I get a lot of helpful advice from friends in my Japan job search. It makes me grateful to have friends like that.
People will light up their faces and say, “did you check out Gaijin Pot?” “Hey, did you check out E-central?” And of course, I do.
What I wonder if people know or not, though, is that many of these online sources about rumored or even actual jobs lead back to the same small handful of people in Tokyo. There are many websites, but really only just a handful of players working the net as an “online search” business.
For example, GPlus Media, which I guarantee very few of you have ever even heard of. But if you go down to the bottom of the popular Japan Today website, you find a link in the lower left-hand corner to the GPlus Media site. At GPlus, you can read the whole history of the company back to its founding during the Internet bubble of 1999.
You also find out that three very popular Japan expat sites:
E-central (connected to the ACCJ)
and Japan Today
are all branded offerings of GPlus Media. It looks like these are separate online sources for both jobs and news about the job situation in Japan. But they aren’t. It’s really just one little media conglomerate.
I like Japan Today. I stop by and read it often, since Kyodo News is a reliable agency and that’s who Japan Today uses mostly for their news content. I have had no success with either E-Central or Gaijin Pot. Maybe one or two follow-ups with E-Central, that’s it.
In the old days of newspapers, if you checked the want ads for jobs, you could be fairly certain that the jobs posted were really there. Additionally, there weren’t screens that you had to page through, asking questions meant to prevent you from applying for the job. The job ad ran as long as the job was available, since someone had to pay the publisher.
Now, media companies like GPlus can freely collect what amount to job rumors from everywhere. They’re published and several hundred people send their online resumes. For the most part, in each transaction, the vast majority of people never hear anything again. You are better off “posting” your job opportunity to your informal network of friends, and naturally expats in the job search here are better off relying on the informal network as well.
You can be fairly certain that any of the plum positions being found out about by the GPlus team are being shared with people they know–their friends and associates–first. (Likewise with the ACCJers before anything is posted on E-Central.)
So you might ask, “how can a business like that actually make it?” I wonder, too. I really think the business is more about collecting others’ personal information. It might have a marketing value in being able to tell (and share with prospective employers) what actual supply of gaijins exist in Tokyo, Osaka or the hinterlands. The one thing the GPlus websites are not doing is hooking people up with jobs. That’s clear.
A San Francisco company called IA Global at one time had a 25% interest in GPlus Media. This was late in the last decade. I assumed that they were still holding their interest in GPlus, but learned that they had sold it in March 2009.
From the corporate 8-K:
IA Global, Inc. (the “Company” or “IAO”) announced that it sold its 25.0% interest in GPlus Media Co Ltd (“GPlus”) to the management of GPlus on March 6, 2009. The company received approximately $75,000 and expects to report an operating loss of $40,000 and a loss on sale of $1,280,000 during the three months ended March 31, 2009.
Eh? IA Global sold their 25% share to the management for $75,000 last year. They took an operating loss of $40,000 (meaning, they lost money on the company in the period the books were open), and also lost well over a million dollars on the sale. This means they must have put up at least $1,300,000 along the way.
Granted IA Global might have been involved in a fire sale during the Financial Crisis of 2008-09. Maybe a loan got called and they had to come up with quick cash. But why just $75,000? Where was Advantage Partners, the folks who bought out the Interac shareholder?
IA Global stock was worth a reverse-split adjusted $250 at one time in the 2000’s. These days it trades for just 90 cents. [Update: It stopped trading regularly at 40 cents on March 21, 2011, then went to pink sheets where it was last 25 cents. I wonder who owns it.]
One conclusion you might make is that these Japanese online media websites are a huge cash burn. Once the initial business model is shown not to work, the company has to keep coming up with other ways to generate revenue off the internet. My guess would be that you just keep making more websites to advertise things to the foreigners, like how I was saying last year about the gold prospectors (who lost their shirts) and the people who supplied the gold prospectors, who made fortunes off other people’s dreams.
What if it’s simply that these entrepreneurial internet companies are just burning up the cash of the original investors? What if some of the business success is just that one or two men come up with ideas using the internet, and then pawn the concept off on a foolish later investor?
I keep checking, but it’s pretty obvious that the online job boards are mostly useless. Additionally, the ones that contain this feature meant to weed out candidates based on certain “mandatory” qualifications are risky for the American-controlled companies that use those websites. (For example, if native Japanese language ability is “required”, and then the job is later filled by a friend of a friend who doesn’t have that, that’s a problem.)
As I’ve been telling you all, you really have to kick the tires and ask some questions about many of the things we as expats are handed here in Japan. I have no doubt that online job sites can be useful. I just would like to know how useful.