Online Personals Watch Interview-CEO of Plentyoffish.com, Markus Frind - Online Personals Watch: News on the Online Dating Industry and Business

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Fernando Ardenghi

As he said "I make money off the ads upselling to other sites."
His site has all free users (the daters) and some paying clients (the advertisers)
Is he really within the Dating Industry? or only in the Internet Ads Industry?
The source of its revenue: ADS
Is PlentyofFish.com only a CHEAP CHANNEL for deliver ADS?


As he said "I’m sitting at over 50% market share and in the next 6 months I will double the size of the dating industry in Canada."
Is he really going to DOUBLE the size of the dating industry in Canada?
or
is HE GOING TO intend to TRANSFER tired_free_users from Match.com to PlentyofFish.com??? i.e. free_users who will be posting their same_profile OR their multiple_profiles to different free sites.

He did not even say a word about Future / Possible Legislation.

-----------------------------

Symptoms:
Consumers are getting tired of many actual Online Dating Sites: databases full of fake profiles, low reliable matches/contacts.
Many Online Dating Sites can not increase revenue, nor conversion rates.
Is the whole market nearly USD600million for Online Dating Sites and USD500million for OffLine Chains, but these last are increasing their revenue/profit and Online Dating Sites are decreasing theirs?
Do many Online Dating Sites only exist in order to allow OffLine Chains earn money?

Diagnostic: Two types of consumers:
Free_User: most probably he/she is not interested in serious dating; he/she uses the service for fun.
Paying_Client: wants to pay for the service to avoid being hurt in his/her feelings by other persons and needs quality contacts (compatible real persons)

Fortunately the U.S. OnLine Dating market opportunity remains enormous. (page 6)
http://media.corporate-ir.net/media_files/irol/11/111999/presentations/IAC_Personals.pdf

Sooner I hope new Quality_Contacts_Provider/Quality_Online_Dating_Sites will be launched (A mix between eHamony's type and OffLine Chains' type)

The MUST HAVE marketing theory: Any prospective client must have almost ONE VALID reason to buy a product or pay for a service subscription. Applying this concept to Online Dating Industry:

Reason #1: PRECIOUS TIME more valuable than MONEY.
Nothing is real free!!! Many persons speak/write about or promote the FREE condition of a dating site; they are only CHEAP CHANNELS for deliver ADS, i.e. infomercial_advertainment companies on the web. When you post your profile to a FREE dating site or when you search for compatible real persons, you are spending precious time. TIME that you are paying with your LIFE. If you quantify the time you spent in a FREE dating site, suppose USD5.00/hour x 45 hours (1/2 hour x 3 months) == USD225.00, USD75/month!!! It is worth than many SERIOUS dating site's subscription fee!!!!

Reason #2: AVOID BEING HURT IN OWN FEELINGS
A client will pay a fee to create a barrier which will avoid free users, who could hurt other clients' feelings. "If any person does not pay for the service or does not want to pay for the service, he or she is not interested in serious dating, or is not interested in investing time and effort in building a new relationship with future in mind"

Reason #3: AVOID LOW RELIABILITY/ LOW QUALITY CONTACTS
FREE/CHEAP sites will disappear soon because most probably Legislation&Consumers will kill them. Sooner many free_users will realize/understand that spending time and effort searching low_reliable profiles in free/cheap dating sites (a lot of hours contacting persons with low success rate, low satisfaction index) is more expensive than paying a fee to a quality contacts provider! It means the Flight to Quality; Serious Online Daters will demand Quality like the one provided by Off Line Chains!!!


Kindest Regards,

Fernando Ardenghi.
Buenos Aires.
Argentina.
[email protected]

Bill Broadbent

A long overdue interview - and well done Mark. People may have laughed at his name and his model - I'll be the guy saying "remember me Markus" when he hits the exit lottery. His model is brilliant. If major dating sites are not discussing his model in strategy discussions - those firms have their heads deep inside somewhere between their heels and their shoulders and will be the firms scratching their head wondering what the hell happened. Fernando - in the end all dating sites that survive are marketing sites. So however you want to look at it - as simple as his site is and as much as I think he could pick a better name (call me crazy - but I don't think people don't want to be referred to as "fish" and I know cases where that will get you slapped), I'd say he is kicking butt as a dating site.

Peter Caputa

The singles market is ridiculous huge. And there is certainly room for models based on different revenue streams. I've attempted contacting Markus through his site to talk about affiliate marketing for events as a revenue stream, but have not heard back. I have a handful of clients that are singles event planners/matchmakers/dating coaches, but we lack the ability to reach a critical mass of single people in a given geography. I'd appreciate an introduction, Mark.

