OPW - Feb 5 - The 2010 Internet Dating Conference was held from January 27th through January 29th at the Miami Beach Convention Center. iDate Miami is the largest single gathering of online dating CEOs, matchmakers, and social networking executives in one room. iDate2010 also included the first annual iDate Awards, results for which can be found here.
The hottest topic of the event was the competition between free sites and pay sites, as well as the convergence of the two models into an increasingly popular “freemium” model. PlentyofFish and OKCupid dominate the free dating site market and have pioneered the new “freemium” business model in which users of free sites can enhance their profile for a nominal fee. PlentyofFish offers a Serious Dater badge and OKCupid has its A-List upgrade.
Mark Brooks, editor of OPW, delivered his annual industry review addressing the top news stories and online dating trends for 2009. During the year, internet dating sites worldwide received 113 million visitors, a key indicator that the stigma of online dating is a thing of the past. Among the big stories for the year were the purchase of PeopleMedia by Match parent company IAC and Meetic's purchase of Match Europe operations. There were several key trends for the year, such as the strong growth of niche dating, the increasing importance of mobile messaging as a “must have” feature, and the implementation of personality profiling on a growing number of sites.
The Internet Dating Executive Alliance, or IDEA, hosted a brainstorming session on ways to improve revenue for online dating sites. IDEA members Scot McKay, Bill Broadbent and Sandira Calviac offered their best ideas to the conference attendees. One of the key suggestions was offering users more services beyond the typical dating functions. Scot McKay of X&Y Communications believes sites should increase conversion and retention by encouraging more creativity in profiles with free-form inputs instead of check boxes. Bill Broadbent, Instinct Marketing, believes sites should create a network of niche sites and cross-sell. Sandira Calviac was a strong proponent of offering lifestyle enhancing products and services such as personal development books and travel.
Manhunt's Jonathan Crutchley delivered an informative overview of the gay online dating market. According to Mr. Crutchley, the average subscription on Manhunt is 15 months, opposed to the 3 month average on traditional sites. Additionally, men married to woman account for 30% of the gay dating business. Brazil is the largest gay dating market outside of the United States.
Sam Yagan, CEO of OKCupid, presented his thoughts on the online dating industry. He discussed the rise of the “freemium” model which is where a site has free limited use with the option to pay for added features. Mr. Yagan also believes that sites should communicate more with their customers through blogs and social media in order to build deep bonds.
Dr. Eva Ritvo from the University of Miami School of Medicine offered her insights into increasing female retention on internet dating sites. She suggests appealing to a woman's instinctive behaviors. According to Dr. Ritvo, sites need to do a better job of protecting and educating women about dating.
She also encourages dating sites to focus on boosting self confidence, as women tend to see themselves as 20% less attractive than other see them.
Steve Faktor, American Express, gave his insights on the economic factors in the current online dating market. More people are switching to lower cost entertainment, fueling the growth of online dating. Women increasingly have stronger and more stable incomes. There is also a trend of longer relationships prior to marriage, which is likely to affect dating sites in the coming years.
The Internet Dating Conference was ended with the traditional Final Panel Debate. This lively discussion was dominated by the free site versus paid site battle. In the end, it was evident that free sites and paid sites have a form of symbiotic relationship which serves to advance the dating industry as a whole. There was also a general consensus that the best way for a new site to enter the market is to find a niche that is under-served.
The next Internet Dating Conference will be held in Beverly Hills from June 16th through June 18th. For more information, visit www.idate2010.com.