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JobBoardGeek podcast: How to turn fishing in Alaska into a job board empire

job board empireThis episode of JobBoardGeek investigates how Matt Lucas of JobMonkey turned a summer job in Alaska’s fisheries into a series of books and a job board empire. Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter pepper Matt with questions – some incisive, some not – about his revenue model, how he’s weathered the pandemic, and much more. Jeff wonders why StackOverflow is dropping jobs, and (as usual) Steven has the answer.

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Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:01

Hello, everyone and welcome to JobBoardGeek. It’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m the host, the job board doctor and with me is my co host, the visionary Steven Rothberg of college recruiter. Hey, Steven, how are things today?

Steven Rothberg  0:21

Things are great. We just finished our two day nine hour per day all Zoom meeting for our annual planning. So if I look a little bleary eyed, it’s not the tequila.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  0:34

Okay. That’s good. That’s good. Yeah, I remember those planning meetings. Now that I’m a solo operator, I don’t do them with myself, although perhaps I could. That’s why you’re happy, right? Yeah, yeah, are crazy one or the other. I’m really excited today, because we have someone that I’ve known for a while Matt Lucas of job monkey here to talk to us about his unique set of job sites and information sites. But first just wanted to chat a little bit with Steven about some news that I stumbled upon this week, Stack Overflow is getting rid of their jobs, and I will let Stack Overflow talk for themselves. While talent and jobs helped us get to where we are over the past decade, the talent acquisition space is not one where we have a strong competitive advantage, really, as far as I know, they were one of the dominant forces in the tech job posting world. So I was a little surprised by that. But they’ve decided to shut it down. And first of all, I just want to say I have to applaud them for the transparency, it was right there on their site. And they talked to their people. And they said, This is why we’re doing it. There was a long string of comments from people saying, Oh, this is horrible. Oh, you know, I’d love this. I love the jobs feature, I found all my jobs through Stack Overflow, etc, etc, etc. I just thought it was really, really interesting. And Steven, I guess the only two things I really have to say about this is that they did say they’re going to stay in on what I would call what they call Employer Branding. Yeah. Which throws them in heating against Glass Door fairy god boss, the muse, etc, etc, etc. And you have to ask yourself, so does this mean like polar branding? is finally catching some momentum here? Or is it just kind of a blip? And I think the second thing, which is kind of obvious, but I pointed out anyway, is there’s a huge hole in the tech recruiting space now. And the question is, who’s going to take advantage of that hole? Is dice going to jump in there? And or are we going to see some other company that is sort of a second tier competitor, like toptal, at this point, get bigger? Or will it be a as yet unknown competitor? poppin? I really have no idea. After all, I didn’t even know that these guys were dropping their jobs. But what do you think?

Steven Rothberg  2:49

Yeah, so that’s funny, you and I basically found out within minutes of each other it was it was sort of pretty big news to the geeks in the job board industry. You know, I had within probably an hour of hearing about what StackOverflow was doing, I happen to have a conversation with an account director at one of the big employment advertising agencies, she was to put it mildly distraught. So she was telling me that she was really ticked off because literally a week before her StackOverflow salesperson was encouraging her to sign up all these clients of theirs to big annual posting packages. So it really caught her unaware and that a lot of their clients do their media planning on an annual basis. This was a strategic job board for them. So they had allocated a significant portion of their spend to it. And now she’s got to go back to those same clients and basically say, Hey, I didn’t know that this was coming. You know, I saw your newsletter, where basically stack overflow in April 2021. So a little under a year ago was kind of telling people, Hey, we’re going to be making changes, we’re not going to tell you exactly what they are, because probably we don’t know yet. But there was remarkably great transparency in the announcement the other day, but a real lack of transparency. Prior to that I talked when I talked with her, it was interesting, because on the one hand, she was saying this is a really, really key job board that our clients use. On the other hand, what she said was that the results that their clients were getting, and her word was was negligible, or when was and so the response rate to the postings was negligible, and yet they’re recommending those postings to, to their clients. And those two things don’t go together for me.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  4:37

