More Jobs Being Found Online, but That Doesn’t Mean It’s Easy

November 14, 2007

By BARBARA WHITAKER

One of the first things Brooke Christiansen did as college graduation neared last spring was post her résumé on three of the largest Internet job boards: Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs.

For the most part, she said, it was an exercise in frustration.

“You get piles and piles of jobs that no matter what you type in, come up with every single search,” she said. “It’s very hard and very time-consuming to find something you’re actually interested in.”

In addition, she said, it is rare to hear back when applying for jobs found on the sites.

Mary Riley Dikel, creator of The Riley Guide, a directory of employment and career resources on the Internet, said: “One job seeker told me, ‘I think I’d be more successful distributing my résumé by opening my window and throwing it out.’ You do feel like you’re going into a black hole.”

To that frustration, add the risk that identity thieves may steal information from résumés posted on job sites – and to estimates that only 3 percent to 5 percent of job seekers find employment through the sites – and it is reasonable to ask, Why bother?

Recruiters and career counselors typically turn the question around and ask, Why not? Applicants, they say, need to recognize that job boards are but one tool among many that can be used to find work.

“The Internet is an absolutely necessary tool in your job search arsenal, but it’s not your only tool,” Ms. Dikel said. “Use Monster and professional associations and local and state job boards and other things that target what you want. But if you’re spending more than 15 minutes on the Internet, you’re lost.”

A proliferation of new sites – many capitalizing on search engine technology to provide job offerings from across the Internet – are giving job seekers some new alternatives to explore.

Among them are JobCentral.com, a site developed for major corporations that carries their listings as well as direct links to the companies’ Web sites to apply for jobs. The
board was created after executives from corporations like I.B.M., Hewlett-Packard and Intel began exploring ways to deal with the ever-escalating fees charged by the largest job boards.

Initially, 18 companies put in $60,000 each to finance the board. Now companies pay $12,500 a year to post all their jobs, or $25 a job (compared with as much as $400 a job on a major board), said Bill Warren, executive director of the DirectEmployers Association, the corporate group behind JobCentral. It now has 182 member companies. The site also acts as a search engine, scavenging job listings from about 1,400 nonmember companies.

Taking a slightly different tack are sites like Indeed.com and SimplyHired.com, which rely on search engines to aggregate a vast array of listings from newspaper classified ads, job boards, corporate sites and trade associations.

The field will expand again tomorrow, when JobCentral, Indeed, SimplyHired and Google Base, a database recently introduced by the search engine company, are to announce that they are teaming up to create a national labor exchange at JobCentral.com. The site, which has about 340,000 jobs posted, will incorporate jobs found by its partners and provide the technology to let those sites link to its information. Mr. Warren, creator of the job site that later became Monster, said the alliance would result in the amassing of information on about 4.5 million jobs.

“The benefit to the job applicant is that they can go to one place and basically see all the jobs on the Internet,” Mr. Warren said.

How that will affect the three major job boards – and the state of finding jobs on the Internet – remains to be seen.

Mark Mehler, a co-founder of CareerXroads, a New Jersey company that advises companies on using technology in recruiting, said the traditional job boards might find themselves at a disadvantage. It has become expensive for companies to post employment ads on the major boards, and the number of résumés posted can be overwhelming.

At the same time, he said, it remains to be seen how useful and reliable the sites that pull job listings from across the Web will be.

They key is freshness and where the job is being taken from,” he said. Despite such problems, studies indicate that an increasing number of people are being hired through Web postings and employee referrals, rather than through traditional methods like printed want ads.

In 2004, a study by CareerXroads found that 61 percent of hires by the companies surveyed came from referrals or the Internet, up from 50 percent two years earlier. According to the study findings, Monster, CareerBuilder and HotJobs accounted for 22.8 percent of the hires attributed to the Internet; corporations also reported that a high percentages of employees were hired after filing applications on corporate sites.

Eric Muller, a recruiting manager with the Southern Company, an energy company based in Atlanta, says his company initially began using  JobCentral because it allowed the company to post all its jobs at a lower cost and because it provided a direct link to the company’s site. While the company still uses big boards like Monster and CareerBuilder, he said, they do so more strategically – if, for instance, a job needs to be filled immediately. “We have to have a mix,” he said. “I can’t have all my eggs in one basket.”

The same holds true for job seekers, although there are increasing questions about the wisdom of posting résumés on the Internet.

“Putting a résumé on an online job site is not the smartest way to go about getting a job,” said Pam Dixon, executive director of the World Privacy Forum, a nonprofit group that educates consumers about technology and privacy.

