Dating Industry News For 1-20-14

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VentureBeat has a story that sheds light on affiliate marketing scams. 

Hinge Hits SF With Its App For Finding True Love, Not Just Hookups | TechCrunch

Global Personals launch first TV campaign for JustSingles.com.

Couple App Now Lets You Stalk Your Partner On Mobile And Desktop | TechCrunch

The 15 Hottest Dating Sites on the Market – Mashable

A Psychologist’s Guide to Online Dating – Olga Khazan – The Atlantic.

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THE 2014 IDATE AWARDS

The iDate Award Winners were announce yesterday. I prefer the About.com yearly awards myself. The ballot-box stuffing and sheer number of unheard of sites made a read through this years winners an exercise in editorial restraint.

Best Dating Site: POF, which beat out AmorEmCristo.com by 1%. Seriously? I can think of 10 other sites which should have been on the list. CorpsSocial.com? What is that?

This is the second-best designed dating site?

przeznaczeni

 

 

The “best” dating site software is from a company I have never heard of, HubPeople.

I did some work with ChristianFilipina.com, they won Best Mobile Dating App, so go team!

Best matchmaker and best coach: How can anyone possible judge this?

HubPeople won for most innovative company. Huh?

World Dating Company (never heard of them) won for Best New Technology. WDP is the company behind Przeznaczeni.pl (second-best Produce Design).

The best affiliate program is for A Foreign Affair. Someone, help me here!

Zoosk’s marketing campaign were rated tops. Does anyone watch the Match commercials? Even some of eHarmony’s ads this year were great. Surprised that Ashley Madison didn’t get a nod, their billboards are hard to miss.

Best Up and Coming Dating Site: A client is on this list which is great. What about the other sites? By that I mean I track new sites very closely, and most on this list I’ve never heard of.

Best Niche Dating Site went to LoveMe (A Foreign Affair). Christian Mingle didn’t win? That’s crazy.

I’ve seen 25 different Oscar’s nominations posts on social media today. I think I got one email from iDate about the awards.  Maybe iDate will up their game next year, because these results are disservice to the online dating industry and frankly, a joke.

Scamalytics Identify Stolen Celebrity Identities Being Used by Online Dating Scammers

Raven_RileyGood to see Scamalytics increase their efforts in identifying  additional scam vectors on dating and other websites.

“As an anti-fraud company we aim to analyze as much relevant data as possible” said Scamalytics co-founder Dan Winchester. “Analysing photos is a natural next step for us. We are picking up more fraud faster by identifying scammers from their photos before they even go live on a dating site.”

“Reputable online dating companies are keener than ever to clamp down on fake profiles created by scammers, and we are now even more effective in helping our clients prevent these fake profiles from ever appearing on their websites.”

Emphasis on the phrase “Reputable”. Most social dating sites do little if nothing to seriously curb fake profiles, otherwise their user base would dwindle.

IDate iDate iDate

Hope everyone in the dating industry is having a good time at iDate this week. Mom broke her hip last week, so I’m being A Good Son and sticking around to help out.

Are you at the show? Leave a comment, let us know what you liked, didn’t like, want to see more of, etc.

 

Where Are The Dating Industry Holiday Videos?

Earlier this year a few intrepid dating sites made company videos and I’m wondering if we’ll see some holiday versions over the next few days. It’s high-season in the dating industry after all, perfect to time get closer to your members.

For inspiration, the First Round Capital holiday video is great!

Zoosk, At First Sight, Tinder, etc., it’s your turn.

It’s Time For New Dating Industry Metrics

Love to see Jan Koum at WhatsApp take the rest of the messaging industry to task (Tech Crunch) regarding active vs. total number of users. Messaging apps are throwing around claims of 100 million, 300 million users, but how many of them are actually engaged with these services on a daily/monthly basis?

Sites like Match and eHarmony talk about 20 million profiles, yet they only have a few million active monthly users (logged in once in the last 30 days).

When I hear 20 million profiles I immediately think of how stale the majority of those profiles are (and a fantastic opportunity to turn stale inactive members back into active subscribers). Hearing a site has 20 million profiles is a negative!