-Peter Caputa
WhizSpark.

Markus Frind

The market is certianlly changing. I've been approached by a lot of VC's lately. They all want to invest invest 10 to 30 million. They all say paid dating is dead, and they are all afraid they might miss the boat by not investing in a free daitng site. Ie they expect the leader to become a myspace or facebook. As for the name, girls totally love it, and it is unbeatable for branding/recall.


I don't partner with singles events, I already run the largest singles events network there is. My events are in many many cities and have between 200 and 2,000 people showing up to each event.

Peter Caputa

You're the man, homey.

Fernando Ardenghi

"The market is certainly changing. I've been approached by a lot of VC's lately. They all want to invest invest 10 to 30 million. They all say paid dating is dead, and they are all afraid they might miss the boat by not investing in a free dating site."

Perhaps the VC's are only interested in the database, the intangible asset (and the only one asset) of your company.


I recommend to read again the page 22 of the report CONSUMERS ARE HAVING SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT ONLINE DATING Are the Real Benefits Getting Lost in Over Promises?; written by the company WeAttract.

///…it should not be too surprising that online dating may have unanticipated consequences.
In fact, studies of major technologies and inventions (from cell phones to antibiotics to cars) have found a repeated pattern of:

- Intensity of spread and excitement

- Disaster or highly publicized damage is observed

- Reform occurs in the industry

- Vigilance by industry and consumers become necessary.


If online dating follows this trend, we can expect problems to arise that will bring the intensity period to an end. This is not an inevitable cycle. The question for the online dating industry is:
What level of disaster will it take to lead to reform and new guidelines in the industry? Will the disaster have to occur on your own site before you make changes?……///


http://onlinepersonalswatch.typepad.com/news/2005/03/yahoo_news_weat.html


My bet: By 2008 free online dating sites like PlentyofFish will no longer exist.


Kindest Regards,


Fernando Ardenghi.
Buenos Aires.
Argentina.
[email protected]

Sam Moorcroft

Ya got my vote, Fernando!;-)

(with apologies to Mr. Broadbent!)

Bill Broadbent

How much are you betting Fernando - because you can count me on that one. Unlike oil companies buying alternative energy technologies and shelfing them, the big players can't shelf this because there is no huge barrier of entry. He is making money off of all kinds of people he is attacking - it's brilliant because somebody is going to be willing to buy the traffic. I buy it - cause it converts. So rather than seeing it disappear, the big players will have no choice but to embrace this model and work together (or through Google getting the middleman money)

Bill Broadbent

No apologies necessary Sam - but I think it would be a mistake to ignore that hockey stick.

Sam Moorcroft, ChristianCafe.com

It would be a mistake if I was playing in the same rink as Match.com et al, which I am not.

Jennifer Dinwell

I am truly impressed by reading about Markus Frind and his Plentyoffish.com Dating Site. Free Dating is here to stay and I know our site Webdatedepot.com is most likely over 100 times smaller than his, but yet we are still growing at a decent rate.

I would tend to think larger sites will cave in an have no choice but to reduce their insane rates they charge to stay competitive with the community based free sites like myspace and plentyoffish.The larger sites will face losing market share and income as the free sites take it away by offering a quality dating site totally free.

Hats of to you Markus !

Jen

Markus Frind

Thanks Jen.

I think the major sites know what is going on, it doesn't take a genius to be able to plot the hitwise graph and see that Plentyoffish will become the largest dating service in north america when combined with my CDN traffic later this year. I can assume there will be a lot of media publicity, from story like, Man works 2 hours a day and takes over a billion dollar industry.

Most people seem to be missing the bigger picture. I am doing this all on 1 webserver and 1 database server, as well as a email and image server. Everyone in the industry knows there is no difference between a free site and a paid site in terms of infustructure needed. To do billing you typically run a process before midnight and takes 5 seconds to complete.

Match has well over 600 servers, americansingles well over 200 servers. Both are spending over a million a month on tech costs AND they have 1/5th to 1/10th the query cost to handel per average pageview.
This makes Plentyoffish a classic case of Disruptive technology. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Disruptive_technology

James J.

Why do they need to spend so much more than you do, Markus?

Jen Dinwell

Markus,

I think what a lot do not understand is that having to chase accounts to collect monthly fees takes more than one person to run that show and this is why these sites have a huge payroll.
Users want the experience and community based interaction. Now they have found what they want and without those monthly fees.

