Great article about OKCupid in the New York Times, Looking for a Date? A Site Suggests You Check the Data.
In its fight against much bigger competitors like Match.com, PlentyOfFish and eHarmony, it has tried a number of marketing techniques, often with little success. But the blog, which OkCupid started in October, has helped get the company’s name out on other blogs and social networks. A post last month that set out to debunk conventional wisdom about profile pictures brought more than 750,000 visitors to the site and garnered 10,000 new member sign-ups, according to the company.
The research obviously took a lot of time and resources, but If this doesn’t once and for all show the dating industry that there is a huge upside to being more open and informative while helping members make the most out of the online dating experience, I don’t know what will. 750,000 visitors based on a blog post!
These days I am inundated with dating site social media spam clogging up Twitter with cloaked affiliate links and T&A photo enticements. This sort of lowest-common-denominator marketing will continue because it’s cheap traffic, but I like to think that sites taking more focused on branding and efficiently are the ones who will grow the most and succeed in the long run.
Someone should do a comparison between social media traffic results and generic dating site marketing like Adwords. It would be fascinating to see comparisons between cost and effectiveness.
The OKCupid article went viral primarily because it’s something people had never read about before. It was re-tweeted many times, and media attention begets more media attention. It wasn’t 101-level dating advice like “brush your teeth before a date” like so many dating site magazines publish (with a few exceptions, which I will be talking about in coming weeks.) The tone of the blog post was not that of an academic paper, which would never have gotten the same level of exposure.
Greg Waldorf, chief executive of eHarmony, which says it has more than 20 million registered users, was dismissive of the marketing power of OkCupid’s blog reports.
Of course he was. Waldorf’s quote is garden variety CEO-speak. I understand media quotes that position a brand against competitors, but that level of snarkiness in unnecessary. eHarmony clearly doesn’t understand the importance of great profile photos, which is inexplicable.
And what’s with the 20 million registered users comment? There are lawsuits brewing over statements like that. Shame on eHarmony and Match for using these irrelevant numbers in the media. They are both going to get spanked over these statements, just you wait and see. Monthly logins is a number I’d like to see used instead.
Eharmony doesn’t have to be concerned about OKCupid, but to be dismissive of the research is an indicator of just how out of touch eHarmony has become. The trend is toward openness and empowering singles, and that’s the polar opposite of how eHarmony works.
EHarmony doesn’t share anything. They are like the North Korea of the online dating industry. A big black box and a giant marketing machine. They have their top-5 position in the marketplace and will be there for many, many years to come. It’s imperative to understand how brilliantly eHarmony built the company, from the $100 million dollar early fundraising, to the commercials, and the fact that eHarmony is perfect for busy and lazy people who don’t feel like spending five hours a week on Match and need a lot of handholding.
Eharmony’s empire is built on a matching system that nobody really understands outside of the company. It’s probably the best black-box compatibility system available and there is nothing any competitors can do about it. Except Chemistry, which is spending tens of millions of dollars to take the edgy/urban/alternative people away from eHarmony, with varying degrees of success.
I wish someone could compare eHarmony to Chemistry.com and Perfectmatch. In the meantime, the Catalyst Group in New York has done an exhaustive comparison of Match and eHarmony, A Usability Study of Online Dating is the best review of two dating sites I’ve ever seen. Every dating industry executive should read the entire report.
While I’m at it, I would also like to see IAC break out Match and Chemistry financials and to report each PeopleMedia property on it’s own. Hey, we can dream.
PlentyOfFish thinks I’ve got a crush on OKCupid, and it’s true. I will not hide the fact that I believe that OKCupid is hands-down the best introduction site for urban, sex-positive, educated, liberated and worldly singles. No other site even comes close.
In fact, I unsubscribed from PlentyOfFish today. Longtime readers know that I subscribe and unsubscribe from dating sites all the time, and this time it’s POF. I’ve been on numerous great OKCupid dates recently and for me, personally, POF just isn’t delivering. And it’s not like PlentyOfFish is going to change anytime soon, at least from the member perspective. So I’m out, at least for a while. I’m going to replace POF with Match.
Maybe I’ll re-join eHarmony, but I’ve been on that ride before, not expecting a different experience, but it’s good to go through the signup process every once in a while to see what’s changed.
Note: not belonging to a dating site doesn’t mean I ignore it. I have logins all over the place, and my favorite market research has always been pulling out the laptop with friends and having them log into their favorite sites and search and emailing people together.
One final bit about PlentyofFish before I sign off. I’m sure that people in the dating industry have discussed these topics ad nausea, but I ran into POF execs at iDate and wanted to clarify my thoughts.
For a handful of people up in Canada running an international site nearing 100 million monthly logins, their stratospheric grow is unprecedented and worthy of a business school case study someday.
As a business, POF is trying to break through to the next level. The company is doing everything it can to monetize the stupefying number of logins it receives each month. Word on the street is that in Canada POF is landing higher-class advertisers, which I don’t see when I log in here in Boston. Anything they can do to lessen the number of slutty ads will be a bonus for all users and raise revenue accordingly.
Problem is, the company is too small, not to mention the fact that reliance on advertising is never going to get them to that magical $30-$50 million in revenue. What was once a bragging right has become a hindrance. To begin with, they need to broaden the team. Five people can’t possibly build out the strategy and execution plan that gets a free dating site from $15 million to $30 million. Not being critical of management, just realistic of the efforts involved and how revenue growth tends to swell the ranks.
While I’m certainly an avid OKCupid fan, PlentyofFish has a much larger opportunity to grow, especially internationally. Markus and the team need to focus on evolving the definition of the company from “we’re popular” to “we’re successful,” and that is no small feat.