Disintermediate!

March 31, 2011 § 4 Comments

Gabriel Rossman’s post about the ASA job bank is an important one. Particularly important is the question of why the job bank should be treated as a profit center for the ASA. There is a hint of hypocrisy in the whole enterprise, for while the job bank is treated as a profit center, the proposed dues increase is rationalized by the statement that “ASA provides professional public goods … [It] provides timely information on the job market for sociologists and brings potential employers and employees together.” One of these things is not like the other.

The case of the job bank is striking, because in the modern day and age, it is trivially easy to perform the same function.  Herewith a challenge to young, enterprising sociologists: set up a competing on-line job bank. Heck, colonize a portion of Craigslist. The main challenge is getting employers to send you their listings. (Job-seekers will find you.) But since you can offer a much lower price — if you get volunteer labor, the price could be zero — it is hard to see why they would resist.  There is no way this costs anywhere close to $200/month per ad.

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§ 4 Responses to Disintermediate!

  • Shamus and I briefly tried this (http://sociologyjobs.wordpress.com/) but gave up on it from a combination of us being lazy and WordPress not being a particularly good content management system for this kind of thing. There’s also an issue that EEO/AA regulations basically require departments to buy listings from ASA.

    In principle though I am totally with you. Even if setting up and running such a listing service required more time and resources than Shamus and I were willing to put into it, it can’t possibly cost anywhere near $200 per month per listing. I figure a more reasonable estimate of the costs is on the order of $5 or $10 per month per listing for labor and hosting (and probably less than that if start-up issues are amortized at the scale of the current job bank). Normally when an incumbent charges way above marginal cost they sooner or later discover this magical thing called a “supply curve.”

    Given the network externalities of the existing job bank it would probably have to be done as an (informally) donative nonprofit. I will personally pledge to put $20/year in perpetuity if somebody were to set up a “Jimmyslist.”

    • Interesting.

      In principle this is the kind of thing where the mere threat of entry should be sufficient – if the threat is credible enough. TDS has no inherent problem with a job bank run by the ASA. But it should be priced much closer to marginal cost. Which, given that the ASA already has investments in servers etc., should be close to zero.

      Not sure about the EEO/AA thing. I think the requirement is that one demonstrate that one has advertised widely. A credible open-source alternative would suffice, where credible means that one can demonstrate that a lot of people could see it.

  • John-Paul Ferguson says:

    Honestly, it needn’t even be as fancy as a section of Craigslist. You could have a Google group with a name like “sociologyjobs@blah.com.” Departments would send emails to that group, and all the subscribers would get them. Most people most of the time would probably just filter those messages unread, but you could search the postings at any time.

    As far as I can tell, a jobs bank gives you two important features: it collects postings in one place and it has a search function. Search is a solved problem, at least when it comes to text documents like email traffic. Putting postings in one place is also trivially easy these days.

    And I stress that there’s no reason the ASA itself couldn’t endorse such a thing. Bam: EEO/AA regulations dealt with. I think that the legal issues are only a hurdle if the Association wants them to be. Surely having to register an email address with Google in order to subscribe to a group is less of a burden than having to pay membership fees plus pay for listings.

  • Elizabeth says:

    Does the ASA also distribute a printed version of its job bank? From a similar discussion at Leiter Reports a while back, I know that many universities interpret the EEOC requirement to mean that they must run a print, not online-only, ad. This is why the AP(hilosophy)A still prints its job listings: it’s much cheaper for departments to list there than in any other print venue.

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