NY TIMES - Oct 29 - In the two years since Tinder was released, the app has exploded, processing ~2B swipes each day and matching ~12M people. Tinder is fast approaching 50M active users. People log into the app 11 times a day. Women spend ~8.5 minutes on the app during a single session; men 7.2 minutes. All of this can add up to 90 minutes each day. On Tinder, there are no questionnaires to fill out. Ms. Carbino, who recently concluded a Ph.D. candidacy at the University of California, joined Tinder to help the company understand what kind of visual cues could cause a person to swipe “like” or “nope.” The style of clothing, the pucker of the lips and even the posture, Ms. Carbino said, tell us a lot about their social circle, if they like to party and their level of confidence. While companies like eHarmony still assert they have a “scientific approach” to helping people fall in love, some dating sites are starting to acknowledge that the only thing that matters is the picture.
TECH CRUNCH - Oct 30 - Elimi is a new dating app created by two Polish entrepreneurs Adam Labedzki and Sebastian Brzuzek. Using the app, users create questions and potential mates answer them. The banter goes on until one person is disgusted by the other or a match is made. The company raised $135K in seed investment from local Polish angels. They’ve hit about 1K users and have hosted 2K games so far. Many of the interactions are currently in Polish.
Mark Brooks: In theory its good to help singles interact using games. In fact they tend to focus on chatting and trying to get out on a date, as well they should.
WSJ - Oct 28 - Silicon Valley venture-capital firm Benchmark has taken an equity stake in Tinder and general partner Matt Cohler will join its board. The companies didn’t disclose the size of the stake, but Re/Code reported Benchmark didn’t invest any money. Instead, a small stake will be traded for Mr. Cohler’s time and expertise. the publication said.
Mark Brooks: This is a good sign. A major VC taking a stake in a dating app. This bodes very well.
This post also appears on InternetDatingInvestments.
VICE.COM - Oct 28 - Dead Meet is a dating site for people who work in the “death industry," which is basically anyone from gravediggers to medical historians to forensics officers to taxidermists. So far, it has 5K members. Carla Valentine started the site because of her own career in the death industry. She was an anatomical pathology technologist and was told by her manager not to discuss her working day with anyone. She wanted to find friends in the same profession.
Mark Brooks: I keep saying this, but now I mean it. I've now seen every niche dating site possible. Whats the most unusual niche site you've seen. Please comment...
THE ATLANTIC - Oct 27 - Many women say they've received harassing or offensive messages on dating sites. Many women feel overwhelmed and leave messages unreturned. One blogger recently ran an OkCupid experiment for which he set up five fake male and female profiles. After a week, all of the women had received at least one message, the most attractive women had received hundreds, but several of the men remained un-contacted. This kind of rejection can foment a kind of deep resentment among the male daters. A growing contingent of women are dedicated to exposing the shady, hostile, and crass entreaties they get from their digital suitors. There’s Straight White Boys Texting, Dudes of Tinder, a Tumblr collecting a combination of outlandish profile photos and gross messages, and ByeFelipe on Instagram.
Mark Brooks: The ByeFelipe Instagram is interesting. Why must the innocent suffer. Sigh.
OPW - Oct 29 - In one of the most significant fines imposed by a government on an online dating site, UK based JDI Dating Ltd was fined by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission $616,165 for use of fake profiles.
The FTC claimed that JDI dating and its owner William Mark Thomas misrepresented their fake members to lure consumers to pay for memberships. Called "virtual cupids," fake profiles were indicated by a small “v” encircled by a “C” and observed within the profile. The FTC viewed the icon as difficult to both see and understand.
Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection said, "JDI Dating used fake profiles to make people think they were hearing from real love interests and to trick them into upgrading to paid memberships. Adding insult to injury, users were charged automatically to renew their subscriptions – often without their consent.”
Apart from simply a fake profile, Steven Baker of the FTC said "this case involved the use of fake communication," between the user and JDI Dating.
The Restore Online Shoppers’ Confidence Act (ROSCA) requires members to consent to credit card charges and understand what they will be charged for and understand the methods of cancellation.
The settlement also required the following of JDI:
OPW was able to contact William Thomas by telephone. He said "JDI Dating denies the FTC's accusations but was happy to have reached a resolution of the government's claims that was acceptable to both parties."
This is the second time a UK based dating operation was exposed for fake profiles. The first was White Label Dating (Global Personals Ltd) in a television investigation by Channel 4 news.
- by Marc Lesnick, Internet Dating Conference
WSJ - Oct 29 - IAC’s Match Group reported revenue of $230.2M, an YOY increase of 12%. Dating revenue grew 5% due to 6% growth in North America and 3% growth in International. The growth in Dating revenue was driven by increased paid subscribers (up 9%). Adjusted EBITDA decreased 11%.
