Monday, March 26, 2012

The ’Beginning of The End for Job Boards’ Kicks into High Gear…Monster Announces It’s 'For Sale.'

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Call it coincidence. Call it fate. Call it what you will.

Like a turbo charged roadster with the pedal down in sixth gear and the finish line in sight, Monster’s recent public announcements confirm what once was only educated speculation: Big job boards appear to be on the way out.
Monster  announces it is open to a sale.

Although no official release has been made and the company is in the process of gathering data for potential suitors, Monster Worldwide Inc., according to a recent Reuters article, is open to selling all or part of itself. CEO Sal Iannuzzi said the company was exploring strategic alternatives earlier this month at an investor’s conference.

When asked what types of alternatives were on the table, Iannuzzi replied, "It means selling the company, potentially. It means bringing in a partnership in a region of the world where we can share the expense ... it could mean a strategic investment in terms of someone buying a sizable piece of Monster. It could be a foreign market or could be here in New York."

More or less it could (and likely does) mean the end of Monster as we know it today.

Based on what we know about the recruiting and job markets today, coupled with the competition of social media, one has to wonder who would be in line to purchase the company. CareerBuilder has been mentioned and it’s been speculated that investors may be after the data Monster holds in its database more than its potential to make money off of job postings.  Monster says it has a considerable number of interested investors who are remaining silent until all the required data for due diligence is available.

This story sounds vaguely familiar.

In February, when Monster announced the layoff of seven percent of its HQ staff, we all knew in a way that it was a sign of the changing road ahead for the big job boards. (See Is this the Beginning of The End for Job Boards?) Monster’s high costs have been pushing small business away from its products and into the arms of social media for years. Attempts to get into the social media game with BeKnown and its Power Resume Search technology are notable achievements, however, notable achievements that may be too little too late.

The fact of the matter remains that, as a job board, Monster has been losing market share. It is closer to LinkedIn than it is to leader CareerBuilder in the market share race. Investment experts are torn on the real value of the company’s shares. UBS downgraded the company to “Neutral” based on market share while Sun Trust rates it a “Buy” based on the potential of the Monster database.

The Motley Fool’s Rex Moore put the company through an investment test in a recent article and gives readers a heads up that we’ve seen deals similar to this before. As was seen with the AOL, Time Warner merger, intangible assets are cause for concern. At the time of the merger AOL Time Warner has listed $209 billion in assets, more than half of which was goodwill or intangible. Any company with an intangible asset ratio of above 20% should be cause for concern. Right now Monster sits at 58%. The company has $1.2 billion in goodwill with a tangible book value of -$20 million (negative $20 million) which is also cause for concern.

So what does this all mean? It means that the other big job boards need to be vigilant and creative if they are to survive. They need to get creative in how they provide value to candidates and customers. It wasn’t long ago that Monster was king. They are still the largest but in terms of market share they’ve become a prince.

Boards like Indeed and social media sites are the 300-pound gorilla/tortoises in this race. LinkedIn could be the model of the job board of the future, evenly mixing the power of social networking with job posting amenities. It could be that the next big revolution in job searches is moving to the head of the pack and poised to hit the winner’s circle.

One thing is for certain. Monster has just slip-streamed itself into position as the frontrunner in the race where the end is a funeral rather than a finish line.   

Monday, March 19, 2012

Is Email Going the Way of the Answering Machine?

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.

Take a look at your inbox at work. How many unread messages are being displayed? Now, take a look at your personal email box. How many of those gems pile up before you take on the task of clearing out the old only to be replaced by more?

Articles on email efficiency, best practices, etiquette and more are all over the Web. Email can be overwhelming for some users. One has to think, while going through their inbox on a daily basis and removing superfluous messages and the occasional spam message that gets through, that there has to be a better way. Noted technology and social media guru Amber Mac recently posted a video interview with an executive at Microsoft who takes month-long sabbaticals from email to attend to more important matters.

Is your inbox becoming an answering machine?
We’re at the very beginning of an interesting trend, or the end of a cycle depending on how you look at it.  If we compare email adoption to answering machines, which actually have significant similarities, we are seemingly at the initial phase of email’s demise, while in a Darwinian-esque manner, answering machines have all but become extinct.

Answering machines were created in the end of the 1800’s. However, it wasn’t until 1984 that they really boomed, when phone providers started letting customers buy and own their telephone equipment. During the course of their history, answering machines went from a way to get a message when you weren’t available, to a device used to avoid taking calls when not convenient, to a way to screen your calls, to a device that people largely ignored, often hanging up before leaving a message.

This last iteration of the answering machine life-cycle was likely a result of people starting to be overwhelmed and deleting messages before they listened to them, potentially missing important information in the process. While there are some answering machines still in use today, they have largely become an obsolete physical device replaced by electronic voicemail, which went through much the same cycle only more rapidly.

According to research in 2010 by the Radicati Group , the average corporate email user sends and receives about 110 emails per day. Roughly a fifth of that email is unwanted or unsolicited. (Although, depending on the user, on a bad or busy day the number of unwanted emails can reach closer to 100%.) For private accounts the opposite is largely true. People are inundated with messages; not just the 97% of it that is worthless spam, but the 3% that is real information. It can be, and often is, more than anyone can handle in a given day. Add to that, the emails received separately on social and professional networks, and it can get pretty darn overwhelming.

