Q: What is Online Personals Watch? Why did you start the service and how would you describe it to our general readership?
A: I was at Friend Finder and my friends were forwarding lots of news pieces to me but I never found time to read it. So I thought wouldn't it be great if there was a website that summarized the news down. I couldn't find it so I decided to start it. OPW is a service to the executives and the press..
Q: Our typical online dater is probably not your primary audience here; could they gain some value though from periodically checking out your site?
A: It's not targeted at them but it’s rather useful information. If they’re considering joining a particular website, then they can look up a particular company and read up on them and see if they really trust that company based on the news and what the executives have said.
Q: You're not only the editor of OPW, you're also the industry’s insider and consultant to dating sites.
A: My consulting company -- Courtland Brooks -- sits in the middle of the industry. We use OPW to gather information and build good will among the press and executives and people who want to do business with the internet dating industry and within the industry. Courtland Brooks does PR, business development and strategic advisement.
Q: How many clients do you have on your roster?
A: We have capacity for 6 to 12 at any time and right now we have eight.
Q: What are the pros and cons of niche sites compared to general dating sites for daters?
A: Niche dating has made us aware that everybody has a “thing". There are dating sites that look after them on that account too. I think generic sites serve people who want to have more activity. The large sites are generic. The niche sites are generally the smaller sites in the industry.
Q: Do you foresee niche sites overtaking major dating brands like Match or Yahoo, or do you think that niche sites will always be the minority?
A: Categorically niche sites will always be the minority. In short, there are many niche dating sites. I did a study recently that showed that 34% of dating sites in 2006 were niche dating sites, in 2008 43% of them were niche sites and those numbers are based on over 1000 dating sites. There are more niche dating sites springing up because there are more entrepreneurs entering the business.
Q: You seem like a big proponent of technology. What do you see as the most promising trend that user can see in 2009?
A: I would like to think that we're going to see some considerably improvements on personal profiling systems. The second area of improvement is communication. I'm surprised that dating sites haven't offered the ability to connect people via the phone. That seems to be a huge gaping mission for the services.
Q: Is mobile dating popular in any part of the world?
A: USA has been a laggard in terms of scrunching the user experiences onto small phones but that is not going to matter because the USA loves the iPhone. If you look at the likes of India and China, the only way can get online and enjoy those improved information retrieval and communication tools was on the mobile phone. So they got used to and were willing to settle for the compromised experience.
Q: We have now one State that has passed legislation requiring dating sites to disclose whether they conduct background screenings on members. Do you see that trend continuing?
A: I just don't see why people are not willing to provide so much transparency to their identity. I think if you have nothing to hide then why hide? So I think in time we're going to see more improved tools for checking people's reputations. Background checks I think are good for the industry as a differentiator.
FULL ARTICLE @ ONLINE DATING MAGAZINE