BCBUSINESS - Oct 21 - POF grew into one of the world’s most popular dating websites. Despite the popularity of its iPhone and Android apps, POF's old revenue model is under siege, as advertising doesn’t work well on the smaller screens of smartphones. POF will need to evolve to survive. POF CEO & Founder, Markus Frind, says that for people under the age of 35, 90% of POF’s visits now come from phones rather than web browsers. Frind says up to 60% of the company’s “tens of millions of EBITDA” still comes from its website. POF’s apps make money from upgraded memberships Frind is the first to admit monetization on mobile has a ways to catch up. Mark Brooks, one of the Internet dating industry’s few consultants, says that while Frind will never have the deep pockets of IAC, POF’s mobile numbers are promising. Now he just has to figure out how to make mobile visitors as valuable as its declining desktop ones. Brooks points to Craiglist for inspiration. “Most people think it’s entirely free,” he says, “and it is—except for people who want to advertise jobs, and they make a lot of money from that. Mobile is pretty much a land grab right now,” he says. “Grab as many users as you can, then figure out what to do with them.”
PEHUB - Oct 28 - San Diego-based SingldOut.com has raised $600K in seed funding from undisclosed investors. The startup, founded by two female execs, uses DNA analysis to determine if a potential date has the “chances for long-term chemistry, greater compatibility and overall relationship success.”
This post also appears on InternetDatingInvestments.
OPW INTERVIEW - Oct 28 - I first met Dr Song Li at iDate Beijing in 2007. He was one of the most active and participatory speakers and delegates of any iDate I've ever been to. He asked lots of questions, and shared lots of insights and opinions. Since then Match bought a 20% stake in Zhenai in 2011 (see news). I last interviewed Dr Song Li in 2008 (see interview), so its time for an update. (iDate Mobile will be in Beijing China in May, 2015). Here's my interview with luminary CEO Dr Li. - Mark Brooks
How does Zhenai work now? I understand you provide matchmaking over the phone?
Zhenai has been doing well. We expanded our service model based on online-to-call center matchmaking service into an online dating service (with the help of our strategic partner Match.com) and online-to-offline matchmaking service.
What service levels does Zhenai offer?
We now offer three types of dating/matchmaking services to a broad range of singles in China:
(1) Zhenai Online Dating through the website Zhenai.com and the mobile app Zhenai: This is similar to the service provided by Match.com in the U.S.: RMB 398 (US$64) for 12 months;
(2) Zhenai Online-to-Call Center Matchmaking: RMB 5,000 (US$800) for 6 months; with call-center-based matchmakers providing matchmaking services over the phone;
(3) Zhenai Online-to-Offline Matchmaking: For a wide range of subscription prices depending on the level of customization, but generally more expensive than Zhenai Online-to-Offline Matchmaking. With matchmakers providing face-to-face matchmaking services, This service is only available in the largest and most affluent cities in China.
Have you thought about expanding to the Chinese diaspora?
No plan at this point because we think that there is a big room for growth in China and we do not want to be distracted right now.
China has just surpassed the U.S. to become the world's largest ecommerce market in terms of total transaction value, and I think that the Chinese iDating market will catch up with the American one in revenue size before the end of this decade, so I want to focus on our domestic market.
Over the past decade, China has taken over the U.S. to become the No. 1 market for a wide range of consumer markets including TV sets, personal computers, smartphones, cars, now ecommerce, I don't see why the iDating market would be any different.
How has your partnership with IAC/Match gone so far?
We are truly quite happy about our partnership with IAC/Match, Match has been generous in providing its technology and operational experience to us. We have learned a lot about how to improve ROI and other critical operational metrics. What they have provided us is not just new capital but their almost two decades of experience in the Internet personals industry.
How would you say iDating in China is most different from iDating in the USA?
It was quite different as recent as three years ago because the payment infrastructure in this country was way behind that in the U.S. then, so doing pure online dating services was more challenging. But now our online payment infrastructure has significantly improved.
We can now adopt Match-like service models based on multi-month subscription offerings, and we have. Compared to Match.com, we are still disadvantaged in that we have to rely on online debit payment systems (which have become much better in China) but not on credit cards-based systems, so we can't have an auto-renewable subscription model yet, which means that it would not be economically viable to offer single monthly subscription packages at this point. You will certainly lose a significant amount of income from those who would have paid if single month subscription had been made available to them.
