COMPUTERWORLD -- Feb 13 -- Dating services don't delete your data. "We have an archiving strategy, but we don't delete," says Joseph Essas, eHarmony's VP technology. Users who return later don't have to fill out the 400-question profile again. TRUE retains the data indefinitely. But PlentyofFish deletes records after six months to a year of inactivity. Though rare, legal actions have been filed in cases ranging from date rape to sexual harassment. Ross Williams, CEO at White Label Dating, says the prospect of offering highly targeted advertising based on demographic, behavioral, psychological and profile data is attractive. "If I have a hair product for men, I don't think there are any places online other than online dating where you can get that [demographic data]." That type of information, Williams says, gives online dating sites a unique competitive opportunity, if they're willing to exploit it.
Mark Brooks, editor of Online Personals Watch, sees highly targeted marketing as inevitable. He says traditional "interruption marketing" -- rollovers, pop-ups and so forth -- hasn't worked well on Internet dating sites because users don't pay attention to the ads and thinks ad-supported sites such as PlentyofFish should leverage profiles to target users with contextual offers that would be of most interest to them. "Advertising is an annoyance. The only way it will work [well] is through the power of the friendly referral," he says. But for now, PlentyofFish's Frind says the site's current advertising model, which lets advertisers target users based on basic demographic information, is working just fine, with a higher click-through rate than social networking sites and $10 million in ad revenue last year.
Mark Brooks: Advertising that is highly targeted, timely and relevant is a service to your users. iDating sites have the richest profile info on the net. Eventually we'll make use of this data to serve our users more effectively by 'recommending' interesting lifestyle products to them. (Full Disclosure: POF and White Label Dating are current clients of Courtland Brooks)