Yeah, that’s that is kind of odd. Well, I guess we’re just gonna find out what happens, right. It’s an unusual thing. It’s not something that I really expected to be talking about, but that’s what makes life interesting. That’s why we’re a job board geeks because we do find this stuff. Interesting. And speaking of interesting we have here today Matt Lucas of job monkey he finds all this stuff interesting. be fascinated at this point. But he’s also been in this industry for a very long time. So Matt, welcome to Job Board geek.

Matt Lucas  5:07

Well, thanks for having me on.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  5:08

Yeah. I’m glad that you could come on. Why don’t you tell the listeners a little bit about yourself and how you got into the job board industry and how Job monkey and all of the other associated sites that you have started up

Matt Lucas  5:21

so I’m based out of Seattle, Washington. I was a serial entrepreneurs since college, basically where I started four companies in college. One of them was information products or publishing company, which we’ll talk about but I also had a suntan lotion company and a real coconut shell and a travel company and that college promotions company I started out or the how my publishing company in the first business really started was in high school, I’d heard all these rumors about how you can make all this money working up in Alaska fishing industry, but this is back in the 80s. There was no there’s no internet, no information available or anything. So I convinced to my buddies to jump in a Volkswagen Bug. We drove up to Alaska and ended up in a town called Ketchikan in southeast Alaska. About three or four weeks before the season started, we each started with $300, no credit cards, no cell phones, obviously, no internet got there, like three to four weeks before the season started. We had to live in the woods off for like $3 a day basically died. Like campsite money. And we survived. But there’s a lot of like hardship that we had for that first three weeks before we got jobs in the boats. So when I was up there, I was like God, if there was a if there was a guide that would have told us like when to go, where to go, what to bring all the kind of basic information that would really help out. So I started jotting down notes even before I got my job. And then when I was on the boat, we’d go to different fishing ports, I’d hop off and I’d kind of run around a little bit and, and talk to people and so forth. And then my freshman year fourth quarter I wrote the first author authoritative guide on working in Alaska efficient industry self published it sold it directly to college students started off mail order then became an inbound call center thing ended up being the Bible of working up there really about 80% of people that went up to Alaska for the next 10 plus years. I still have a site that’s based on it now. So it’s still kind of the authoritative guide that everyone would use the this book and they’d guide him up there. And originally, I thought it was just people on the West Coast, I’d want to go but then people in you know, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida everywhere. Everyone kind of wanted this big adventure to Alaska to experience kind of what Alaska was about but also to potential making good money. So after the first year, I started thinking about what other cool jobs would college students want to do. And one of the buddies that went with me to Alaska was going to teach English in Taiwan that next calendar year basically, so I had him, we put together outline, I had him kind of do a bunch of research and wrote a book on that. And we did one on I think I’m working on a cruise ship we did. By the time I sold the company, we had 15 different guides, they’re all about two to 300 pages long this again, this is pre internet, got it up to because like $8 million in sales or close $8 million in sales sold it to a company in Michigan, a great marketing company there that we used to do business with sold to them in 1997 moved over there on employment contract three year planning employment contract in 97. We started like really doing internet kind of stuff in 95. We already had kind of a small little team setup, we’re trying to figure out how to make it work. And back then no one knew what to do there. You know, it’s taboo to sell on the internet and all this kind of stuff. And but you knew it was gonna be something Well, when we got over there, they decided that internet was not going to really anything big. So they wanted to just stay with the paper products. And they were like, no, but it was it was at a time when internet was cannibalizing sales like shortly after I sold it literally everyone thought they get all their information for free on the internet really bad information out there. But no one really wanted to pay anymore for products because they could just look on the internet, it’s new and so forth. So in 1999 I just saw it that is okay, this is doomed here. So I negotiated with the owner of the company and bought back all the IP and put it online for free under jobmonkey. So we had a huge advantage then in 99 because we had I think about 5000 pages worth of content that was all written in house really high quality content immediately the search engines loved us we got like sight of the day inside of the week by Yahoo like shortly after launch into our traffic shot up in for a year is even now just because of our deep content that’s all solely written by us and not shared with anyone else. We’ve done really well organically in the search