With your site running 400 million page/views a month surely everyone will want to get some exposure there and it will come down to who will pay to have their ad there.

Markus you have a created one large media empire and I would expect you are just the thorn in the side of the large pay sites and certainly they will be going to break the bank to try to take you out before long. But I also think they should know that you have demonstrated your talent and might not give in that easy to just cash as you are certainly a force to that can rule the dating world simply by offering more for less. I would venture to guess that by the end of 2006 your site will be doing over 1 Billion page/views a month if not before. The proverbial thorn will become a large pole.

Best Regards,
Jennifer
WebDateDepot.com

Sam Moorcoft

So, let me get this straight: we have two free dating sites patting each other on the back about how great they are and now they are going to "take over" the paid dating sites.

Have you compared Match.com with POF or WDD? The latter two are virtually *covered* with ads, so much so that it is all you can do to stay focussed and not be driven absolutely nuts.

Let me hazard to suggest that daters on free sites are not the same consumers as as those on paid sites.

The former flit about to and fro and don't take it seriously; the latter are serious about finding a mate.

Who would you rather go on a date with: someone who is too cheap to spring for $30 for a month or someone who is? I would venture to guess that the former will take you to Mickey Dee's; the latter to a, uh, classier place.

And, lost in all the mentions of higher bandwidth, servers, marketing, and staffing costs is that a (granted, select) group of us are making a royal killing in offering paid services from a market that has no problem slapping down a credit card for a quality service.

You can hardly offer a quality service with a staff of one.

Alexander Shetinin

Those who are little bit older or I should say, have a bigger e-commerce experience, remember free ISPs. Where are they now? Dead. All of them.
As a fella Canadian, I wish Markus to be an exception, but I came from the practical side of the business. And the experience says, Markus, take your money and run!
Your business is a dead cat walking. It's not a dating really. Anyone out there, especially ladies, would you date anyone who can't put together $10 to $20 to sign up for a decent site?
It's a pure social network, where people log in just to hang out or night butterflys advertise their business or Nigerian "businessmen" spam intensively.
Let's be honest, the site is terrible in all respects including the design, the technology, the customer service and so on.
It's rather a parody on a dating site. Nonetheless, it carries traffic and a lot of them.
Markus, there is nothing to be proud of if Match.com can afford and has servers and you don't. You can't even afford a decent design. Most of your photos are deformed. I'd treat it as a disgrace. What, you can't reformat them the right way and put 'em back in 100 x 100 thumbnails?
What Markus really deserves the credit for is SEO. Nothing else. Try Google search on "dating" and variations. Who's at the very top? It's our friend Markus. That's the business he is in.
As for dating, it's not his cup of tea. Leave it to those who have capability to provide service, as opposed to just imitate it.
Oh yeh, legislation. He doesn't care. And he is right 100%. His business is Canadian and his business doesn't fall under the "dating providers" definition from the full text of the legislation, because he doesn't charge a penny. Well done, Markus, a man showing an increadable ability to be lucky.
Can I hire you, Markus, to do some SEO for me?

Alexander Shetinin
www.sweetduet.net
[email protected]

Alexander Shetinin

Wow! What a time!
Everything changes faster than one can say "Huh!"
Markus is no longer stuffs daters' profiles with Google ads. That's good.
But as a result he's no longer at the top of the search results. Not so good for him.
So it's goona be interesting to see if Markus can defy gravity and fly. I only wish him all the very best though not being a big fan of the job he's doing.
I just wanted to notice some similarities between unprofessionally ran free sites such as Markus's Fish and craigslist.org.
Terrible design, stone age technology, no support, no CRM, no marketing, don't do what they were meant to do, but everything is free and... suprise, suprise!... people love them. Even their historical traffics look similar: slow growth at first, then push fellowed but a pullback, then exponential growth.
Frankly, I find Fernando with his long quotes being annoying and missing the point all the time. But now he may be right. 2008 or 2006 but plentyoffish.com as we know it will leave the arena.
Markus will understand eventually that you can't really live on $5,000 to $6,000 a month that Google allows him to make. No one will be interested in a low quality traffic consisting of underaged youngsters and homeless people with no credit cards and that has 0 conversion.
Markus, if you are in TO one day drop me a line, we'll have a coffee and try to figure out what to do with your creature untill you lost it completely. Hopefully, Sam will joint us.

Regards

markus

It amazes me how many self styled experts/ arm chair generals are completely clueless. Sites like ivillage make $8-10 million a month off advertising. Yet according to "experts" sites larger sites like plentyoffish can't even make 10k a month?