The forum put hundreds of résumés on job sites and tracked them for a year. Ms. Dixon said many were stolen by either criminals or unethical recruiters.

One common ruse preys on midcareer professionals whose résumé history can be combined with a Social Security number, resulting in identity theft.

“The more detailed your résumé, the easier it is to do,” Ms. Dixon said.

Job seekers who posted online said they had also had problems with employment consultants seeking to solicit business. After arranging an interview, the consultants begin making a pitch for their services, which can cost as much as $10,000.

Ultimately, Ms. Christiansen found exactly what she was looking for – a human resources job near Chicago – using JobCentral. She said the site helped her narrow her search, and after that she found a job quickly. “It can work,” she said, “if you know exactly what you’re looking for and you can find a place that will have it.”

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Listing Top Jobs but Charging Candidates to Seek Them

November 14, 2007

By BOB TEDESCHI

RECRUITERS with six-figure jobs to fill know better than to post them online and start a stampede of marginally qualified job seekers. But they also know that the Web is the easiest way to find applicants.

The Web’s surprising answer to the problem? Charge them to look.

A growing number of niche sites devoted to high-end jobs are finding that applicants are willing to shell out a few dollars — or a few hundred, in some cases — for the chance to get access to job ads. The strategy will not help the big online job boards find more applicants for entry-level positions, but analysts say it is ideal for sites like TheLadders.com, ExecuNet and others seeking the senior executive crowd.

It turns out that having the job candidates pay is a great screener, and employers love it,” said Charlene Li, an Internet analyst with Forrester Research.

Ms. Li said that the online employment category, which is dominated by Monster, CareerBuilder and Yahoo’s HotJobs, is expected to generate about $1.9 billion in revenue this year, up from about $1.6 billion last year. But she said that the category in recent years has undergone an explosion in the number of job boards that serve specific niches. (Industry executives say that there are roughly 40,000 job boards online.)

The upper-level jobs niche has been slower to develop, though, because companies typically hand off such jobs to corporate recruiting firms. Those firms, like DHR International and Korn/Ferry International, set up their own Web sites, but those sites are used mainly to market the firms’ offline services instead of connecting applicants with companies online.

To fill that void, several former HotJobs executives introduced TheLadders.com in 2003, with the mission of posting only those jobs with annual salaries of $100,000 or more. At the time, the company made an odd bet — that it could attract more applicants if it charged them a monthly entry fee of $30.

That is precisely the opposite of the approach used by mass-market employment sites, which charge applicants nothing but charge companies varying fees to post job openings.

In its early years, TheLadders.com was slow to grow, partly because it did not attract enough job postings to justify the site’s cost. But as employers and corporate recruiters learned that they could find qualified applicants for nothing, the number of job postings jumped.

Now, according to Marc Cenedella, the chief executive of TheLadders.com, the site listed 70,000 jobs last week and is on pace to exceed $30 million in sales this year from about 1.4 million subscribers. And the site now counts Microsoft and the EMC Corporation as clients.

“We’re doing the same thing that’s done in national parks: put a price on it so you get the right number of people,” Mr. Cenedella said.

Mr. Cenedella said that the company is not yet profitable, but is “cash flow positive.” The number of subscribers who hear about the site from word of mouth, he said, has nearly doubled, to 34 percent, in the last three years.

Mr. Cenedella, who was a senior vice president at HotJobs when the company was acquired by Yahoo, said TheLadders would expand in the coming months to include jobs with annual salaries of $75,000 or more. (Only about 10 percent of the roughly 150 million workers in the country earn $100,000 or more, he said, while 20 million earn from $75,000 to $100,000.) Even that lower salary threshold, however, is high enough to attract job candidates who will pay to see the listings.

Ms. Li, of Forrester, said that TheLadders and other fee-based online job boards could face difficult times as baby boomers retire and the job market opens up.

“Companies say they’re going to lose 30 percent of their forces over the next five years, and those will all be upper-echelon jobs,” she said. “So if you’re paying to look for jobs, in some ways it’s signaling that you’re not a very good candidate.”

Heather Hamilton, a staffing manager at Microsoft who uses the site to fill marketing positions, disagreed. “If you’re not serious, you’re not going to pay the money,” she said. “That’s a big part of why we’ve found TheLadders to be more fruitful than other job boards.”

Some of the big online job boards have also tried to aim at the highest-paying jobs. In 2000, Monster started ChiefMonster.com, which screened prospective job seekers to ensure that they were worthy of the best jobs, but the service failed to attract a following and Monster shut it down.