Steven Rothberg  9:26

so I I bet that I was one of your customers should look you up. Have a look in your database and kind of when you started I was in college and I definitely remember buying like a pamphlet book kind of thing about fishing in Alaska because the money was really great and a lot of young people went and did that and the more that I read the more I was convinced hell no. So that’s a good thing, right? It’s not a bad thing for candidates opt out if they’re if they’re not a good fit. But I would have been a danger to myself and others on those boats with without a doubt. So I it’s kind of hard for me to physically cause any harm when running a job board.

Matt Lucas  10:13

Yeah, it’s not for everyone but I worked so the first, the first two months I was on the boat, I work 18 hours a day for 30 days straight got a week of kind of partial time and Nether So it taught you how to work. And if you weren’t a good worker or couldn’t handle that, then there’s no way that that I’m the type of boat I was on. There’s other types of fishing boats where you don’t have to work that hard. It’s kind of different work. But the type I was on you work every day it was or every second it was light out. You had those that year in the water, basically. So yeah,

Steven Rothberg  10:40

one of my kids did tree planting in British Columbia, that’s probably another one that that you focus on. And, and basically other than blackflies, and bears, there’s really no hazard. They actually were more worried about the black flies eating them than the bears. But the bears also So question for you, you mentioned, you know, being very content rich, and I think that that’s an area that virtually every job board knows that that’s a good strategy to have a lot of really good Yep, content. Couple things. One is okay, so you kind of basically started with a whole wealth of content. So one question that I’d like to have you address is sort of what are you doing now, you know, flash forward 2025 years is, you know, how are you generating that content. And the other thing is, when I was on your site, I noticed that what you’ve done way better than what we a college recruiter have and and probably most other job boards, is really integrate job search links into your content. So if I’m reading an article about Alaska Salmon Fishing, I can click on a link there and go to the jobs on your site that offer Alaskan Salmon Fishing jobs, you have that extra step is surprisingly missed by a lot of job boards. So maybe you can kind of address your your content, strategies and tactics.

Matt Lucas  11:52

So we try to identify areas that we think are cool, interesting, or give some kind of experience or make good money or something that we think would fit into the job monkeys kind of what our motto is there, we develop an outline. And then we either we used to write a lot of content in house, but now we find a domain expert, someone in that in the field, usually and pay them to write it for us and we edit it ourselves in house and then we’ll publish it we’re up to 80 something industries or verticals that we’ve have pretty detailed content on, there’s a number of other ones that we are one want to add, we slowed down a little bit of last couple years of adding new content, our strategy has been and it’s not the right or wrong, but we do what’s called Evergreen content. So we do content that you know is not like current events stuff that much. But it’s it’s more this content, you write it once and then you have to go back and modify it a little bit as things change in the industry. But it can last, you know, years basically with with minor modifications, so so that makes it more efficient. It’s hard to always have in you guys, or at least, Jeff, you do a lot of obviously what’s going on right now with fantastic, but it got to write stuff every day or every couple of days and like this, we can take some breaks in there and not really tell content if we feel the need to use those resources somewhere else. So

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  13:05

yeah, actually, you know, that’s kind of interesting that you say that, because originally my content strategy was 100% evergreen stuff. And in fact, the most popular stuff on my blog is stuff that literally I wrote five or seven years ago that are all about revenue strategies, and how do you make a decision about what you want to offer employers and that sort of thing. But I’ve also found that if I layer in that, that news stuff, you know, like the Stack Overflow stuff, that tends to keep new people coming in to my site. So it’s kind of I kind of split the difference. And I’ve had some clients that try that strategy as well. But like you said, that means you’re continually re reinventing and reworking the news and the current event type stuff. And that

