090909 CheeseJob I

On September 9, 2009, in All, JohnSumser.com, by John Sumser

CheeseJob I

Joel Cheesman leads a charmed life. I’ll always picture him pulling away from the stoplight in Cleveland waving gang signs from his Land Rover. Branding himself as an anti-corporate crusader, the Cheezhead brand was 1/3 Ali G, 1/3 Homer Simpson and 1/3 Howard Beale. And, all cheese all the time.

Cheezhead made quite a name for himself in just a few years. His brash style opened the door for a new generation of HR Bartenders, Minions, Punk Rockers, Capitalists and Systematics. All of a sudden, HR had a part that wasn’t buttoned down. It no longer had a collar at all.

Every good surfer needs a great wave. As he shepherded Web 2.0, SEO and anti-branding into the industry, Joel built traffic, advertising networks and wikis. With experiments that included being on a webcam while he worked for extended periods of time, Cheesman taught a generation of HR Generalists all about the potential of the web.

Yesterday, Aaron Matos and Joel called me to discuss the Jobing’s acquisition of Cheezhead. The Phoenix based regional job board company is going to turn Cheesman into their Vice President of content.

One of the things we talked about was how uninteresting the industry news has been. It’s not just that nothings going on, it seems like there’s a lid on excitement.

It’s an interesting move that sets the stage for a wave of innovation (or at least experimentation). I can’t imagine a great deal of noise about this deal. I can imagine that it will open some eyes.

First of all, if either company were doing really well, this wouldn’t have happened. Joel and Aaron are the industry’s Oscar and Felix. Aaron is so low profile that most people have no idea about the strength of the Jobing organization and brand. Joel, on the other hand is an in your face technique with a tremendous gift for getting attention. These strange bedfellows wouldn’t be in the bed if the economy wasn’t disrupting the job board business.

It takes nerves of steal to invite a flaming personality into your stealth operation. But, that’s just what’s going to happen all over the place. The CheeseJob deal is a bellwether.

Aaron has known, since he started Jobing, that he was building a media company. Using classified advertising (job ads) to build a media empire is an old trick that was practiced happily on the Western frontier. While Jobing has a job board revenue model, it’s always been something else. The company integrates itself tightly into regional cultures and becomes a part of the fabric…just like newspapers used to. To think of Jobing as a job board company is to miss the point entirely.

I’m sure that Aaron hopes you will.

He’s mining a greenfield opportunity all by himself simply because no one has looked at the operation properly. Now, behind every tree expensive in 20 plus markets, there’s a revolutionary group building a local media operation.

So, how does Cheezhead fit in to the Jobing picture. I pointed out that the brash assaults on competitors wouldn’t fly in Aaron’s approach. So, they didn’t hire a professional assassin for the front end of the business. I asked if this suggested a change in Jobing’s strategy to a national operation and was assured that Jobing’s regional strategy remains intact.

The combative discussions that can dominate the Cheezhead discussion forums are also a bad fit with the Jobing model. One thing Aaron doesn’t do is unnecessarily rub anyone the wrong way. It’s unlikely that the heat that drives a lot of Cheezhed traffic will make the move.

So, what’s the deal.

In the 21st Century, every company is a publishing company. Organizations without a clear and sustained audience development program are destined to stay small. The contemporary operation has to include intimate branding and innovation in content.

It’s hard to let the audience take root where there once was insulation. Transparency, in this form, is painful for industrial era operations. Today’s employees don’t always sing from the same hymnal and rarely are on the same page. That’s just what the insides of companies are like.

Look closely at the range of blogging experiments. There’s failure and mediocrity on every front expensive The advent of the organization as magazine has been anything but graceful. But it’s coming.

The Jobing acquisition of Cheezhead, made possible by economic times, is a move that you’re going to see repeated. Jobing gets an amazing set of competencies and a brand that may not be salvageable. Cheesman is a a market genius who will deliver extraordinary results if he has some capital to work with.

It’s a good move but not the one you’d see on the surface.

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