2012 predictions

In the years that I’ve been doing predictions, this round seems to be particularly difficult. Why? Well, the overall landscape is relatively depressing. For now at least, the days of new and interesting start-ups are on hold. The big guys aren’t exactly in an experimental mood. And even social networking seems sorta played now 5 years after the introduction of MySpace.

That said, here’s my best shot at breaking out the crystal ball and taking a glimpse into 2012.

“New” Monster bombs. The dinosaur has been touting its new and improved site, launching Jan. 10, for quite awhile now. I’m sure you can’t sleep, right? Details here. The world is changing faster than Monster can keep up. The rise of networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, performance-based marketing like AdWords and commoditization via Craiglist and Indeed are making it immensely challenging for a model like Monster’s to grow. No matter how many bells-and-whistles they add. Checkout IBM’s Ray Schreyer’s insight here.

Yahoo sells HotJobs. Yahoo! is a mess. As a result, I expect a new CEO to come in and cut expenses and raise some quick cash. Realizing big growth isn’t in job postings, even though sources tell us the property is profitable, Y! dumps HotJobs. An oversees buyer looking to make a splash in the states could be a likely candidate.

Google AdWords revenue stagnates. A lot of experts are predicting pay-per-click advertising to blossom under tougher economic times, similar to the way it did in 2003-05 during the last downturn. I agree. Performance-based advertising is favorable to the alternatives. However, everyone getting into the pay-per-click game means more money out of Google’s pocket and into others’ like Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn (CPM for now), as well as job aggregation solutions like Indeed, Simply Hired and TopUSAJobs. The result is more money in PPC models overall, but less for Google’s coffers. It’ll be interesting to see if ‘Friendsense‘ can save the day.

R.I.P. Jobster. Everyday these cats stay in business is pretty amazing. I expect the doors to either close, itzbig-style, or a sale to happen in the bargain bin. And how funny is it that former CEO Jason Goldberg has cashed out with his start-up before his old one?

Mobile hits prime-time, again. I know, I know. Pundits have been claiming the Year of Mobile since about 2005, but there are a few things working in its favor heading into 2009 that weren’t quite there before, most notably the popularity of the iPhone. Almost a quarter of the phones in the U.S. now are smartphones (have Web capability, many with WiFi), which is sure to grow. Google search frequency on mobile devices is increasing and Android should gain some traction along with Blackberry’s marketplace. Checkout this interview with Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis for more.

Social networking infiltrates Web search results. Techcrunch covered this really well last month. Facebook needs to get into search. Not necessarily via their own site, because they have a deal with Microsoft, but I think creating a Firefox plug-in where your social network adds value to a particular search query would be really interesting. StumbleUpon might be a good example to look at and Friend Connect is a step in this direction.

Mucho layoffs. A pretty easy prediction to make, although I hope I’m wrong. With growing economic challenges in the employment sector, layoffs are inevitable. I’m particularly surprised Monster has yet to follow the CareerBuilder layoffs from December.

New CEO at Monster. A stagnant stock price, a not-so-sexy relaunch and acquisitions that didn’t exactly turn out the way they had planned all point to Monster replacing Sal by year’s end.

Indeed, Simply Hired or Oodle get acquired. A bigger player will either want to kill-off one of these competitors – if not all of them – or jump on the vertical search bandwagon in a serious way. (Yeah, I think this whole vertical search thing is really going to take-off.) By 2012, it’ll be too late to gobble these guys up; they’ll be doing the gobbling.

ATS industry gets particularly screwy. Maybe it’s Finnigan going to Jobvite or the CATS thingy or Mr. Ted giving it away in hopes of making money in value-adds, but I’m feeling the winds of change in the applicant tracking industry. They’re also feeling the pinch of customers demanding better tracking (why is adding Google Analytics such a big deal?) and better search engine optimization from postings. I also expect to see more services like Jobstick, which enhance the already-established recruiting software experience for employers.

Honorable mentions: We stop talking about video resumes as a viable business. VisualCV and/or StandoutJobs gets acquired. And a Chinese-based job site comes to America.