Other sites devoted to six-figure salaries and senior executives say that they, too, are thriving. ExecuNet, a service based in Norwalk, Conn., charges about $400 annually, or $39 monthly, for its online networking, industry data and job listings, among other things.

According to David B. Opton, the company’s chief executive, the business has about 25,000 subscribers, but their average income is $221,000 and the average age is 48. Job postings have increased about 30 percent over the last year, he said, and, perhaps as a result, ExecuNet’s membership has risen 15 percent.

Networking sites have become an increasingly important tool for companies looking to fill senior positions. LinkedIn, in particular, has emerged as a favorite trolling ground for corporate recruiters across the spectrum of job levels.

The online market for high-priced talent extends beyond full-time workers. Take HotGigs, for example. The company, which is based in Minneapolis, provides job listings for contract workers. In the three years since its debut, its customer base has grown to nearly 70,000 consultants who pay $100 yearly for the right to answer job listings
from about 19,000 companies and recruiters.

Doug Berg, the company’s chief executive, says the idea of paying to apply for a job is foreign to some people.

“We get a lot of people who e-mail us and say they shouldn’t have to pay for a job,” he said. “Our thing is, if you’re a professional consultant, you have to learn how to market yourself. Besides, if I didn’t charge, every wannabe in the world would come in.”

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Web Marketing to a Segment Too Big to Be a Niche

October 30, 2007

ALTHOUGH 50 million people in the United States have some form of physical or mental disability, they spend money just as easily as others. But there are few efficient ways for advertisers to reach them, and that’s what a new Web site, Disaboom.com, hopes to change.

Disaboom is the brainchild of J. Glen House, who graduated from medical school after becoming a quadriplegic as a result of a skiing accident at 20. The site combines the social-networking features of Web sites like Facebook with information of interest to its constituency: medical news, career advice, dating resources and travel tips.

Disaboom.com went live Oct. 1 and hopes to attract more than a million unique visitors each month by the end of February and to double that over the next year. Mr. House and his investors took the company public in May, listing it on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board securities market.

“I don’t think mainstream advertisers realize the magnitude of the marketplace and how underserved it was,” said Howard Lieber, vice president for sales at Disaboom.

Among some advertisers who have already signed contracts with Disaboom are Netflix, Johnson & Johnson, Avis and Cricket Communications.

“I didn’t have to think real long and hard about it,” said Kathy LaPointe, mobility motoring manager at the Ford Motor Company, about the automaker’s decision to advertise prominently on the site. Ford is highlighting its $1,000 allowance for new car buyers to defray costs of adding adaptive equipment like wheelchair or scooter lifts, steering wheel knobs and pedal extensions.

Click-throughs from the ads to Ford’s Web site “have performed well above the benchmark,” Ms. LaPointe said. “This has been a huge success for us so far.”

To Ms. LaPointe, this is part advertising outlay and part public service.

“We’re in the business to make money and sell vehicles, but it’s also the right thing to do,” she said. “We can’t even measure the societal benefit” of the effort, she added. “We’re trying to make a difference in the world and help people.”

Marketing to people with disabilities may look great on paper, but it is not easy.

“We’re a very difficult group to reach,” said Eric Lipp, founder of the Open Doors Organization, a nonprofit group that consults with companies about the disability market. “People in the marketing world will say, ‘I can reach out to them,’ and I’m just telling you it’s not easy. We’re just spread out over all kinds of walks of life — from different races to different religions to different income levels and education.”

Still, Mr. Lipp, who has spoken with Disaboom representatives and plans to write articles for the site, said he was optimistic about the venture. “We would like to see something like this work,” he said. “You just have to build the right mouse trap.”

Disaboom paid DATA Inc., a computer design firm based in Denver, $280,000 to design the site, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It also recently acquired lovebyrd.com, a dating Web site for people with disabilities, which Disaboom is folding into its own site. At the end of June, the company listed $2.2 million in cash.

“I think they’re right to get a big war chest of money,” Mr. Lipp said. “Now it’s about reaching out to the community.”

One person the site has contacted is Andrew J. Imparato, president of the American Association of People With Disabilities, which has 180,000 members. Disaboom has sponsored a mentoring event for the group and is trying to sign up all of the association’s members; in turn, Mr. Imparato hopes that people who are not members of his group will learn about it through Disaboom and join.

