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For Yahoo Newspaper Consortium Members, Targeting Is Now The Draw, Not Job Ads

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imageFor websites still joining ad alliances like the Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Newspaper Consortium and quadrantONE, the appeal is in the targeting and ad assistance– not the job listings. For the Yahoo Newspaper Consortium, HotJobs was initially a main selling point, but with unemployment currently at 9.1 percent, job ads aren’t so hot these days. None of the five new consortium members have signed on for the HotJobs service. Instead, the newspapers all cited a desire to access Yahoo’s targeted inventory and online ad saleforce training.

The consortium’s members have been awaiting the rollout of Yahoo’s APT display ad targeting and distribution service, which has been slower to materialize than they expected.

Since Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz took her post in January, the company has been aggressively looking at which parts of Yahoo’s portfolio it needs to prune. So far, the fate of HotJobs, which Yahoo bought in 2002, remains uncertain. One option is for the newspaper members to buy HotJobs and divide the revenues among themselves. While a jobs site might not seem too attractive for struggling newspaper companies right now, when the economy turns around, online recruitment could be lucrative again, especially in the case of an established brand like HotJobs. Still, among the big three — and CareerBuilder being the other two — there is likely to be some consolidation when the economy turns around. And far from writing HotJobs off, Yahoo sources tell us that the company is planning to roll out some new tools for the jobs site designed to help users deal with issues related to the recession. The company declined to offer details about the new HotJobs features, but said the goal was to make it more appealing to newspapers and to users in general.

As Outsell’s Ken Doctor told me, recruitment traditionally offers the highest margins of all newspaper classifieds, although help-wanted ads have been down more than 50 percent year-over year since Q408. The expectation is that these great losses will finally slow by the latter half of the year. “Yahoo HotJobs is a key online sales category for news publishers, increasingly being sold on its pure online value and less on its bundled value, a transition that makes sense given job placers and job seekers acceptance of the web as the go-to ad medium,” Doctor said. “Given the jobs environment, it’s harder for news companies to justify an immediate investment in buying HotJobs, given how constrained their cashflows are. Yet, given its longer-term strategic fit, it makes sense.”

HotJobs does have some selling points. For example, it had 17 million users, per Comscore (NSDQ: SCOR), in April, making it the number two jobs site behind the Tribune-, Gannett-, McClatchy-owned CareerBuilder’s 23 million monthly uniques. Right now, selling HotJobs would provide a quick cash infusion and fit with Bartz’s strategy of getting Yahoo to concentrate on its core. Still, a number of original consortium members have said that they have some concern about what the loss of HotJobs would mean to the alliance, though most acknowledge that they could still use the service no matter who owns it. As a rep for Freedom Communications, one of the newest consortium members, told paidContent earlier today, the publisher will maintain its agreement with HotJobs’ rival and will not sign on with the Yahoo jobs site. “Our agreement is about giving content on Freedom sites more visibility, and utilizing APT to help advertising customers experience a better return on their investments,” said Freedom rep Eric Morgan.