Monster, CareerBuilder Losing Traffic Race To HotJobs

Jul 29, 2009
This article is part of a series called News & Trends.

It could be an uncomfortable 60 minutes tomorrow for Monster‘s CEO when he presents the company’s 2nd quarter numbers during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

Yahoo Finance says analysts are expecting Monster to earn a penny a share on revenues of about $225 million. Last year for the same quarter, the company had sales of $354.3 million. In the first quarter of this year, Monster had a loss.

I have no particular insight on what the revenue and expense numbers will be. Instead, I’m looking at traffic numbers released by comScore the other day that show Monster’s job audience grew 6 percent in the 12 months since June 2008. Meanwhile, the number of Americans visiting all career services and development sites grew 10 percent.

That means Monster captured only 60 percent of the category’s growth. CareerBuilder, the leading job board by traffic and North American revenue, saw its traffic decline by 1 percent. Among the big three general job boards in the U.S., only Yahoo’s HotJobs bested the category growth, growing at a brisk 23 percent.

However, the clear winner among the top 10 most trafficked sites is, which grew at a blistering 59 percent. The job search engine now ranks fourth among the most trafficked job sites, according to comScore.

At the other end, and surprisingly still among the top 10 sites, is Traffic there dropped 11 percent over the year, a not-surprising turn considering the site became a job board for Kenexa since its acquisition by the HR software firm at the end of 2006. What is surprising is that the site still gets 2 million unique visitors a month.

Monster’s traffic growth is particularly troubling for the company, which relaunched the site in January with a big marketing push, including, in February, its first Super Bowl commercials since 2004. Much of Monster’s first quarter loss — some $27 million — was attributed to the big marketing push.

CEO Sal Iannuzzi told analysts when the 1st quarter numbers were released that the millions spent on marketing were already showing results. “We are gaining market share,” Iannuzzi declared. “We are declining less than the competition.”

On a traffic basis, that isn’t the case. The evidence from comScore suggests that Monster isn’t even back to the numbers it saw in Sept. 2008, when it had 17.92 million unique visitors. In January, when the revamped site launched and Monster’s Super Bowl buildup gave it a boost, it had 17.91 million visitors. Bad news for Monster, though. The site’s traffic dropped 12 percent the next month, despite the Feb. 1 Super Bowl ads and a fan promotion with the NFL.

CareerBuilder, which had its own Super Bowl ads, also saw a February decline. It went from 24.75 million visitors to 20.08 million.

Declines from January to February are fairly typical for job boards. Job searching tends to be cyclical, with big jumps in January as people make good on resolutions and shift out of holiday mode. The numbers drop, level off, then decline during the summer for what should be obvious reasons.  So every one of the top 10 job sites saw a one-month decline and, in fact, the entire category saw a drop of 9 percent.

I contacted Monster and CareerBuilder to discuss the numbers, but have yet to hear from Monster. CareerBuilder spokeswoman Jennifer Grasz sent an email saying only, “CareerBuilder has been and continues to be the category leader.”

On the other hand, Paul Forster, co-founder and CEO of Indeed, called back to say the search engine’s torrid growth is “Very nice to see. Our model is providing to be very good from the point of view of the job seeker.”

Indeed, and its nearest competitor, SimplyHired (also in the top 10) launched five years ago and have quickly built a following through word of mouth and aggressive partnering. Both sites aggregate job listings from other job boards, direct employers, and elsewhere and also sell their own postings. Besides searching directly on the main sites, both Indeed and SimplyHired redistribute listings through their partners and other job boards, which use them to plump up their own offerings.

Over a three year period, Indeed has grown 659 percent while SimplyHired has grown 1,209 percent.

Monster, on the other hand, has lost ground during those same three years. My numbers show that in June 2006 Monster had 15.43 million unique visitors. Since then, it has lost 6.2 percent of its traffic. CareerBuilder has grown a meager 3.3 percent, while HotJobs has jumped 115.6 percent. The category itself has grown 28 percent.

What all these numbers mean is that instead of gaining job seeker market share, Monster has lost it. So has CareerBuilder. Hotjobs, once the third place job board that seemed headed out of the top 10 altogether, has meanwhile moved comfortably into second place and could, if the trend continues, become the most-trafficked job board.

The other site to watch is Indeed. It’s not likely to see a repeat of its 59 percent traffic growth, given how large the site’s traffic has already grown. But even at a growth rate of half that, Indeed could overtake Monster at about the same time HotJobs captures the top spot.

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