Microsoft Buys Stake in CareerBuilder

Microsoft Corp. said Wednesday it has acquired a minority stake in job-listings partner and will use that job-search engine on MSN sites overseas in a bid to capture more of the classified advertising money migrating to the Web.

Reston, Va.-based CareerBuilder has been the exclusive provider of job listings to Microsoft's MSN Careers site since 2004. The job site's newspaper industry majority owners use CareerBuilder's technology for their own online classifieds and have benefited from the site's U.S. growth as print classified advertising revenue plunged in recent years.

Microsoft declined to say how much it paid for a 4 percent stake. CareerBuilder said newspaper publishers Gannett Co. and Tribune Co. each hold 40.8 percent of the company, and McClatchy Co. now holds 14.4 percent.

Microsoft's move from partner to owner is the latest development in a series of linkups between newspaper businesses and the most powerful Web companies, as both industries fight for the growing pool of ad dollars shifting to the Internet.

More than 260 U.S. newspapers, including those owned by McClatchy, the nation's third-biggest publisher based on circulation, have signed on with Yahoo Inc. to sell advertising online, including employment classifieds. Google Inc. has also been working with some of the nation's largest newspapers to broker print advertising.

CareerBuilder topped the list of "career development" sites with 15.4 million unique visitors in the U.S. in March, according to research group Nielsen/NetRatings. Monster Worldwide Inc., which has also pursued newspaper partnerships this year, followed with 8 million visitors. Yahoo's HotJobs clocked 5.4 million visitors, the researchers said, but grew 14 percent over last year while CareerBuilder's U.S. audience slipped 3 percent.

Microsoft is putting a defense in place so CareerBuilder can't be acquired by Google or someone else, said Rob Enderle, an analyst with the Enderle Group.

Microsoft also said Wednesday it extended its deal to use CareerBuilder content exclusively on MSN until 2013, and it said CareerBuilder will pay $443 million over seven years for the arrangement. Microsoft will also add CareerBuilder content to international MSN sites, mostly in Europe, starting in some countries later this year.

James McClamroch, general manager of business development for MSN, said moving from partner to owner will let Microsoft think longer-term about the fast-growing market of recruitment advertising, which he estimated at $1.6 billion last year.

CareerBuilder, for its part, said the overseas traffic deal will help it expand into new markets.

"Because they're invested, (it will) help us grow those marketplaces," said Matt Ferguson, CareerBuilder's chief executive. Ferguson noted that CareerBuilder advertises on Google, and will continue to do so.

Shares of Microsoft edged up 3 cents to $30.78 Wednesday.


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