Mr. Imparato said Disaboom could serve as an important clearinghouse for people with disabilities, organizing them to make their voice resound more clearly with business and government.

“The disability community to a large degree is trying to get more visibility as a desirable constituency, whether you’re talking about customers with money in their pockets, or a talent pool to hire from, or voters,” Mr. Imparato said. “To a large degree, we feel like we’re invisible as a market and a political constituency.”

The number of adults with some form of disability is by all accounts growing, in part because the population is aging. Disability rates among older people are substantially higher, greater than 40 percent of the population 65 and over, compared with 19 percent of those between 16 and 64, according to census data.

The portion of the population with a disability will rise from one in five today to nearly one in four by 2030, according to Open Doors.

“They call us T.A.B.’s — the temporarily able-bodied,” said Mr. Lieber, who does not have a disability. “If you live long enough, you will get some physical limitation. You will eventually experience some of what these people are experiencing right now.”

People with mobility challenges are active consumers. A 2005 Harris Interactive study commissioned by Open Doors found that 69 percent of adults with disabilities — more than 21 million people — had traveled for either business or pleasure at least once in the preceding two years. In that same period, more than half had stayed in hotels, while 31 percent had booked at least one flight and 20 percent had rented a car. More than 75 percent of people with disabilities dine out at least once a week.

There are few media outlets that specifically aim at the disabled population, but advertisers like McDonald’s, Verizon Wireless, Sears and Honda have featured people with disabilities in their mainstream advertising. Target features disabled models in sales circulars; Kohl’s department stores use mannequins in wheelchairs in store displays.

Although some of these efforts may prompt accusations of political correctness, advocates for people with disabilities say they welcome the current crop of ads — which tend to feature people with disabilities prosaically in group situations — over the bromide-filled narratives about overcoming adversity that characterized earlier efforts.

“If you’re watching a commercial for a bank or a wireless phone carrier and you see someone in a wheelchair who is just part of the scene or background, it helps create a message that people with handicaps are integrated in society,” said Mr. Imparato, of the American Association of People With Disabilities. “Part of what that does is it normalizes having a disability.”

Source:


Networks Start to Offer TV on the Web

October 22, 2007

Music and TV were lazily paddling their canoes down Prosperity Creek when Music suddenly heard a deafening roar ahead. “Help! What’s happening?” cried Music — but it was too late. The canoe tumbled over the Internet Falls, knocking Music upside-down into the churning vortex.

TV, following at a short distance, was determined to avoid Music’s fate. “I shall go with the current and not fight it,” vowed TV. And with only seconds to spare, TV threw every shred of brainpower and muscle into avoiding its doom.

End of Chapter 1.

Now, nobody knows how that story will turn out. But everybody knows that fewer people are watching network TV with every passing year. This year, the networks have mounted their first counterattack. In addition to short mini-videos for the short-attention-span generation, they’re putting full-length free on-demand episodes online. ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox and CW are all in the game, with surprisingly pleasant results.

In general, you can catch the four or five most recent episodes of a show online, starting the morning after broadcast.

Techies, of course, have something much better. Using free BitTorrent technology, they can find and illegally download almost any episode of any recent TV show to their computers. (Just don’t get caught. Some Internet providers are starting to shut off the service of BitTorrent fans.)

You can also buy TV shows at Apple’s iTunes store, for $2 an episode without ads. But this approach, too, sticks in the craw of some networks; NBC, for example, has chafed at Apple’s terms, and its shows may disappear from iTunes in December. So what’s it like to watch TV on the networks’ Web sites?

If you have the required fast Internet connection, the picture and sound quality are excellent. It’s all on-demand, too; you can start playing the shows whenever you feel like it. (According to ABC’s research, 77 percent of online viewers are catching an episode that they missed on TV.)

There are some ads, and you can’t skip over them. Fortunately, compared with regular TV, the online ads are scarce indeed. At each break, you generally have to watch only one 30-second commercial — and there’s nothing to stop you from checking your e-mail messages or Dilbert.com while it plays.

And then there’s Joost.

Joost (“juiced,” get it?) is the latest brainchild of the two Scandinavian entrepreneurs who first rocked the record industry with Kazaa (free music for all!) and then the phone industry with Skype (free phone calls for all!). Joost gives your Mac or PC on-demand access to more than 150,000 episodes of TV shows and Web videos (free TV for all!). And last week, Joost threw open its doors; you no longer need a private invitation to download its player software from www.joost.com.

Here it is, then: your Fall 2007 Guide to Online TV, starring Joost, ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.

