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Media General, the publisher of The Tampa Tribune, Richmond Times-Dispatch and Winston-Salem Journal, in addition to 22 community dailies, is the eighth newspaper company to join Yahoo!’s HotJobs consortium. With the addition of MG’s 25 papers, the consortium’s roster now encompasses 201 papers in 40 states.

The company had been engaged in the Yahoo! talks throughout the multi-month negotiation process, but wasn’t ready to sign up in time for the deal’s pre-Thanksgiving announcement. We expect it won’t be the last one in, either. Twelve companies were involved in the initial talks, but to date, only Freedom Newspapers has taken an alternative path (choosing to go with Monster).

While MG is the most recent company to officially sign up with the consortium, it knows Yahoo!’s skill sets as well as any newspaper, according to Media General Interactive President Neal Fondren. He noted that MG has been upselling its recruitment classifieds to HotJobs in Tampa for more than a year. The existing relationship with Tampa means it will be the fastest MG property to get up and running with HotJobs. The other properties will be up in a matter of months, he said.

Fondren added that he has been surprised at the skepticism surrounding the deal  both inside and outside the newspaper industry. Analysts like Vin Crosbie have suggested that the deal with Yahoo! was basically a capitulation by the newspaper industry to an invading force. Others have suggested that HotJobs’ tools are “mediocre” and bring no special advantages to the table. Still others have suggested that Yahoo! is too distracted to really focus on building the recruitment sector with the newspapers (see “peanut butter” memo).

To Fondren, these perspectives aren’t especially well informed. “We know they’re wonderful to work with and they’re very good at collaboration,” he said. Fondren also emphasized that the deal goes far beyond recruitment in leveraging the two sides’ respective strengths. “It most definitely goes beyond recruitment. Really, we think recruitment is the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Fondren wouldn’t say this, but if all goes well, it is possible that MG will bring in other parts of its media empire to the consortium. In addition to the 25 papers, MG owns 150 weekly newspapers and 23 television stations.

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