Possible HotJobs Sale Raises Questions For Yahoo Newspaper Partners

The news today that Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) is reportedly seeking a buyer for HotJobs will certainly once again fuel worry among the nearly 800 Yahoo Newspaper Consortium members about how dedicated new Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is to the alliance.

Access to HotJobs listings has been — and continues to be — a major reason that newspapers have wanted to join the Yahoo consortium. Yahoo HotJobs has launched co-branded career sites with the majority of the member papers. A Yahoo spokeswoman declined to comment, stating that the company does not comment on rumors or speculation.

But at the Newspaper Consortium CEO Summit in Las Vegas earlier this month, members said they were already somewhat concerned about the impact that the departure of Yahoo President Sue Decker, a driving force behind the consortium, would have. Those worries were somewhat offset by the hope that Bartz’s hiring would mean that Yahoo would once again be able to — in the words of one attendee — get “back to (the) more mundane business of driving ad revenue.”

Meanwhile, the deep recession has cut into recruitment-ad sales, which is perhaps one reason why Yahoo hopes to unload HotJobs. Online recruitment ad sales fell by 5 percent last year, according to one report. At the same time, traffic to HotJobs, perhaps fueled by the constant addition of new newspaper partners as well as desperate job seekers, jumped 146 percent last year, according to comScore.

David adds: One Yahoo Newspaper Consortium member I spoke to this evening said that while employment ad revenues had been trending steadily downward, the HotJobs alliance did manage to offset further declines somewhat. But overall, this source thinks that if Yahoo does jettison HotJobs, the company hopes that members will be placated by the wider offerings tied to APT, Yahoo’s ad targeting and display serving system. In any case, this could give a shot in the arm to struggling HotJobs rivals CareerBuilder — which Gannett (NYSE: GCI) has said supplies 80 percent of its online help wanted ad sales — and Monster.com, which has been trying to build its own small newspaper alliance since the summer.