JOOST 1.0 BETA Joost is a great concept. The social-networking aspects are especially promising: you can type-chat with other viewers, send links to good shows, and so on.

In some shows, ads play before or during an episode (maximum length: 60 seconds); in others, small ads pop up in the corner of the screen something like those transparent network logos.

Joost’s video quality ranges from O.K. to blotchy. The software is beautiful, but its unlabeled controls are confusing. And Joost’s central organizing concept, “channels,” is also bewildering; although the shows play on demand, they’re also part of a lineup, and you’re often told that certain shows are “Coming Up”—although you can make your own channels, too.

Finally, there’s an awful lot of junk on Joost. Some of the shows are recognizable series from CBS, MTV, VH1, Paramount Pictures, CNN and Comedy Central, like “CSI” variations, “Kid Nation” and a lot of cartoons. But there’s also a lot of Web-video filler. The channels include Audi TV, Australian Food TV and the Circus Channel.

And then there are ones you’ve never heard of.

ABC ABC offers 17 of its most popular series online: “Dancing With the Stars,” “Desperate Housewives,” “Lost,” “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Ugly Betty” and so on. If you have a high-powered computer, you can even watch six of them in high definition, which looks sensational.

Each show has about four ad breaks, indicated by a tick mark on the show’s scroll bar. You must watch one ad before viewing any other segment of the show. Once you’ve paid those dues, you can freely jump around in the new segment, rewind and so on. Each show is sponsored by a single national advertiser, and the ads are often interactive. (ABC shows are also available at video.aol.com.) Over all, ABC really has its online act together.

CBS This network’s offerings include a generous 22 series, including “Survivor,” “Big Brother,” some episodes of “CSI,” “How I Met Your Mother” and a couple of soaps. There’s no whole-show scroll bar, so you can’t skip to the last section without slogging through the first, second and third.

CBS is also the most liberal distributor of shows on the Internet. You can find much the same stuff on iTunes, Joost, AOL and so on.

NBC An ad or two appears at the beginning of each episode, at the end and at the regular commercial breaks in the middle.

Unfortunately, the selection isn’t great. Only 13 series await, including “The Office,” “30 Rock” and “Heroes,” although NBC says that more are coming. And you can’t shrink the NBC player’s window down and park it in a corner of your screen so you can watch while you crunch numbers, as you can with its rivals.

FOX Fox’s effort is labeled “beta,” and it shows; I ran into glitches on both Mac and Windows computers. Still, everything plays fine: the most recent three episodes each of “The Simpsons,” “24” and 13 other shows are here. Fox uses the same tick-mark scroll bar as ABC. But an ad also appears before the show, and ads appear in the browser window beside the “TV screen.”

Speaking of NBC and Fox: stay tuned for Hulu.com. When it opens later this month, it will offer full episodes from these networks and others.

Over all, it’s great to see the arrival of online TV episodes that are crisp, clear, current, legal and free. But there are three reasons this development may not make much difference in the big picture.

First, the selection is puny. Each network offers only a fraction of its list, and for a window of only a few weeks. As long as the networks refuse to offer a better-stocked catalog — and a more permanent one — the world will flock to any service that does, like BitTorrent.

Second, you can’t download shows; you can only watch them streamed in real time. You can’t save them, put them on your iPod or burn them to DVD. (There’s hope on this point, however: this month, NBC will begin testing free episodes that you can download to your laptop to watch within a week.)

Finally — and this is the big one — almost nobody wants to watch TV on a computer screen.

Oh, sure, there are various wired and wireless ways to get the computer’s image onto your TV in the living room. But they’re clumsy, expensive and, for most people, not worth the bother. After all these years of pundits assuring us that the TV and the Internet would one day merge, it still hasn’t happened.

In other words, free online episodes are a reasonable attempt by the TV networks to avoid being swamped by the Internet. But will it be enough to keep TV’s head above water? That chapter has yet to be written.

Source: New York Times


Meet Your Neighbors, but Just Not in Person

October 22, 2007

By BOB TEDESCHI

FACEBOOK and MySpace struck a chord with people who want to socialize from a distance. But will people use social networks to actually meet their neighbors?

That’s the hope of at least one new company, LifeAt.com, which is putting a local spin on the social networking model. The company creates password-protected Web sites for apartment buildings and housing developments, allowing residents to post pictures and profiles of themselves, share information about favorite local eateries and gripe about slow elevators and peeling paint.