Matt Lucas  13:47

works, too. It’s just depending on what you choose to do, if you can do both, but it’s just, you know, that’s a whole different way of doing it, then evergreen, so just depends. Yeah, they both work, you gave

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  13:55

us a pretty nice overview of how the site came about and how the structure works and whatnot, what sorts of challenges or I should say, what is the latest challenge that you faced with your business? Because I and I say I’m, I’m sort of laughing about that, because you gave a presentation at a conference that I was at, and you talked about the many challenges that you’ve gone through over the years, like like anyone that’s run a business, but what’s the latest challenge that you’ve had to fight and surmount?

Matt Lucas  14:23

Let me see if you guys can guess so if your website is all about leaving your hometown and working different places around the US or world what might it be right now? Yeah, so no COVID has been brutal. Luckily, you know, it didn’t affect all of our industries that we cover, but it affected a lot of them and it’s been pretty you know, it’s been pretty hard because it’s what my core what I really like about job monkeys, I like people to travel. I like people that have new experiences to get out of their hometown to kind of you know, they may not they’re not comfortable going over to Portugal or France or some like this, but they might be comfortable. Going across our state or across a few states, and we’re kind of summer camp, or we’re going to resort or something like that. So I think that’s very important for people, us, you know, residents don’t do it nearly as much as some other countries. And I think it’s just something that you know, so I can’t change the world with this, but I can do a little bit that just try to help promote that.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  15:17

So I have to ask you, then, Matt, do you have a I didn’t see this. But do you have a section in the job monkey universe that focuses on jobs in Iowa?

Matt Lucas  15:25

No, not a specific state. But there’s probably companies that, you know, I’m not kidding, think about indices might have, there’s probably something there, Jeff, if you really want to move across.

Steven Rothberg  15:36

So Matt, I’m pretty confident that if you were to build a section on Iowa, they will come they will come. Nice. Field of Dreams reference. Sorry. Okay. Yeah, I got it. Perfect.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  15:52

So talk to us a little bit about the revenue model for job monkey, are you like most job boards? Are you dependent primarily on employer revenue? Or are you do you have multiple revenue streams,

Matt Lucas  16:04

we do have multiple revenue streams. So advertising was actually for a bunch of years was the majority of our revenue. Because we had so much content, were able to monetize those pages with Google’s AdSense, and then some direct advertising and so forth, that has died down quite a bit in the last bunch of years, just as far as what you make per 1000, pageviews, and so forth, it’s gone down significantly, still a decent part of our revenue, but But it’s much smaller than what it was. So we have you standard job board revenues with we’ve gone and kind of thanks to Steve and faith, even in faith, we’ve got Performance Base, we’ve offered a product last year that we’re still getting customers converted over to but that’s kind of we don’t want to do as much duration based job postings anymore. We want to just do it on a performance level. And I think it’s better for everyone. And the way we do it, it makes it really easy for an employer to get started up with us. And it’s hands free almost because we either take a feed or or mirror their their job board and just the jobs coming off on and off our side as a manager on job postings wherever they manage that. So well, that’s

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  17:06

cool. And that makes a lot of sense, given the amount of content that you have and sort of the size, I would think of in terms of number of pages and the the overall traffic that you must have all the from all the different pages, you more than than many job boards that have been focused on duration base, I guess the final question I have and then we’ll probably need to wrap it up. But I’m just curious, what are your plans going forward as we climb out of COVID? Are you imagining Do you have some big new things that you’d like to roll out for for jobmonkey