As time goes on, i'm sure that many people will begin to realize that paid dating is based on a unsustainable business model. In my opinion there will be at least a 75% reduction in paying members over the next 3 to 4 years.

Jennifer

Alexander, How can you think a site like POF make 5 to 6k a month on google ?

I would bet with the traffic that pof gets that figure you mention is daily not monthly.

Jenn

Sharon

I have noticed another free dating site eDate.com. It is a 100% free site like plentyoffish.com. I signed up as a user and it isn't as fast as plentyoffish but I did contact the owner directly. He assured me that eDate.com will always be free and that it will be of the highest quality in the near future.

So, will plenty of fish have to look out for other free competitors or is the market big enough. Can eDate.com and other free sites like it take away from plentyof fish like free sites are taking away from fee online dating sites.

Mike

I think POF will have lots to worry about in the future. Sites like romanticsingles.com are definitely up and coming, at least based on traffic they attract. We'll see I suppose.

chris

You all forgot to mention 100% FREE Dating site - www.CozyDating.com

CozyDating.com is catching up to all the other sites and becoming to a big player in the 100% Free Dating Community. Make sure to look out for us.

Shelly

Some of these events bring in 2000 people? Where are they held, football stadiums? How can anyone ever hope to find "the one" in that mass of people, you probably can't find the bathroom!

Being in the advertising and marketing field, I have to say 'Kudos' to Markus for his success at raking in all that cash he makes "off the ads upselling to other sites," but isn't PoF supposed to be a successful dating site, or is it really an advertising site that you can also look at pictures of single people on?

MLH

I think he'll enjoy success for a few more years... then he should sell...
I (disgruntled user)didn't particularly enjoy
being run through the fish sorting algorithm...
sooner or later...
sorting people,
and who they can contact,
using that method will result in nobody being able to contact anyone...
good for him...
I'm glad he's making money...
I hope he invests it wisely...
I've been reading this page...
and I've heard comment's like Low quality
contacts etc...
and really...
except for spam...
people will resent being treated like a number, or low quality anything...
I remember yahoo when it was free...
and it really wasn't that useful...
so a $20 monthly fee didn't improve it...
PoF is just as unless...
but it has the advantage of being free...
unless you count the aggravation of swimming up stream against his filter...
then it makes yahoos $20 seem more reasonable
I want to be able to browse the whole data base...
if I inadvertently look ant mostly smokers...
I don't want to be excluded from looking at non smokers...
(I'm a non smoker)
I wonder if the size of his member database includes profiles of people who don't really use his service anymore...
because they find it to prejudice or judgmental...
but probably... that isn't really irrelevant here...
because this sight is all about
the Numbers AKA $$$
but at some point the service will
effect the revenue...
but people aren't fish... they're sheep...
so it probable won't happen for some time...
but like I said... invest your money wisely...
and sell at the top of the curve...
because...
like all good plans poorly executed...
Plenty of Fish will be replaced by something else...

MLH

ps...
here is a thread detailing some of the reasons people flee PoF...
http://www.matchdoctor.com/forums-6-1388-8.aspx#259179
you won't find any threads detailing the shortcoming of PoF... on his page,
because he wisely deletes any criticism,
constructive or otherwise...

Date-O-Mat

Well, guys... Markus is not doing 4000-5000$ a month ... surprise, surprise he is turning 300.000 $ a month and is Google #1 earner. So, I call this a real business, which will be a threat to sites charging chrazy fees to their members. Good luck Markus!

Chris_kc

I'm laughing it up at the pay sites whining away about Markus and his creation. Sounds like just so much sour grapes to me. Hats off to Markus for defining a business model that works for both subscribers and site owners.

I was a paying user at yahoo until their business practices drove me away. Between their unauthorized credit card billings and the fact that a HUGE percentage of their users can't respond due to no subscriptions, the paid site business model has nothing to offer me that I can't get for free elsewhere.

Sure.... I would love to see Markus and PoF with rows of shiny new servers to make my photos look pretty, but considering that I am not getting raped for $25 each and every month, I don't mind the crummy rendering.

Yahoo, Match and the rest of the paid sites have repeatedly abused their subscribers for too long and are now starting to pay the price for their misdeeds. About time, too!

Mark

Free online dating vs paid online dating: Neither side will win 100%. This race is a marathon not a sprint.
http://www.profileapproval.com

Shawn Sears

Well, I think free dating will win at the end

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