Publishers and Recruitment – The Comeback!

Sticking to my theme of analysing recruitment related predictions, I am going to deal with one very close to home.

“Publishers are being cut out of the recruitment process.”

Until the 1990’s, publishers had a monopoly on recruitment advertising. With the exception of strategic choices, such as careers fairs and Above the Line advertising, recruiters had three options in the search for talent:

• Networking
• Print Advertising in relevant media
• Headhunting/ Poaching

Of course recruiters had their own databases, but most of the candidates these included would have been added as the result of one of the methods listed above.

There just weren’t a lot of options, and publishers were free to take advantage of their privileged position in the recruitment process. For specialist and high profile roles, recruitment adverts varied in price from a few hundred pounds to well over £10,000. There were many journals and trade publications which relied entirely on this lucrative source of revenue to survive.

The arrival of the job board, particularly those operating in niche industry sectors, changed everything.

After several years in recruitment I found myself on the frontline: in the tough position of selling both job board and print advertising. To illustrate the problems I faced selling print against online, here are a few of the typical questions advertisers might ask, contrasted with the answers I had at my disposal:

What does an advert cost?

Job Board: “£350”
Print Publication: “£2,000″

What’s your monthly circulation?

Job Board: “60,000 unique visitors!”
Print Publication: “15,000 subscribers”

How can I measure my return?

Job Board: “We measure all applications and advert views for you!”
Print Publication: “We can’t help.”

How many potential candidates do you have?

Job Board: “We have 6,583 registered users relevant to your role!”
Print Publication: “I can’t be specific.”

What’s the average number of applications to an Ad?

Job Board: “4.3 per advert posted!”
Print Publication: “I don’t know.”

Can I have access to a database of jobseekers?

Job Board: “Sure – how does 10,000 CV’s sound?”
Print Publication: “No you can’t.”

Print was at a big disadvantage!

That’s not to say that it wasn’t necessarily the best route for our clients to take; just that it was a much harder sell.

Many of the best candidates were reading our print publication who wouldn’t dream of visiting our job board, but it’s easy to see why advertisers were increasingly choosing the online option.

As I have said several times in previous posts, “poor services were opened up to scrutiny that wasn’t available prior to the digital age” and many publications that didn’t adapt went out of business or were discontinued as result.

The very best publications continued to see a steady stream of recruitment revenue, whilst nurturing a healthy online brand/ audience at the same time. The BMJ and the New Scientist are good examples of publishers that managed this transition well.

So in an era where the available methods of candidate attraction are so numerous (I shan’t list them for fear of losing your attention, but you can read more about that HERE) how are publishers making a comeback?

The answer is that relevant, respected print publications have always attracted the best candidates! They were just behind technologically; and that gap is now being closed.

Ask your average recruiter which candidates they prefer?

• Those that are actively looking for a job and probably applying to a number of competitors?
• Those that weren’t looking were tempted by the job and applied exclusively to their company?

The answer is invariably the latter!

The biggest downfall of the job board is that it has never been able to provide these ‘passive’ candidates to recruiters.

Now that publishers have caught up technologically, they have the content and have the communities to deliver. All newspapers, trade publications and journals are now online and can capitalize on established technologies to give them the same capabilities as traditional job boards; but with a far more sophisticated audience.

With contextual advertising techniques publishers are now able to place job adverts directly alongside relevant content, targeting passive candidates in their ‘natural content habitat’.

It’s the Biostatistician reading Statistics in Medicine online who sees a tempting job advert alongside an article on “Extensions of net reclassification improvement calculations to measure usefulness of new biomarkers” that provides the publishers advantage. This employed candidate wouldn’t normally consider visiting a job board, maybe adverse to social media (it’s surprising how many scientists, academics and healthcare practitioners are) and yet the publisher can still reach him/ her.

For those of you who are interested, you can see how we do this HERE

With the loss of so much print recruitment over recent years, publishers have been able to move to new online recruitment models without damaging their existing business. At the same time they now have exactly the same capabilities that were previously the preserve of the traditional job board (provided by a number of off the shelf recruitment platforms). As I wrote in my recent article about recruitment advertising agencies, employers and recruiters are increasingly prepared to pay rates comparable to those in print, on the provision that we can deliver quality candidates that aren’t available elsewhere. Whilst selling job board adverts back in 2008, the most I could expect for a month’s campaign was usually in the region of £350. This year the biggest single advert campaign I sold was booked through a recruitment advertising agency was worth several thousand pounds. Content providers, offering a unique audience, can now charge these rates and clients are increasingly prepared to pay.

With many traditional revenue streams under threat, you will notice increasing numbers of publishers taking this route. The most successful will be those who really understand the recruitment market, how to market their jobs and the best way to develop business in the new recruitment environment (in my experience this has been the biggest stumbling block for many organisations).

With social media engagement increasingly driven by content, this is likely to consolidate their advantage. We now send out relevant content to specific niche social media communities specifically to draw attention to our client’s job adverts, not just the steady stream of adverts that people have become accustomed to from many recruitment social media accounts. Being in a position to produce and access this content quickly and effectively is likely to aid publishers in their ascendancy.

In order to compete, traditional job boards are adapting, linking their roles to industry portals and blogs. Unfortunately, the brand and content of many publications is so strong that many people rely on it as part of their career development and this presents publishers (particularly those in specialist/niche areas) with a huge advantage.

That’s it for this week; I’ll be back next week to look at the how digital recruitment differs across international boundaries!

5 thoughts on “Publishers and Recruitment – The Comeback!

  1. Tis a very nice blog, Allister! Quite enjoyed reading the posts you’ve put up. Will look forward to your next post, and what it will have to say about other countries (including Australia?!).



    • Hi Ilya, Thanks for your comment! Australia is a place very close to my heart! My girlfriend is from Melbourne! We actually run an office out there and I know the recruitment environment quite well, so it will definitely feature in my next blog!

      All the best


  2. Daaaw. Kind words about my adopted home! Would be interesting to see what you have to say, especially with regards to recruitment in Melbourne and Australia in general, as I’ve just wrapped up a long contract at one place of employment and am trying to make sense of the recruitment world in Australia for the first time in five years. Nothing seems to be like it was before. LinkedIn has become like the Facebook of professional skill-set hunters and would-be self-prompters/personal brand-makers. So very strange. Does it level the playing field? Or make it infinitely more difficult to obtain employment? I wonder if anyone’s even analysed the data hard enough to write a convincing paper on the subject.



  3. Things have definitley moved up a pace! From a jobseekers perspective I think LinkedIn is a good thing and that it empowers individuals to self-promote and bulid up a brand in a way that wasn’t as easy previously. For employers I think its great It’s far more difficult to lie on your LinkedIn profile than it is on a CV (because its open to scrutiny by everyone in your network) and you can get a really good idea of a candidates worth. Either way its here to stay!

  4. What a great article! WE have had a print and digital offering in the graduate space for a long time. It’s taken a while to determine which form of evolution we should take and your description is exactly our tact. To ensure Employer brands are strong and well developed, they must share authentic stories of the employee work experience. This is not achieved by a one page ad. However an article, a story or a video – in the case of a digital publication – allows all of these things to engage the reader and the applicant in a way that isn’t done through a traditional jobs board.

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