Jan got tired of the hype and published that WhatsApp has 400 million monthly active users. See also Andreessen and Mixpanel Call for an End to “Bullshit Metrics” and I couldn’t agree more.

The dating industry has always hid behind Bullshit Metrics and it’s something I’ve written about many times.

The problem is, once one company reports a bullshit metric — like how many registered users it has — its competitors don’t want to appear smaller by reporting something real — like how many monthly active users it has. So the bullshit metric shaming needs to be a broader movement for it to work.

YES! I’m not holding my breath that the dating industry will start comparing apples to apples, but I do like Match CEO Sam Yagan’s idea of other more relevant metrics such as # of emails sent per month, although he said that before he was at Match- OKCupid has always been the most open dating site when it comes to metrics and stats. POF is pretty open about sharing certain data as well.

At some point, 4,000 dating sites out-bidding each other for eyeballs is going to come to a stalemate. Why not leverage engagement metrics to entice new users and prove you are a better site?

There is a business case for being quiet about core metrics, but there is also a lot of non-obfuscated data that can be used for marketing purposes, but yet the industry rarely shares more than, “We have lots of hot singles in your area”, which means they don’t.

Not many dating sites have the stomach to be honest, but one can hope that the industry will evolve to include more realistic and usable metrics to onboard new members. Otherwise as a whole it’s overpaying customer acquisition costs and doing singles a disservice.

 

IAC Creates Match Group

Is Match getting ready to spin out of IAC? Today’s announcement seems to point in that direction.

  • InterActiveCorp (IACI) CEO Greg Blatt is stepping down from his current position to become chairman of the Match Group, a new IAC operating unit containing the company’s Match (online dating) businesses, as well as Tutor.com and workout program site DailyBurn. (PR)
  • No replacement CEO will be named. Instead, Blatt and the heads of IAC’s Search & Applications (Ask.com, About.com) and Vimeo (online video) businesses will each directly report to chairman Barry Diller. Sam Yagan, CEO of the Match businesses, has been named CEO of the Match Group.
  • Investors like the shakeup, and may be betting it will pave the way for a spinoff. The Match businesses, which depend more on subscriptions than advertising, had Q3 revenue of $201.1M and op. income of $68.4M, and Search & Applications had Q3 revenue of $407.3M and op. income of $96M.

Prior to 2010 Blatt served as the Chief Executive Officer of IAC’s Match segment, where he was responsible for overseeing Match.com, Chemistry.com, People Media, Singlesnet as well as Match’s international investments.

“Greg Blatt has performed superbly as CEO of IAC for the last three years,” said Mr. Diller.  “During that period, we’ve essentially doubled our stock price and increased our operating profit by over 180%.

Break out of IAC, buy Spark Networks/POF/Jiayuan/few more large free and mobile sites and Match is going to be unstoppable. People complain about “old growth” dating sites all the time, but  there is a dearth of new sites truly improving on the model. Interesting stuff in mobile for sure, but game-changing the paradigm? That happens with better matching algorithms.

AngelList Dating Companies

Poking around AngelList for dating site startup funding opportunities. The category features 414 companies, 20,910 investors and  73,873 followers. Over 50 new dating sites have listed on AngelList in the last few months.

Dating site investors are all over the map, it’s not a specific category like medical devices or hardware, and finding relevant investors can be a challenge. Interesting to sort by Signal and Followers. I’ve spoken to some of the VC and angels looking at dating sites and they all say the same thing. Why do I want to get into an overcrowded marketplace full of me-too competitors and little mobile differentiation? Sure there’s room for improvement, but I want a Big Exit, and the plethora of slightly-different mobile apps has me explaining minute differences between apps to slightly dumbfounded investors. “You mean the difference between this app and that is that on one you flick photos around the screen and the other one you don’t, yet they are basically the same?” Welcome to my world.

If you need money, you should have a profile on AngelList, ’nuff said.

