Wednesday, June 27

Behaving Badly: Jobster CEO

Jason Goldberg, CEO of Jobster, an online career network, has once again succeeded in doing what he seems to do best. Any time the sailing seems too smooth or the skies too blue, he veers his venture capital-funded ship and its shareholders’ money off course to find a storm of his own creation.

This time, apparently prompted by moderately reliable Alexa analytics, he sent former employee and shareholder Jason Davis a cease-and-desist letter to either close down (which I recently reviewed) or force broker a deal to, in Goldberg’s words, “work this out in a way that benefits everyone.”

According to Goldberg’s letter to Michael Arrington at TechCrunch, Davis is in violation of a non-complete clause that Davis signed as part of a contract to manage for a year (after he sold the site to Jobster). After the one year contract was complete, Davis launched Goldberg’s position and the message he thinks he is communicating is this:

“Our overarching intent at Jobster and with our Website remains to foster online community in the recruiting industry — the more the better. At the same time, Jobster needs to ensure that our employees and contractors uphold their commitments.”

It seems to me and others that Goldberg is communicating something else …

• He has not learned that virtually no communication, especially bad communication, will remain private. Sooner or later, it will be made public.

• He is not above attempting to manipulate and intimidate people into giving Jobster and some sort of leverage over others, in this case. It’s laughable at best, unethical at worst.

• He does not have faith in John Sumser’s management of to retain and attract visitors. If he did have faith, there would be no reason for Jobster to threaten legal action to protect a Digg-styled blog portal against a very different offering, which I called an open niche social network on Ning. (Even Sumser, who I enjoy from time to time, doesn't seem to have much faith in his abilities either.)

• He is a rash, impulsive executive without empathy; it sometimes seems like he wants to come across as a hardhearted bully, but in reality, this action seems more like a spoiled child throwing a tantrum because he made a bad decision in not renewing Davis’ contract.

• He comes across, once again, as being disingenuous by saying that “We at Jobster are actually big fans of the Website … we’ve also offered/suggested that there is probably a good way for us to work together going forward.” A cease-and-desist letter is usually the last communication, not the first communication, in fostering positive business relations.

From a communication perspective, legality issues aside, even if Goldberg and the much-loved-by-the-recruiting-industry Davis can reach an amicable agreement as they both suggested they might, Goldberg has already lost. He has created a potential crisis in using the supposed weight of his company to censor a niche social network, that has yet to make any money, just because he feels threatened by even the most indirect competition and comment.

Goldberg’s best course of action, assuming he doesn’t want to become another “laugh piece” for The New York Times, is to admit that he overreacted and retract any hint of taking legal action. If he does not, the potential ramifications will likely be that will continue its decline (caused by its own inability to remain relevant even though it could be), and Goldberg will solidify his personal brand as someone who is either not to be taken seriously or to be avoided at all cost. This would not bode well for Jobster, as mentioned on the Recruiting Animal Show.



Rich on 6/27/07, 2:23 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

"I am experimenting with a Ning network for building a talent pool for my company, I also have a presence on Jobster and to tell you the truth I get a better response from my own efforts and the candidates feel a more personal connection with our company.

Ning obviously has something going on that Jobster has missed. As a member of the Ning developer community I am seeing a lot of new recruiter networking sites going up.

I just wish Jason Davis the best in this situation. Ning is the thing!" — John Walker on TechCrunch

Rich on 6/27/07, 3:55 PM said...

More Words:

Robert Wilson does a good job pinpointing why the community established at has been on virtual migration, suggesting that maybe it was the shepard that killed the sheep and not competition on any level.

Chaffee Street Cafe` on 6/27/07, 7:17 PM said...

Add the word (be) in the 2nd from the last sentence.

Rich you sure are a tremendous supporter of Mr. Davis. I hope he reads your web log. I wish him the best.


Rich on 6/27/07, 10:52 PM said...

Thanks Theresa.

I don't agree with Jason Davis on many points regarding social media, but respect his ability to build, nurture, and guide a niche social network. He does a great job and his members like him, much like the Blogcatalog members love the team there.

Having written about Jobster during its crisis communication debacle that began with poorly handled layoffs, I've often rooted for Jason Goldberg to turn his company around, even when he feigned "calling me out" to discuss my take on his handling of that crisis he created. In this case, however, the evidence suggests Goldberg is merely attempting to flex muscles beyond his own employees and into the recruiting industry and using threat of legal action to do it. Someone might even consider it corporate terrorism.

Davis does visit this blog (and RecruitingBloggers) from time to time. He is someone who would certainly appreciate your kind words.

Congrats on the poetry award again. All my best,

Dan Schawbel on 6/28/07, 5:13 AM said...

I read this story on a few blogs and still can't get over why this occured. His personal brand just took a hit.

Geoff_Livingston on 6/28/07, 9:27 AM said...

It's unfortunate when personalities supersede principles. This seems like a veiled declaration of war between the services.

Rich on 6/28/07, 11:14 AM said...

Very true Geoff, but only one side declared war: think China threatening to invade Taiwan.

Rich on 6/28/07, 11:43 AM said...

Famous Last Words:

"Somebody blinked and I think it was JGo (Jason Goldberg)" — The Recruiting Animal, with his always amusing banter over the facts.

Anonymous said...

I do read your blog. every time you write something. I would love to know where you disagree with me on social media. I bet it could help. I never think of what we are doing as social media. there difinately is no plan and I am completely open to anything you can contribute.


Rich on 6/28/07, 3:10 PM said...

Hi Jason,

They are minor to be sure. it seems we disagree on the monetization potential of social media, especially as it pertains to blogs? I think we sometimes disagree on how "nice" the host has to be (which speaks volumes about your community leadership ability).

We recently disagreed on the merit of a online radio show as well (where as the difference of opinion seems to be consistent with an industry internal vs. external view of the program).

Where we agree most, it seems, is on principle and integrity ... and what you're doing with the social network. And that's what matters most. :)

All my best,

Rich on 6/28/07, 5:55 PM said...

Famous Last Words:

Jason Golberg's take on the wrap up of event. He's right on some counts, not so on others. This is the one that is most off...

"I participated in as a young profession at the White House in the 1990's, there were codes of conduct and rules of engagement for the press."

Not really. I did more work as a journalist back in those days. In this case, the letter sent to Davis would have been picked up by a reporter and that's about all the fact-checking they would need. And, there would be no blog for Jason Goldberg to resubmit the event.

I would encourage anyone reading my op-ed though, to note, I frequently write about the perception people create for themselves, which may or may not be indicative of their character.

Anonymous said...

"it seems we disagree on the monetization potential of social media, especially as it pertains to blogs?" - There are some people with blogs making good money but very few making real money. Just read that arrington pulls in 200k a month ( saw it in wired)

Rich on 6/29/07, 3:38 PM said...

See. I told you so. ;)

Part of it though is that I define it differently. For example, every book Seth Godin sells is part of his blog sales (even if I bought a book in person, after reading his blog, like I did, it should count. But, that's not really trackable), but most of it has to do with developing an overall strategy and then including your blog within that strategy as a tactic.

Forget the click-throughs and sponsor ads that seem to define most people's idea of blog money and think income marketing. What if Amazon had a blog to highlight an item a day? Do you think that would drive sales up on that item? Or maybe, an agency pitches an account and when the prospect researches them on the Web, they say ... we picked you because we liked what you said about [fill in the blank]. Does this not count? Not today.

Most blogs are positioned as a quasi public relations, marketing, SEO tools. So, as long as people misplace were they might function best for their company, then I guess you would be right.



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