Monopolies lumber into recruitment marketing

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Ever since I read ‘A Serf on Google’s Farm‘, I’ve wanted to (a) draw it to your attention (read it!!), and (b) talk about the impact that the Facebook and Google monopolies have on our industry. The article has a great deal of relevancy for our world.

Basically, Josh Marshall discusses what it’s like as a digital publisher (which, in essence, almost all job boards are) to work under the Google monopoly. Where does Google touch his business? He says: “So let’s go down the list: 1) The system for running ads, 2) the top purchaser of ads, 3) the most pervasive audience data service, 4) all search, 5) our email. But wait, there’s more! Google also owns Chrome, the most used browser for visiting TPM.” Any of this sound familiar?

Think about Indeed. It built its business by copying Google’s pay per click model, and by doing a better job of search engine optimization (on Google) than any of its competitors. At every turn, it has relied on the monopoly that Google has for search traffic – and turned that monopoly to its advantage.

Indeed is not alone, of course. There are dozens (if not hundreds) of job boards that earned most of their revenue from Google ads – not job posts. And of course almost every recruiting site out there relies on search engine visibility for both candidates and clients.

Josh goes on: “So Google owns the road and gets first look at what’s on the road. Not only does Google own the road and makes the rules for the road, it has special privileges on the road. One of the ways it has special privileges is that it has all the data it gets from search, Google Analytics and Gmail. It also gets to make the first bid on every bit of inventory. Of course that’s critical. First dibs with more information than anyone else has access to. (Some exceptions to this. But that’s the big picture.) It’s good to be the king. It’s good to be a Google.”

And now…we have the Google job experience (I think that’s the current name) and the Cloud Jobs search API and Google Hire. Why now (instead of 5 years ago)? I don’t know. But improving the user experience is only part of the answer. The other part is money. As Josh says: “Google’s monopoly control is almost comically great. It’s a monopoly at every conceivable turn and consistently uses that market power to deepen its hold and increase its profits.”

That’s ok. We’re all in business to make money, right? But there isn’t just one very large monopoly lumbering into our industry. There are two. As Josh says, “The big story is that Google and Facebook now have a dominant position in the entirety of the advertising ecosystem and are using their monopoly power to take more and more of the money for themselves.”

Facebook represents – I think – a different sort of challenge. As Josh points out, “One thing I’ve observed with Google over the years is that it is institutionally so used to its ‘customers’ actually being its products that when it gets into businesses where it actually has customers it really has little sense of how to deal with them.” Not so with Facebook. They are very good at working with their millions of small business clients – and they obviously now view those small businesses’ expenditures on recruiting as something that should be theirs. Not to share. But to own.

So on the one hand, you have Google – the ecosystem provider for our industry for a very long time – wanting to dig deeper into the recruitment marketing revenue stream. And on the other hand, you have Facebook wanting to simply take over the recruitment marketing function for large swaths of employers. Both monopolies have massive amounts of data about their users – much of which we are providing – and both have their own reasons for making their moves.

Josh sums up his particular situation: “So we will keep using all of Google’s gizmos and services and keep cashing their checks. Hopefully, they won’t see this post and get mad. In the microcosm, it works for us. It’s good money. But big picture …Google is a big, big problem. So is Facebook. So is Amazon. Monopolies are a big, lumbering cause of many of our current afflictions. And we’re only now, slowly, beginning to realize it.”

Will Google and Facebook be the end of the recruitment marketing industry? I don’t think so. But the landscape is shifting rapidly. Get ready.

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