As Yahoo Paper Partners Increase, Hearst Builds Sales Center for HotJobs

Progress is being made in the Yahoo newspaper partnership project. As noted during yesterday’s Deutsche Bank Media and Telecommunications Conference in New York, Yahoo has signed 17 paper publishers, and plans on training thousands of newspaper reps this year on its HotJobs system. In addition, key publisher partner Hearst Newspapers plans to build a sales center in Houston to push Yahoo’s HotJobs products.

Instead of simply taking calls from potential HotJobs customers as they trickle in, Hearst is making a concerted effort to promote the service to advertisers, said Lincoln Millstein, SVP digital media for Hearst Newspapers. “We haven’t even begun to sell HotJobs,” he said, adding, “We’re building an outbound center in Houston. We’re hiring up to 30 outbound salespeople in Houston alone just to prosecute the HotJobs online-only sales. ”

Hearst was among the original handful of large newspaper publishers, commonly dubbed “The Seven Amigos,” which agreed to integrate Yahoo’s HotJobs recruitment classifieds across their more than 150 newspaper sites, and distribute their own job ads in the HotJobs database. The other six founding partners that joined in November 2006 were Belo, Cox Enterprises, E. W. Scripps, the Journal Register Company, Lee Enterprises and MediaNews Group.

According to Yahoo, more recent members of its expanding newspaper network are Herald Media, GateHouse Media, Calkins Media, The McClatchy Company, Media General, Morris Communications, Paddock Publications, Paxton Media Group, Times Shamrock Communications and Tribune Review Publishing Co.

Hearst’s newspaper division began seeing revenue streams flowing in through the deal as soon as the end of December, Millstein told the audience of investors and analysts yesterday. “The newspaper division is already for the first six months of this year realizing revenues well into the seven digits… and remember, most of this revenue has extremely high profitability,” he said.

Despite some fluctuations among Yahoo executives handling the so-called newspaper consortium, the project appears to be plowing ahead. By last month, the company had signed 15 paper publishers, SVP of Yahoo’s Marketplaces unit Hilary Schneider told an audience at the annual Newspaper Association of America Conference in May. Since then, the group has sprouted two additional publisher partners and Schneider has sprouted a new title, Executive VP of Local Markets and Commerce and Yahoo Publisher Network.

Yesterday Yahoo announced it has hired Jeff Kinder to replace GM of Yahoo HotJobs Dan Finnegan, the catalyst at Yahoo behind the newspaper project who decided to part ways with the company a few weeks ago. Kinder is charged with heading up all Yahoo HotJobs business, including sales, product, marketing and engineering.

Speaking at yesterday’s conference, Schneider said the newspaper network currently encompasses 17 partners with 400 daily and weekly paper sites. Between Q2 and Q4 of this year, Yahoo will host 51 training sessions for 3,000 newspaper reps, and will roll out full HotJobs implementation starting now through the end of the year.

Also beginning this year is the integration of partner news content and headlines across Yahoo, within Local, Autos, MyYahoo, Mail, and other sections of the portal. The search monetization piece will roll out “in the back half of this year,” said Schneider, who is prone to making hockey analogies about things like keeping one’s eye on the puck.

Further down the road in 2008, Yahoo expects to use its Panama platform to serve display ads on the paper sites. The partners are in “phase one,” according to Schneider, who said processes for sales and inventory management are being worked out.

Hearst’s Millstein stressed the Yahoo alignment will provide the newspapers with a greater understanding of their site audiences. “Newspapers have not had a history of doing that,” he stated during yesterday’s conference. For instance, he suggested the publishers will now be able to track user behavior to find more qualified leads for real estate advertisers. Rather than serving ads to voyeurs with no buying intent, the paper sites could employ Yahoo’s system to serve ads only to users who also have viewed information on local school districts or applied for a mortgage online.

The deals with Yahoo also will allow for newspaper inventory to be consolidated, packaged and sold in a way that better serves the paper publishers, Millstein believes. Instead of being lumped in with lower quality or irrelevant sites through networks, which Millstein referred to as the “real bottom feeders of the industry, selling our collective inventory at a very low CPM,” Yahoo, through its national brand advertiser connections, could package all high school sports content across the paper sites for a national advertiser such as Nike or McDonald’s.

“I don’t think the market has truly appreciated the depth and the breadth of this partnership yet,” continued Millstein.

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