All roads lead back to GPlus Media (Gaijin Pot)

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:

Gaijin Pot

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.

[Emphasis added.]

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.]

(CLICK TO ENLARGE.)

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.

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5 comments

  1. sendaiben · November 15, 2010

    Hi Hoofin

    I have found Ohayo Sensei to be by far the best site for teaching jobs. I check out GP occasionally, and have a CV/online on there, but have only gotten one job (an online position making lesson plans for Interac) from there in nine years…

    Then there is J-REC for university positions, and networking (ETJ, JALT, JACET meetings) to meet people and make your own grapevine. The best jobs I’ve heard of were all pointed out to me by friends or acquaintances.

  2. chuckers · November 15, 2010

    On a whim yesterday, I took a look through Daijob to see what kind of positions were available in my field. I put in a few minimal requirements and hit “search.”

    It came back with 50 pages of results. Wow! I thought, the economy is picking up! Then I looked a little closer. Most of those postings were not actual employers but recruiters of various repute. Hrmmm…

    Okay, modify the search to eliminate recruiters and just list actual employers…That cut down the results to about 4 pages of results. And looking through some of them, it was obvious that there were still recruiter pages mixed in with that.

    Even back in the old days, when the newspaper was the way to find a job, it was pretty much a matter of not what you knew but who you knew. Things haven’t changed much. Just the media being used.

  3. treblekickeresq · November 16, 2010

    As far as I know the job ads on Gaijin Pot are paid ads. Companies pay for those ads and part of the package is the mods on the discussion board erase any thread that badmouths the company. This is why you won’t see any threads calling out Interac or Gaba (at least not for long).

    What does happen is a dispatch company who hopes to win a contract might advertise a position but if they don’t come in with the lowest contract bid they have no need to do any hiring.

  4. Pingback: GPlus Media (GaijinPot) | Hoofin to You!

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