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Tech Crunch 50 is today. Practically everyone who matters in the Internet space is there. Why should you care? If you’re a dating site executive, you are are probably focused on driving traffic and conversion rates. But do you ever actually stop and think about how your service functions or how it could be improved? Or are you one of those people who think that every dollar spent on functionality is a dollar that could be spent on marketing?

I can’t tell you how many dating executives I talk to who are out of touch with their own site. Many don’t even have a profile up! The first thing I do when starting a project with dating site clients is to sign up for their service with them at the same time. That conversation alone usually nets me a few days of work, as the executive begins to see their site in a whole new light.

If you work for a dating site you should stop what you’re doing and go get some inspiration from the amazing startups at TechCrunch50. I’m picking up the vibe of the presenters and quality of the startups on Twitter and just started watching the live feed of the event. The TechCrunch50 Aggregator links to every possible blog talking about the event.

Not all presenters are relevant to online dating and social networking but I think it’s important to soak up the energy and excitement these startups generate. Or you can go back to looking at conversion funnels and banner ads and ignore how recent innovations might improve your business without having to increase your marketing spend. It’s your call.

So far, Hangout.net looks interesting.

Hangout Industries is a stealth-mode, venture-backed start-up in Boston, MA that is combining the best of the web and 3D to create cool new user experiences that you haven’t seen before. Hangout was founded by a combination of web entrepreneurs and gaming pioneers who have a passion for blending technology with creativity and innovation.

Static profiles are dead. User-generated content is driving everything these days. Sure a profile essay is created by users, but do the squint test. Visit Match.com and look at a profile from behind your chair while squinting your eyes a bit. Now look at another profile, and another. They all look similar. Go do the same thing at any other dating site. Every profile page looks identical.

Match has the best layout and design in the business, but you have to rely on the person’s ability to write about themselves to figure out if they are worth a cup of coffee. And we know how good singles are at writing about themselves.

Check out these screenshots. Would you rather look at a an environment personalized by the owner or a generic text-based dating profile? Which one tells you more about a person? Can’t do it here, but believe me, the squint test is a lot more revealing in a richer multimedia environment.


omnidatescreenshot.jpgimvu2.jpg Hangout reminds me of IMVU and OmniDate. Hangout seems to provide more feedback about a person without actually having to spend time in a chat.

When Omnidate told me people were spending over 30 minutes in chats, part of me cringed. That’s a great engagement metric, but I don’t have that kind of time, just give me my list of compatible women and I’ll take it from there.

Websites want people to spend more time on them, while people want to spend less time on websites. Talk about a catch-22.

Of course there are always times where you want to spend half an hour chatting with someone online before (or after) you meet them. There’s a market for those people and OmniDate is leading the way for the time being. But they need to close some big deals soon, otherwise a company doing mediated chat or something similar in the social networking space is going to come in and take over the market.

Most of the time, I’d like to see what it feels like to lounge on your virtual couch, listen to your music and see what you’re paying attention to and what’s important. We’ve been doing this in SecondLife for years, why not on the web?

We’ve all been on social networks for a while. We understand the benefits of newsfeeds, friend networks and personal expression through multimedia and design. When we weigh these exciting new ways to promote and discover each other with static dating profiles, just ask yourself, where would you prefer to find your next date? Think about that, and make sure to at least browse the TechCrunch50.

I have to go feed the virtual puppy I bought on Facebook, he’s going to kick the bucket if I don’t feed him soon.