Print publishers climb aboard

MAGAZINES Irish magazines have traditionally found it hard to compete with their powerful UK counterparts, but there is also room for optimism, writes Andy Fry

OLIVIER WOLF

Surfing internet recruitment sites as well as the “appointments” sections of the press is vital these days for the diligent media job seeker wishing to cover every corner of the jobs market.

Nevertheless, although online recruitment is an exciting development for job hunters and hirers alike, for publications that depend heavily on recruitment advertising revenues – most notably local, national and business-to-business press – it is a clear threat.

Having got off to a slow start – initially catering primarily for IT professionals – the UK’s online recruitment market is now growing dramatically and is forecast to reach £200m by 2008.

Online recruitment advertising revenues increased 43% year on year in the first nine months of 2003, with the internet now accounting for 7% of the overall recruitment advertising market in the UK.

To counteract the internet’s erosion of a significant chunk of recruitment advertising revenues – recruitment advertising currently represents 27% of all print advertising revenues and 21% of total revenues for the regional press – many print publishers have already bought and/or built websites.

Reed Business Information is behind the TotalJobs site, and other B2B web examples include Newscientistjobs.com, Accountancyage.com and Financialdirector.co.uk.

Among the national press, sites such as Jobs.guardian.

co.uk have made headway.

Associated Newspapers, the national newspaper division of Daily Mail & General Trust, acquired Jobsite, the UK multisector online job board, for £36m in March this year.

Many of these ventures have been remarkably successful, with publishers able to attract new recruitment business through online channels, as well as defending traditional recruitment revenues. Packaging offline and online recruitment advertising has now become commonplace, often obscuring the offline/online distinction in reported advertising income.

Lately, however, a potentially large black hole has begun to appear on the screen, with the arrival of the public sector’s own recruitment portals. The first such electronic recruitment programme was rolled out by the NHS in March this year.

The NHS is the single largest public sector recruiter in the UK, spending £120m each year on recruitment, including more than £30m on recruitment advertising. Public sector recruitment activity, in turn, is estimated to account for just under half of all recruitment advertising revenues.

Business and regional press publishers have had lengthy consultations with the DTI and the Office of E-envoy on the precedents set by the NHS scheme.

Certain assurances have been given to create a “level playing field” for private sector publishers in servicing public sector vacancies, but still the balance of online business has begun to shift toward “threat” and away from “opportunity” for many publishers.

Olivier Wolf is a partner at PriceWaterhouseCoopers

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