Online players make new website stories

WA firms are jumping online to capture the growing electronic job searcher market. will launch next month and cater solely for the WA market, while another WA firm, Bell Personnel, is looking at launching a national job board site later this year.

The moves are part of an online assault on the lucrative domain of the newspaper classified market, dominated in WA by The West Australian, which also offers an online job service.

Westjobs chairman and chief executive officer Neil McCormack said focussing on a niche parochial market would help the site’s success.

“Our research showed there was no generic local presence in WA. 80 per cent of job ads by quantity are placed on the Internet but WA was only 3-5 per cent of the national market,’ Mr McCormack said.

He claimed The West Australian’s online employment section did not offer the functionality and search facilities that Westjobs would provide and had left the door open to companies such as his to enter the market but was wary of it becoming more aggressive.

“Part of our research showed that they (The West) have not filled the market. They are not a key player. If they had done what other online players had four years ago we might not be able to do this,” he said.

The West Australian launched Employment Online nearly a year ago and general manager of sales and marketing Peter Stevens said the site did not use technological functions like those used on other employment sites.

“We are not a stand alone employment site and have not added back-end HR functionality at this stage. Our site may be simple but is easy to use and should be convenient for the widest possible audience,” he said.

“We are in the process of developing some significant relationships with advertisers that will increase the volume of employment advertisements on the site. This will undoubtedly lead to improvements in functionality.”

Bell Personnel managing director David Anderson said The West Australian had not taken a modern approach.

“They’ve applied newspaper rules to a website and it can’t be done,” Mr Anderson said.

The Internet has been a bone of contention for newspaper owners. They fear it will cannibalise a large portion of their advertising revenues.

However, News Limited and Fairfax through their online subsidiaries News Interactive and f2 have developed successful job sites to compete with online heavy weights Seek and Monster.

Fairfax commercial operations manager Nick Leeder said its site, launched in July 1999, was developed from the basic online classifieds.

“Initially we had a defensive position and half way through 1998 we decided the way to do this was to get aggressive about it,” Mr Leeder said.

“We separated the print and online business and tried as hard as we can to get the online businesses strong.” general man-ager Mark Webster said News Limited’s site developed in a similar way to

Operators of big online recruitment sites believe the market will consolidate due to the cost involved in developing and maintaining sites.

Seek spent about $20 million getting its site up and running. Monster, and have also spent millions generating a presence.

Monster vice president for Asia Pacific Duncan Wakes-Miller said its annual growth was 100 per cent but the market would not carry more than a handful of online players.

“There will be more consolidation over the years,” he said.

Seek chief executive officer Paul Basset said he would not enter the market in 2002.

“Building sites is incredibly expensive. Over the next couple of years there will be less competitors,” he said.

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