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Monster has fallen off its leadership perch, hit hard by CareerBuilder's heavy media spend and its extremely effective bundling of print/online ads. But by most counts, it is still fairly equal with CareerBuilder. It is certainly well ahead of Yahoo! Hot Jobs, which made its own splash last week by teaming with 176 newspapers.

Monster has now asserted itself once again. In part, it is doing so by pushing very hard via a slew of deals with newspapers  an industry that it had recently scorned. It previously announced a deal with The Philadelphia Inquirer and now has announced deals with The Orange County Register along with several smaller papers that are also owned by Freedom, as well as with the North Jersey Media Group and The Wilkes Barre Times Leader. The deals have been made by Peter Newton, who formerly led the development of for The Boston Globe.

An executive close to the new signings said that it basically came down to working with Monster or Yahoo!. So-called “white label” solutions by various vendors were not really considered because they lacked compelling networks. Our source told us that Yahoo! and Monster were fairly equal on basic listings, but Monster proved much more generous for upsells. Monster was also felt to be “better” than the others in terms of features, name recognition and prestige  although it could have gone either way.

“Monster is all about one thing: recruitment. We liked that focus. Yahoo! is all over the map,” said our source, invoking the infamous “peanut butter” memo by a Yahoo! exec who complained of exactly the same thing.

Indeed, Monster and one of the newspaper companies commissioned third-party research to see just where the money would pan out in a strategic newspaper arrangement. The research revealed that there was very little duplicative advertising between the newspaper and Monster.

Another critical factor against signing with Yahoo! was the centralized nature of the Yahoo! deal, where everything was filtered via MediaNews Group. Smaller papers, apparently, weren't invited to be part of the negotiation team.

Our source thinks the Monster deal was the best they could hope for, and added that the newspapers have been getting the gold treatment from Monster executives at the very top of the food chain. Monster is “dead serious about working with newspapers,” said the source. At the same time, the commissioned research revealed that Craigslist and other social networks are making steady inroads into the marketplace. “Who knows whether Monster, CareerBuilder and Yahoo! will even be a major part of this space in several years?” he said.

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