A while back, Huffington Post published an interesting article on Monster.com, my former employer. While I agree with most of the article, I think it’s only partly right.
“It wasn’t a technology failure; it was a leadership failure.” Actually, it was both. The leadership failure caused the technology failure. Sal and other Monster leadership focused far too much on sales. They saw the company as a “sales company” and would pour a lot of resources into the sales department and attempts to drive sales. Unfortunately, if you ignore the technology, that only works so long.
The Internet moves fast, but Monster wasn’t keeping up. The site had been re-launched a couple times since it began, but it was ultimately always the same thing…searching job postings and creating online resumes. When they’d redesign the UI, feature creep would eventually get it back to the mess it was before as more ads were demanded to increase ad revenue and every department needed a link added to every other page in order to promote their own project. There were at least three failed attempts (probably more that I’ve forgotten) to attempt to integrate social networking and the market share lost to LinkedIn.
Here’s one example of Monster’s idiotic tech decisions. Monster owned “jobs.com”. (They bought it for $800,000 just a few days after I returned to the company.) For the business they’re in, that was an amazing domain name to have. SEO gold! What did they do with it after they bought it? They stuck an ugly splash page on it with links pointing to Monster. “Monster CEO Jim Treacy said the Jobs.com site will serve as ‘a launching pad’ and a ‘gateway’ to all the company’s interactive properties.” Terrible.
In 2003, a co-worker and I took over that site. We redesigned the site ourselves and implemented wildcard DNS. If you went to “jobs.com“, you got a home screen with a lot of links to job searches. Those would link to *.jobs.com. You name it, that hostname existed. sales.jobs.com, developer.jobs.com, summer.jobs.com, boston.jobs.com, 90210.jobs.com, european.jobs.com, and the list is literally infinite. Whatever hostname you used, it would default to a search for that word. We put some extra programming in for certain hostnames to make it more intelligent. For example, steve.jobs.com would search Apple and Pixar jobs.
There were a few words that would be inappropriate when combined with the domain. rim.jobs.com would search Blackberry jobs at Research In Motion. hand.jobs.com would search for “hand”…although we considered alternatives, but decided to leave it as-is.
We started seeing these domains show up in search results on Google. Hostnames and domain names carry some of the highest weight for SEO ranking, so this was magical. It didn’t drive a huge amount of traffic, but it certainly did a lot better than what was there before…until the summer of 2010 when someone took out the wildcard DNS and put in a limited set of canned searches. So much for the SEO goldmine. I see that Jobs.com is currently just a generic job search site and viewing any job links you over to Monster.com.
I think they could have used Jobs.com as a testing ground for new tech. Give it to a team of creative folks (a designer and a few developers) and let them go wild. If it takes off, great! Maybe implement some of those cool new features on Monster.com. If it doesn’t, try again.
…but no, Monster keeps mucking around with the tech it has on its ugly, bloated site. It would be easier for the “sales company” to drive sales if the sales team had products that weren’t so crappy and were easier to sell.
Oh well. Not my problem anymore. They’ll probably disappear in a few years after being bought for pennies and absorbed into some other company.