(January 16, 2008) So, the newspapers have finally invented the advertising agency.  

Someone might want to remind them that TMP and Hodes both had to segregate their media businesses from their agency businesses. The problem is that you can not make unbiased recommendations when you are the owner of one of the properties under consideration.  

That said, the launch of Personified marks a profound inflection point for the newspaper industry.

Classified advertising is all but dead in the print form and online advertising services are rapidly eliminating the newspapers as players.   CareerBuilder has compiled an astonishing and aggressive track record. It has played the game unlike any of its predecessors.

While the newspaper industry has been throwing money at the problem for nearly two decades, CareerBuilder is the first glimmer of success.

Growth is a challenging objective in a market where the basic unit price is always declining. In order for CareerBuilder to continue to meet growth objectives, it must crawl out from the advertising ghetto. Personified is their first attempt to do so.  

If you’ll excuse a bit of vanity, their product and service offerings sound like a recapitulation of a decades worth of my writings. So, I have to think that the services themselves are really good ideas.   If they can get the billing approach correct, this is a real threat to the already eroding advertising agency franchises.   This is a good, smart, somewhat predictable move by CareerBuilder.

It’s where the newspapers have needed to go for a long time.

John Sumser. – © 2008 Two Color Hat, Inc. Santa Rosa, CA


  1. John – Personified is certainly an interesting development in the space, and one I had not seen or heard of until reading your post. Thanks for highlighting the launch. I agree with you that the potential conflict for an agency that owns some of the media channels it sells ads on is a serious one. But I also think that if the relationship is made clear and is totally transparent, then it shouldn’t be an issue and clients or prospects can decide for themselves how much of a problem it poses.

    The only issue that I have with your post is the statement that ‘classified advertising is all but dead in print form.’ While it is true that daily newspapers are deteriorating badly and losing market share at an incredible pace to the web, print classifieds still represent a huge percentage of the classified market. It’s declining, but it is still enormous and far from ‘dead.’ And while the web certainly offers a range of services, functionality, and convenience that print cannot, it is important to keep in mind that print offers a great deal that the web cannot. Not every jobseeker across the entire spectrum of the economy is cruising around the web looking for their next job. Change is occurring rapidly and online adoption is growing, but there is still tremendous value for employers to leverage print as a component of their overall recruitment advertising budget.

    What I would agree with you on is that print classifieds in the daily newspaper are declining very, very rapidly and their death is imminent. The model of charging by the line for an abbreviated, garbled, illegible liner/text ad and trying to get it front of a declining readership are certainly over. At JobDig (and I will admit that I am biased), we are demonstrating conclusively that employers are, should be, and benefit from advertising across a variety of media channels including print, web, radio, and TV.

    Companies like CareerBuilder and JobDig that can provide a strong value proposition involving a multi-channel offering that includes print are growing at a phenomenal clip and are grabbing market share from the dailies, other free weekly jobs newspapers like the Employment Guide, and online boards that fail to deliver decent candidate flow.

    So print classifieds in the dailies are dying. Classifieds in print, when done right and combined with a multimedia package, are thriving.

  2. Thanks for the impressive respnse, Toby.

    I rarely remember that there are print advertising outlets that aren’t newspapers. It’s a blindspot.

    I like your view that effective outreach involves a spectrum of media outlets (and as you point out, media types). I believe that the mix varies by region and has to be customized locally. What do you think?

    The nice thing about a local blend of media distribution is that it enables messaging to be tailored to the unique characteristics of a specific market.

    The Recruiting Roadshow is all about the fact that differenct metros have really different characteristics. From what it means to be on time to the structure of opportunity to the media environment to what it means to be a part of a family or organization, each of the regions of the country have really different charateristics.

    Now that I think clearly on the subject, I can readily imagine a print vehicle that grows in this environment. What is outmoded is the view of the audience, not the method for reaching them.


  3. Thanks too for the response. I think a lot of people, myself included, sometimes forget the full spectrum of people in the job market. Most companies of any decent size need to attract a full range of candidates across skill-sets, experience levels, job descriptions, etc. No one single media vehicle works equally as effectively for all the jobs most companies are seeking to fill, and to generate the best applicants, most companies need to leverage multiple sources, media vehicles, and approaches. As well, most companies don’t always track where results are coming from and so the process is tough to improve on because they don’t know what worked and what didn’t. It’s one of the reasons there is still so much business that goes to the daily papers – inertia is a powerful force. (Ad agencies, too, by the way love the dailies because they generate larger commissions for agencies. As a result, there is little incentive for an agency to switch to a better but lower-cost solution. That’s another reason why Personified might have a chance to work – but only if they truly serve their clients and not just their own self-interest.)

    As far as print goes, we print roughly 250,000 papers each week in our 10 markets and our pick-up rate averages around 80%. We have steadily increased our circulation numbers as more and more people discover our papers, particularly in newer markets. Even in mature markets, we’ve added to our circulation as we have steadily expanded our geographic footprint in each market. The web is phenomenal and it is changing the landscape every day, but print plays an important role in a diversified advertising mix.

    Anyway, I appreciate the discussion and look forward to seeing you in Minneapolis again soon.

  1. 1 CareerBuilder Launches Personified; Print Classifieds Are Not Dead (Just Those in the Dailies) » article » Diggings

    […] Sumser has written an interesting post about Personified, apparently a new recruitment ad agency started by CareerBuilder. I had not heard […]

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