On the other hand, China has become the world's largest smartphone market, with some 800 million users, so mobile apps-based services including dating/matchmaking services have grown leaps and bounds in the past 3 years. Now a significant portion of Zhenai's revenues come from its mobile app.
What have you learned from iDating sites in USA recently?
I met the Tinder co-founder CEO Sean Rad 3 years ago and visited him recently in his Los Angeles office, I am very impressed with what he and his team have accomplished with their cool product of Tinder app. Unfortunately, it is very hard to create a Tinder-like product in China because, for Tinder to grow, you need to leverage Facebook to import the user's profile. I think that it is critical that Tinder-like dating apps are able to leverage real world friends-based sites like Facebook. China does not have a Facebook to leverage. We have a lot of social platforms for strangers with screen names and cats' pictures, which would be useless for Tinder types of products.
How many of your users login on mobile now, vs desktop?
I can't disclose the actual figure but some 40% of our new users now come from Zhenai's mobile app. The challenge we face now is that mobile users are growing faster than desktop users but the average age of our mobile users is younger --- generally speaking, paying customers tend to be more mature. Hopefully, with the passage of time, the situation will change because at some point every device, mobile or not, will be apps-based.
Post by Mark Brooks @
OPW - Oct 20 - Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and we're hungry! We want to know what you do to moderate your internet dating site? Please answer this survey and we'll let you know the results. The price of the survey results report is your time to fill it in.
If you work at an Internet dating site please take this 6 question survey https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/idatingmoderation.
This survey is kindly sponsored by Webpurify.com. Thanks for your time and consideration.
Post by Mark Brooks @
OPW - Oct 21 - There are just a few days remaining for you to submit nominations for the 2015 iDate Awards, as the deadline for receipt of nominations is October 31st. The iDate Awards recognize the most innovative online dating companies. You can nominate in the following categories:
PRESS RELEASE - Oct 27 - Dating Insights is a new patent-pending feature that allows members to see a holistic, data-based view of their dating activity and preferences as determined by Zoosk's Behavioral Matchmaking algorithm. Zoosk's Dating Insights is broken up into three sections: Who Likes You, Who You Like, Your Dating Style which sheds light on a member's activity levels and gives tips on how to use the information they've gathered through Dating Insights to become a more successful online dater.
Mark Brooks: Remember Dan Slaters book, Love In The Time Of Algorithms. Well, it got renamed to Data, A Love Story. Personally, I don't think users give two hoots about algorithms and data. These words are a huge turn off to users actually. What they care about is insight. And that's what Zoosk, and the rest of the industry, would do well to serve up more of. I applaud this new feature from Zoosk. So you have data, and algorithms, but users don't care until you show them what you can do with it! :-)
CHICAGO TRIBUNE - Oct 23 - A matchmaking school is reporting growing enrollment. "People have dating overload - they're on Tinder, Match, OKCupid," said Talia Goldstein, co-founder and CEO of Three Day Rule, Match.com's "white glove" matchmaking partner. "People are getting so confused by all the options that they are looking for someone to help them." Three Day Rule charges $3,5K for three months of personal matchmaking and $5K for a six-month package that includes date coaching, styling and professional photography. Some matchmakers say their clientele is getting younger. Business models among matchmakers vary widely. On the high end, Selective Search, charges $25K. 90% of the clients are men, who are matched with dates who do not pay for the service. On the other end is Project Fixup, a startup that charges $20 per setup.
HUFFINGTON POST - Oct 23 - A new study published in the Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication describes an online dating "tipping point," when too much online communication before a first date causes a person to idealize someone they're interacting with prior to actually meeting them face to face. That "tipping point" occurs after 17 to 23 days, according to the study.
BUSINESS INSIDER - Oct 22 - Like Tinder, Hinge lets users see profiles of single people nearby. They can like or nix a profile. Unlike Tinder, Hinge only connects friends of friends. At the end of 2012, Hinge only had $32K left in the bank. Justin McLeod's, Hinge's founder and CEO, raised $100K a few months prior, but only a few thousand people were using it. $25,000 went to a hail-mary pass: a massive 2K-person launch party in Washington. Two weeks before the party, Apple rejected Hinge's app. The morning of the party, Apple finally approved the app. Hinge is now one of New York's hottest startups. In July Hinge raised $4.5M, bringing its total funding to $8.6M. The app makes ~8M matches a month. (Tinder, by comparison, makes 15M matches per day).
THE STAR - Oct 21 - Between is a couples app that started three years ago by South Korean mobile app company. Moving beyond the Korean market, Between was made available in Malaysia last year when the company expanded its operations to the South-East Asian region. Between is a private social network between two people where they can keep in touch via IM as well as save and share photos of their special moments together.