The San Jose Mercury News mob have more details on Yahoo’s plans to incorporate job ads from other sites into their search. Essentially, Yahoo! is going to screenscrape employer websites to pull jobs down into the HotJobs search. It looks like an extreme move to remain relevant:
MercuryNews.com | 07/12/2005 | Yahoo to `copy’ jobs to beef up its listings: Yahoo felt it needed to do the scraping for several reasons, according to General Manager Daniel J. Finnigan. By listing more jobs, HotJobs better serves users. And if more users come, employers are helped and are more likely to pay for other services.
It will also improve Yahoo’s core search offerings: Yahoo plans to offer a special “jobs” tab on its main search bar, planned for a Wednesday launch. Finally, more companies are posting jobs on their Web sites, and if Yahoo didn’t, its main competitors would also soon begin scraping. “By definition, that’s content that our job seekers are going to want access to,” he said. “We have to do it.”
Finnigan believes employers will continue to pay, especially on sites like HotJobs, which offers a depth of other services that the upstarts don’t.
For starters, HotJobs displays its paid listings separately from the free listings, and shows them higher on the results page. In addition, employers paying for listings with HotJobs can add, edit or delete postings whenever they want. They have more control, through their negotiated relationship with HotJobs, of how their jobs and their company’s branding are presented. And they earn the right to search HotJobs’ database of job seekers by various criteria, including keyword, experience level, job preference, salary and so on.
Though it’s odd to think of Yahoo! as being “desperate for audience” in any of its markets, in the U.S. jobs market it’s a distant third place behind Monster and CareerBuilder. So it is struggling for traction in this market.
I have personal views about screenscraping – it’s borderline legal/illegal, it’s certainly counter to the spirit of Web 2.0 if not the letter of the law, and it’s incredibly flaky technically – but what’s really interesting about this move is what it says about Web economics. Yahoo’s move shows that, as things stand with Web protocols, it’s always easy for any player to rip value out of any market by acting aggressively to maintain market share. It’s why record labels are angry with the BBC, for instance. If you’re big and bad enough, you can restate the laws of engagement with any area of Web activity, which is great for the consumer in the short term – but economically highly questionable in the long term.
And one cheeky question – how will Yahoo react when people start scraping their own site and turning it into a suite of RSS feeds which completely disintermediate Yahoo?