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MSN junks Monster.com for Career Builder

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CareerBuilder.com has pulled off its second coup against Monster.com in a week, replacing the market leader as the US jobs board for MSN.com.

It is committing to pay up to $150 million over five years to MSN - but the mixture of guarantees and performance-related payments are undisclosed. CareerBuilder is also cosying up to Microsoft, MSN's owner, with a pledge to integrate .NET software into its technology platform. The gig starts in January 2004.

Yesterday, AOL announced that it too was replacing Monster.com with CareerBuilder, a subsidiary of three big US newspaper groups. It stands to get up to $115 million over four years

So CareerBuilder has shown that it is prepared to outbid Monster for these massive portal contracts. Of course, Monster has the market share already, so it has to pay more to play catch-up. It is unclear just yet if it is capable of outgunning Monster on marketing spend.

In a statement yesterday, Monster said that it had made a "strategic decision" to withdraw from America Online and MSN. We don't buy this: in our opinion, Monster made a strategic decision not to overpay for the tenancies. But a rich new competitor upset the apple cart.

Monster may feel that it is enough of a destination site - in its own right - in the home US market to play hardball over price. Certainly, it's had a good few years of sign-ups through MSN and AOL. The punters may join up through a portal, but then the serious job hunters will then go direct to the job board, or rather to many job boards. For most, job hunting is a discrete activity, not part of the daily portal browsing.

Monster can lick its wounds, safe in the knowledge that the AOL and MSN losses frees up $50 million a year for the company to invest directly in its own brand.

The two jobs channels account for approximately a quarter of Monster's "unduplicated" monthly audience of 18.1 million. So $50 million a year could be seen as an expensive way of unlocking this traffic. It should be able to get sew up cheaper deals with smaller destination sites as well as building up its own status as a must-visit site. ®

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