The result, in most cases, is ignored messages.

Email has, in a way, become a sort of stream of information from which people pick and choose what to read and what to reply to, often missing something important because of the sheer volume. This is true of both corporate and private users. Meetings have to be rescheduled. Deals are stalled. Or worse, you might miss out on the 50%-off, four-hour tablet sale for which you’ve been waiting as a consumer.

Text messages, social media, smart phones and instant messaging are also cutting into email’s usefulness as a means of communication. (Although, the advertising and marketing explosion occurring in these realms is likely going to destroy their usefulness even faster than electronic voicemail.) If you want to get a hold of someone, heck if you want to see someone while talking, it’s as simple as pressing a button and pointing your phone at your face.

It seems as if email is at a crossroad. Much like the answering machine on which people hit delete before getting to the end, people are starting completely ignoring e-mail at times. Every day may become a sabbatical of sorts, either by intention or purely for efficiency’s sake.

Much like the smart phone ads suggest, it appears as if email is quickly becoming, “so 18 seconds ago.” Waiting for a reply to your urgent messages is becoming a thing of the past. If an immediate response is needed, one only has to send a quick text or jump on Skype to ping their target. It’s hard to fathom but, instant chat, services like Skype, video chat, and potentially, resurgence in phone use, will likely replace e-mail to some extent in the coming years.

Now where did I put my pager?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Some Thoughts Are Better Left Untweeted: Is Social Media Eroding Self-Control?

Our blog has moved. You will find this blog post and fresh content on our new Talascend IT blog.
In line with last week’s blog about social media applications and ramifications surrounding airline travel, a recent article by CNN’s Todd Leopold regarding the speed, sociology and psychology surrounding social media got me thinking once again.

The gist of his story is that social media has the ability to spread public missteps and misinformation so rapidly that unintentional (and sometimes intentional) blunders are often seen as truth even after being proved false. The Leopold goes further and conveys that the “need to be first” and instant access to a worldwide audience has changed the way we interact with each other, the way we get our “news,” and it’s beginning to creep into our everyday non-online lives, not to mention the lasting effects of reacting before thinking in cyberspace. You can hit delete but the damage has already been done in some instances.

One item from the story really stuck with me and got my wheels spinning. The author references sociologist Erving Goffman’s observation that people often carry with them a “front-stage” and “backstage” personality. Meaning when we are in front of others we present ourselves one way much like an actor on stage and the second the curtain drops, the “real” self comes out. A pop culture expert goes on to say that we are becoming more “backstage” every day.


As I stated last week in the airline article, people say and do things they would never say or do in person via the web. Rants, political agendas, gossip and fulfilling the need to be in the spotlight are only an instant smart phone visit away. Take for instance, Gilbert Gottfried’s tasteless Tweets about the earthquake disaster in Japan. They had their intended effect. He was front and center in the headlines. It also came with professional consequences, as it cost him a relatively lucrative job voicing the Aflac duck.

It takes me to my main point. Professional “front stage” behavior seems to be going the way of the dodo bird. I’m not taking about the over-served co-worker with a lampshade on his head at an office party. I am talking about really inappropriate and instantaneous reactions by professionals to work related situations. Rabid emails have gotten plenty of employees and executives fired.

I am not immune to getting upset or reacting instantly to situations, however, a majority of the time I have learned to keep it in check. I have fallen victim to the temptation to fire off a scathing email written in the tone of a mad dog eying a mail carrier. There is a difference. I can save it in my drafts, cool off, and either reword my message hit delete. While reacting in such a way professionally can sometimes be therapeutic, such behavior is left best to the recycle bin.

With social media, there is no cooling off period. People Tweet or post their most personal thoughts, feelings and rants as they are feeling them…with what seems to be reckless abandon. While it might also be classified as therapeutic expressing how you feel, the potential for self-destruction is exponentially higher.

Author and MIT professor Sherry Turkle’s 2011 work, Alone Together (and seemingly hundreds of other books and papers on the subject) takes it a step further. In the book, she argues that technology is threatening to take over our lives to the point where it makes us less human. While social media’s purpose was to allow us to communicate more effectively and rapidly, it’s actually keeping us from experiencing real human interactions in the real world.

I am going to take this thought a step further.

We’ve heard recent reports of people calling emergency numbers because their fast food order was not processed as ordered. Or about parents at a pee wee football game in full out riot mode hitting referees, other parents and even the kids themselves over a blown call. It seems as if our reactionary selves are starting to take hold in the physical world. It can be seen on planes, at Broadway shows, and concerts. In Interviews, lunch meetings, and first dates.

There is a new “norm” in the current our culture that says it’s OK to be “yourself.” However, that’s not a new saying, it’s just the concept of what “yourself” actually is that has changed. Yourself apparently now refers to the “backstage” presentation of yourself, and it’s becoming the norm to assume that people have to take it or leave it, that’s just who you are.

I think to some degree people should be “themselves” where that means the “backstage” self, however there are some circumstances which call for having a bit more self restraint and dignity - such as an interview, or even flying in a plane, where acting restrained, professional, and respectful can also qualify as being “yourself.”

The internet is no different. If people worried more about their online reputation, their integrity when it comes to making sure the information they’re getting is good information, and their contribution to the group, be it in a restaurant, interview, or Broadway show; everyone will have a better experience.