Matt Lucas  17:38

We do. Work I mean, continue to the conversion to Performance Base is obviously a major one for us and kind of work up or work down the funnel maybe a little bit and it’s harder to work down to, you know, cost per hire, but we might play around with some other things in there. But there’s so many factors that come into play there that are outside our control, just as far as you know, the the job position, the title, how it’s written, how they hire all that kind of stuff. So we’re see where we can work down there a little further with certain employers. I love the work from anywhere aspect of the world. Now I absolutely love it. And I love digital nomad to like a traditional digital nomad that wasn’t really working as well for job and even though we’re starting to get into but it was realism or originally, you know, either creative jobs or programming jobs and so forth. But the work from anywhere aspect, but I guess both them now where do we want to convert a little bit more into that because I just think that’s a fantastic opportunity beyond the college or recent graduate aspect of it. And I’m not sure if that’s going to be in a separate site, or if it’s going to be on job monkey fully. We’re still kind of playing around with how to how to get so we’ll definitely have it on job monkey, but we might do a full blown kind of play into that.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  18:46

Yeah, I would think actually, you know, you look at old guys like me, I would be very interested in looking at jobs that had me moving around in different places working for six months here four months there that were not necessarily technical based. Yeah, working on a fishing boat planting trees being attacked by black flies and so on.

Matt Lucas  19:07

Well, that’s still I mean, that’s still job monkey so I mean, there’s we have we get retirees or people that want to do a career change or just kind of burnout using job monkey all the time. So it’s not just a college site. Oh, yeah. So and we get that’s, that’s probably 20 or 30% of our traffic, actually.

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  19:21

Yeah. Well, I know what I’m doing after I get off this recording.

Steven Rothberg  19:26

So Jeff, I think I think what you’re envisioning Jeff to is like, is doing more of that project based kind of work a month here six months there three months someplace else, you know, if you’re in marketing, for example, right, we have been able to move around, maybe you’re doing a marketing project in oil and gas for a Houston based company and they don’t care where you are. So that’s when you can go to Alaska and be up there in the summertime and be working for that Houston based company or there’s an Alaskan company who kind of wants you on site for three months and then and not after that, that kind of remote work. work I think is become much more feasible for everybody. Employers are starting to realize they can do it. And candidates are saying, Okay, I’m ready. When do I When do I leave? Yeah, yeah, that’s

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  20:09

interesting. Well, I mean, I think one thing we can all agree is that the world of work continues to be changing. And the pandemic has certainly given it a good kick in the rear in terms of changing more rapidly than it had been. So, Matt, if people want to get in touch with you after listening to this podcast, how can they do that? Oh, sure. So

Matt Lucas  20:29

you can either send me an email at Matt M A T T at jobmonkey comm. You can go to the website, Use the contact form there. That’ll that’ll come to me or on LinkedIn. Matthew, Lucas, five, any one of those works, I’d love to hear from you. So

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  20:43

Well, Matt, thanks so much for coming on. We really appreciate it.

Matt Lucas  20:46

Well, thanks. And great job, you guys. You guys are doing awesome. Thanks. Thanks

Jeff Dickey-Chasins  20:49

a lot. And Steven, if folks want to get in touch with you. How do they do that? Sure.

Steven Rothberg  20:53

Reach out Stephen at college And Matt, it has been awesome reconnecting with you. Likewise.

Unknown Speaker  21:00

And I know that if you’re listening on the podcast, obviously you can’t see anything but one of the great things about this particular podcast is we have three radically different backgrounds. My background is it’s usual boring, Elvis Costello poster and radiator behind me Steven looks like he’s in some sort of serial killers lair. And then Matt is in this wonderful light room with a fire burning behind him with plants. So I think if we’re going to be doing any rating, I think Matt wins this one. So anyway, that’s it for this episode of JobBoardGeek. Please be sure to subscribe anyway you want we’re on Apple. We’re on Spotify. We’re on Google. We have an RSS feed etc, etc. Just click the little button on the on the player. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins. I’m the job board doctor and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all for now. We’ll see you next time.

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