Funny how the News Ltd and Fairfax press either missed or downplayed the most important part of yesterday’s strong Seek result – Seek is stealing market share from its online competitors at a rate that questions the future of MyCareer and Careerone.

Everyone knows the online job ads are eating the newspapers’ lunch and dinner, but the domination Seek has established over its own kind is astounding.

Seek’s ad volume grew by 29% in the December half while Fairfax’s MyCareer improved by 15% and News’ Careerone gained just 4%.

That meant Seek finished 2006 with 56% of the online job ad volume, followed by Careerone with 25% and MyCareer with 19%. Another couple of halves like the last one though and it will be very reasonable to ask whether both the Fairfax and News online job ad businesses can be viable.

That is born out by the “eyeball minutes” count – Seek is claiming 72% of the market from MyCareer with 15% and Careerone with 13%.

Neil Shoebridge included the market share figures in the body of his AFR story, but they’re missing from the SMH version which concentrates on how very, very well James Packer’s PBL has done out of its 27% holding.

The Oz manages to downplay the market share altogether but linking Seek’s performance to total online advertising instead of just the employment market. Strange.

In an interview for this evening’s Eureka Report, Seek joint CEO Paul Bassat acknowledged the driver in market leadership, but was polite about his competitors:

I think that the nature of classified advertising is that a fair chunk of the market place moves to the market leader and that’s why having market leadership has always been critically important for us.

The reality is, is that from a job seeker perspective you want to go to the site with the most number of job ads. From an employer perspective or a recruitment firm perspective you want to advertise on the site that has the most number of job seekers so to some extent a fair chunk of the market will go to the number one player and we’ve benefited from that to date.

Whether there’s room for two or three players I think is something that we’ll see over time but given that Fairfax and News have a very very strong print presence you’ve got to assume that they will continue to want to invest in their online presence and have that combined print and online presence so we certainly expect three players for a long time to come.

Not if there are many more performances like the last six months. And just remember that Fairfax had the opportunity to buy into Seek and passed – leaving it to Packer.

Peter Fray

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