“I like the idea a lot,” said Charlene Li, an analyst with Forrester Research, a consulting firm. “Living in the same building means you tend to share the same socioeconomic background and interests, and giving people information on things like where to eat and where to shop makes it very, very relevant.”

Ms. Li said her only reservations about the idea are that its appeal may be limited to big cities, and that LifeAt could be hard-pressed to generate many local advertising sales on its own, as most local businesses are not accustomed to buying online ads. Rather, she said, it would probably have to distribute ads for companies like Google and share commissions.

Matthew Goldstein, LifeAt’s chief operating officer, said the company is only now completing its advertising strategy. For now, the company, based in Brooklyn, is surviving on the roughly $6,000 it receives from each building that signs up for the service. It does not charge the buildings yearly fees.

More than 335 buildings have joined since LifeAt began in March. About 600 more buildings are scheduled to introduce LifeAt Web sites by year’s end. The company does not currently share ad revenues with the buildings, but Mr. Goldstein said that could change.

Among buildings with LifeAt Web sites, Mr. Goldstein said, residents of 64 percent of the units have created personal pages. Property managers, who give residents login and password information, also use the sites to post news about maintenance work and vacancies.

The profile pages created by residents are similar to those on other online social networks. Users post descriptions and pictures of themselves on personal pages, along with pictures of their friends in the building. In the Marketplace section, users can post free classified ads for old furniture, appliances andbaby-sitting services, and rate local eateries and businesses.

Several months ago, Tara Brooke, a childbirth counselor who lives in a 300-unit apartment building in Lower Manhattan, posted an ad for her service, Power of Birth, on the building’s LifeAt Web site. She received so many responses that she opened an office in SoHo and hired more workers. “The ad was a lot more personal because it’s where you live,” Ms. Brooke said.

The personal connections made through the site have been more superficial, Ms. Brooke said, although she acknowledged that it has helped her become friendly with more neighbors. “I’m not single, but if I was, I’d definitely be on there looking for a date,” she said. “It has that MySpace feel to it, but it’s much more intimate because you actually know these people are within reach.”

LifeAt is not the first to try this approach, but it appears to be the first to generate much money from it. Since late 2004, MeetTheNeighbors.org, a for-profit company based in Manhattan, has operated a social networking service for apartment dwellers.

That site, which is free, has about 15,000 users, and last year began serving residents of Boston, London and Dublin. Jared Nissim, the company’s founder, runs the site as a sidelight to his primary business, the Lunch Club, which helps strangers meet.

Mr. Nissim said some buildings have considerably more active Web sites than others, thanks mostly to the efforts of volunteers in the building who are responsible for managing the content of the site. “It may be one of the flaws of our system that it relies on one primary contact to get the ball rolling,” he said.

By contrast, each building on the LifeAt service is overseen by a company representative, who spends a few days logging neighborhood services and restaurants into the site before it makes it debut. Everything but the forum postings are screened for inappropriate content by LifeAt employees.

As with any online forum, those on LifeAt can devolve into rant sessions, which is why some property managers asked Mr. Goldstein to discontinue that part of the service for their sites. “But one developer heard the residents were just putting up a Yahoo blog behind his back instead, so they decided to keep it open so they could be proactive about things,” Mr. Goldstein said.

Alan D. Lev, president of the Belgravia Group, a residential development company based in Chicago, recently introduced its first LifeAt site for a 400-unit condominium on North Lake Shore Drive, in Chicago. Mr. Lev said the service is well-suited to the people in their mid-20s who live in the building.

“I think it’s very important for them to be able to go on there and be able to interact amongst the residents, and see all the restaurants and places to go,” Mr. Lev said. “And it allows them to converse with the management company more easily, so there’s no pent-up anger about what might be going on with the building.”

Others have experimented with social networking Web sites aimed at city residents without intending to make money. I-Neighbors.org is a site set up by Keith N. Hampton, a sociologist at Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, to study the role that Web sites can play in strengthening offline social ties.

Mr. Hampton said that I-Neighbors continues to grow, with 45,000 people now using the free service. He said, however, that people in apartment buildings generally do not pursue social connections with their neighbors.

“They’re younger people who move more, have no children and they’re early in their careers,” he said. “They tend to be less interested in the people who live around them, and more interested in their own social networks.”

The one exception to that, Mr. Hampton said, is New York, “where availability of housing makes people live in apartment buildings who may otherwise not.”

“That said, it sounds like LifeAt is having some nice success,” Mr. Hampton said. “But in terms of having an impact on the communication among residents and their ability to build new social ties, the apartment building model will have limited success.”

Source: New York Times