Hinge just raised $4 million, that’s the largest raise I’ve seen in a while. And Tindr has all the hype, “You can swipe photos, oh boy!” Who wants to bet that Hinge will be cash-flow positive before Tinder? I don’t know why I’m so down on Tinder, it’s the first app of it’s kind, but I was left nonplussed at the experience. No real profile, zero usable information except for generic Likes, it’s the last app I’d use to meet people, but yet it’s taking off like a rocket, so there’s that.

Just show me how many relationships are created, I could care less about 350 million swipes a month, it’s irrelevant from a user standpoint. Cheap free apps bring cheap free people, how are they going to monetize those eyeballs? Power ups and exposure, just like much of the rest of the dating industry. I’m a better match because I’m exposed to more people on the site? That just clogs up my inbox, no thanks.

I say let the casual dating co’s battle it out for generic connections and hookups. Let’s focus on the startups that can bring real and meaningful connections between people.

Sometimes I just want to raise $10 million and go build a discovery and matching algorithm that works. Everything else is pretty much fluff at this point. Matching based on Facebook social graph doesn’t seem to be going anywhere fast and the mobile swipe-friendly voyeurism reminds me of why most of us were on Myspace back in the day.

The industry gets bigger as dating services get dumber, go figure.

Zoosk Cleaning Up for IPO

zoosk IPO girlsGetting lots of calls from people wanting to talk about Zoosk lately, and now this. Zoosk is preparing to go public, having picked Bank of America to lead its initial public offering. Looks like an acquisition is off the table for now, and finally we will be able to parse Zoosk’s earnings and other previously opaque financials.

By most accounts, it appears that Zoosk is making either running at a slight profit or a loss. So they’re going to take all the newfound money and pump it into marketing, what else can they do to get profitable? Six-plus years is a long time to be in the red, they need to do something to fill the company coffers while they continue to optimize in-app purchases and conversions.

Zoosk has raised more than $60 million from investors including ATA Ventures, CanaanPartners, Bessemer Venture Partners and Crosslink Capital. This guy is going to be one happy camper.

P.S. I like to Zoosk home page, slick content scrolling

More at SFGate.

Match and SNAP Interactive Financials

Reading IAC quarterly financials:

- New user conversion to payers is up double digits at Match, driven primarily by improvements in the mobile product. Nontraditional products. The user growth here has been phenomenal, up 90% year-over-year to over 16.5 million monthly users.

- What’s so interesting about all these monetization experiments is what it’s teaching us about dynamic pricing, or the ability to collect a lot of money from those willing to pay a lot, and a little or no money from those not willing to pay at all. For perspective, on one of these newer services, we’ve had someone pay us over $1,800 over the last 3 months.

SNAP, on the other hand, is trending in the opposite direction.

On a sequential basis, total revenues for the third quarter of 2013
decreased 5% to $3.0 million from $3.2 million for the second quarter of
2013;
–  On a sequential basis, bookings for the third quarter of 2013 decreased
7% to $2.9 million from $3.1 million for the second quarter of 2013;
–  Total revenues decreased 31% to $3.0 million for the third quarter of
2013 from $4.3 million for the comparable period in 2012;
–  Quarterly bookings decreased 27% to $2.9 million for the third quarter
of 2013 from $4.0 million for the comparable period in 2012;
–  Net loss was $1.7 million, or $0.04 per basic and diluted common share
for the third quarter of 2013 as compared with net income of $0.3
million, or $0.01 per basic and diluted common share, for the comparable
period in 2012;
–  Available sources of liquidity (including cash and cash equivalents and
restricted cash) totaled $1.9 million at September 30, 2013; and
–  Significant progress was made during the third quarter of 2013 with
regards to net subscriber growth, cost reductions and our conversion
rate.

Always interesting to compare Zoosk with SNAP’s Are You Interested. they both launched around the same time, took advantage of the Wild West days of early Facebook viral marketing, grew leaps and bounds and now we have Zoosk pulling  $40M per quarter.

As for Match, it’s $1 billion or bust, how are they going to get there? Dynamic pricing, converting free members to freemium/paid or another acquisition?