushing the limits in a variety of ways on what constitutes a real job.

For years, my frustration with this murkiness in our marketplace has driven my search for the right path for my company.”

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