Guest Post: Can Job Boards Make Money from Job Seekers?


Will job seekers ever shell out money to gain access to job related content? Lisa Watts CEO of ArtsHub, a fee-based membership portal for artists, contemplates a future where job seekers paying to access job content could be the norm rather than the exception. 

We’ll all be paying for quality online content – maybe…
ArtsHub is a member based site; individual members pay to view and apply for roles and company members pay to list their jobs. This works because the process acts as a natural filter; applications are from people who define themselves as working within the arts industry and are seriously invested in following the news, commentary and opinions that are published every day on the site. The arts companies, which may range from a national Ballet company to a small community gallery in a regional centre, are able to feel connected to the industry and to other members. Most members will only advertise roles on the ArtsHub site.

Part of the success of ArtsHub is timing; almost a decade ago when the service was created it was pitched as a low cost way to get access to information that was otherwise very challenging to stay on top of, particularly nationally. Early ArtsHub employees and volunteers manually scanned newspapers (many of which did not publish much arts content online) and aggregated the most relevant news. People saw the value and were happy to pay someone to do this on their behalf.

It’s fascinating to see the recent discussion from large newspaper publishers about introducing payments for content of value online. 10 years ago the most valuable arts content was related to jobs and funding opportunities which ArtsHub members continue to regard as the most valuable part of their membership.

If newspapers now start charging for original content and it’s acceptable to consumers then it’s conceivable that over time micro payments for other online content may become acceptable and extend to content like jobs, cars or houses. It may be hard to imagine market leaders like Monster and Seek charging candidates to apply for jobs; but if we all become used to paying membership /access fees for out favourite sites then it could happen. One thing is certain; if payment for content does happen as the senior executives at News and Fairfax hope, there will be implications and new opportunities for job boards.

Jobs Boards are still winners. Searching for a job online using a job board with email alerts is still the most effective and accepted method for candidates. The process itself isn’t broken, and contrary to claims made by alternatives to the traditional job board – candidates are generally very happy looking for work in this way. The largest complaint from candidates is related to poor communication after they press the apply button. For advertisers the complaint continues to be that they get the wrong people applying and it’s hard to professionally manage the process. This means that better filtering and workflow functionality inside job boards and ATS’s will be created to fix these problems.

API’s will allow for innovation, especially for professional Recruiters. Professional Recruiters build processes to capture candidate data and build more sophisticated ways to match candidates to opportunities; technology will keep evolving and there will be more integration via API’s to Twitter and Facebook and Linkedin.

Niche sites can build audiences online at low cost. Another significant change is that Niche job boards that represent big enough verticals can build audiences via SEM and social media sites in a way that was not possible only a couple of years ago. If a site has enough of a community interacting and coming to it; the role it plays can be extended beyond a purely functional job board. Investing in chasing the “long tail” of key word search terms can pay fantastic dividends for smaller niche sites than previously possible. Competing with Seek, MyCareer and Careerone on CPC rates for the most popular phrases like “ jobs” is unaffordable, but SEO on niche phrases can be down at low cost.

Lisa Watts is CEO of ArtsHub, a successful niche job board for the creative arts community and Hippo Jobs, a youth job site targeting 15-24 year olds. Prior to ArtsHub Lisa was CEO of Advantate, a Search Engine Marketing joint venture between Melbourne IT and Fairfax Digital. Lisa had over four years as general manager at Fairfax Digital of during which time she oversaw a period of high growth, built a large national field sales team, and launched a number of new products and niche sites including Jobs in Retail and The Big Chair.

2 replies
  1. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    Interesting post Phillip.

    I’m an owner of a niche job board company, our largest product is Jobs in HR. We publish only new jobs and don’t allow the cross posting as happens regularly on the big multi discipline job boards, furthermore we vet every job to make sure it is relevant to our audience. In other words we respect our audience and we manage the content to enhance the user experience.

    The result is that we reach those elusive passive candidates who can’t be bothered with the big job boards, BUT we also forgo extra revenue from the same jobs being “refreshed” every few days, and jobs in Perth being advertised in every capital city. So it would be nice if our audience were willing to help pay for high quality content we serve up.

    I’m not sure I have the intestinal fortitude to try to introduce charges to our email subscribers. Although given that Jobs in HR has over 9000 subscribers I can see that it wouldn’t take much in “micro payments” to improve our bottom line!

    Just like all the other newspapers waiting to see what happens with Rupert Murdoch’s “paywall” at The Times UK site, I think we will also sit on our hands for the time being.

    There is however one part of your post which I must disagree with, you say “Niche sites can build audiences online at low cost.” You must be kidding!

    Speaking from experience I can assure you it is a lot more difficult than onlookers would imagine. In fact our biggest cost by far after staff costs is the marketing of our sites to job seekers.

  2. Charles Manson
    Charles Manson says:

    I don’t think that a job board can justify charging money for access to job seekers. End of the day if any one does, people will move to the next free one. It’s the online behaviour i assume. Feel free to let me know your thoughts


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