OPW INTERVIEW - Sep 1 - Jeff Taylor is the founder of Monster.com. He went on to create a social networking service for people over 40, Eons.com. He recently helped create Meetcha.com, a dating site for people over 40. Jeff is joined by COO Linda Natansohn in this interview. - Mark Brooks
You started Monster.com. What led you to start Eons.com?
Jeff: I spent more than 10 years migrating the job section of the newspaper from print to online with Monster. And I always saw the obituary section sitting there and I wondered why it wasn’t migrating. And so, that gave me the idea to focus in on this classified section, primarily consumed by Boomers, which became part of my idea for Eons. Baby boomers that I knew weren’t interested in retiring. Eons became an incubator and we launched digital properties for boomers. The first one was eons.com, the place for boomers. It started out as a portal and evolved into a social network for opinionated baby boomers, ready to live a wonderful, full life, as opposed to only thinking about retiring.
The age range is 45 to 60. About 15 million unique visitors have come to the site since we launched in August 2006. We currently have about 800,000 registered users, and we get about 400,000 unique visitors per month. 60% of our users are women, who are also twice as engaged as men.
Eons is a friendship engine. Unlike Facebook, where you know most of the people, on eons.com you’re meeting people with the same passions and interests. Our groups platform has really caught on and has become very important. Our members have created almost 4000 groups on the site.
If you’re interested in climbing Machu Pichu or going on a cruise, there’s no place like Eons to find somebody to go with. Our members created these things called SKITs, which are “Spending your Kid’s Inheritance Tours”. Basically these are trips to Las Vegas, or trips to Fort Lauderdale, where they go on a cruise, or a cruise to Alaska. Great friendships form online at eons.com and come to life offline during these meet ups.
Why do you think the older generation tends towards a group mentality?
Linda: Last year was the 40th anniversary of Woodstock. We talked a lot with our members about how instrumental that was in shaping a generation. This is the audience and the demographic that redefined what community means. Woodstock was just the beginning of it, but they’ve always been a generation that turned to their peers, to pull together, to find power in numbers, to share views, to challenge each other. And they’ve grown through the last 4 decades, and you know, it’s still really the way they behave.
Jeff: I want to make a comment about the friendship engine, and the group concept. When you were in high school or college most of your friends were your age. As you get older, the amount of friends that you have begins to diminish. At around 50 you have the smallest access to adding new friends. The concept of making new friends at 50 has driven the success of Eons. The loyalty really comes from making new friends. And I think the best way to do that is through affinity groups. People need to talk to each other and share their experiences, and I think that’s where the groups really come into play.
Why is there such a greater usage among your female members? And I’ve noticed the same thing on internet dating and specifically speed dating services, in the older demographic. What happened to the guys? Why are the women so much more active?
Jeff: Guys don’t really know how to have fun. I am kidding, but it’s really interesting to watch how women are different than men as it relates to engaging new friendships, to trying new things and going to new places. With Linda we always joke about the fact that 90% of the household spending decisions at age 50 and over are made by women. So a guy widower basically loses all of his decision-making abilities. So you gotta relearn those skills, I guess.
You started Meetcha last year. Tell us about Meetcha and how you have created a [social dating v booking, if you can] booking service that’s rather unique.
Jeff: We did a study about 18 months ago on Eons. We found out that 60% of our users were single, and about 70% of the engaged activity came from singles. And we didn’t really have any of the traditional toolsets of a dating site.
The other thing that we learned was that people were almost immediately compelled to meet each other offline. We talked to our members a lot about the dating process. And they told us: “Look, we’re not ready to get remarried, but we are interested in meeting new people. We don’t always like the concept of a one-on-one date.” One of the things they really liked about the SKITs was to be able to go out in a larger group and be able to do what I call “datability” instead of one date.
So we used all of that learning to create Meetcha.com. We start right off by asking you what are your passions and interests. And we’re inviting you to meet people that have similar interests. And it starts out as a game, but it moves very quickly into being a profile builder. And so this has become an anchor for our matching engine.
The concept of meeting offline in groups was an important part of our master plan. We created events called PODS™ which means “People Out Doing Stuff”. And it’s also our logo – which is two peas in a pod – which maybe is the goal. So we have basically created an entire engine, and it’s a recommendation engine for matching people. Our system matches people up and invites them to events based on their location, their age, and a set of passions or interests.
It complies with what Dr Michael Norton and Dan Ariely would concur with. They’ve pushed out some very revolutional reports that say that behavioral matchmaking is a better predictor of a good match.
How fast is the site growing?
Jeff: We launched in April and we have about 10,000 active users right now. And we were getting seven to eight hundred unique visitors a day coming into the site but that’s growing nicely. New visitors.
How are you promoting it?
Linda: For starters, we have a really active blog. It’s something that we’ve enjoyed doing, and I think our users enjoy reading and sharing. We’ve got a Facebook fan page and Twitter. We’ve also done some fun events.
We have partnered with a new place that launched in Massachusetts called the Hingham Shipyard, and the developer asked us to run an entire series through the summer. Every Friday night we run “Meetcha @ the Shipyard” PODS. So this is unique that Meetcha is able to pair up with local and potentially national business establishments, who are really interested in getting this active group of adults who have disposable income into their restaurants, and maybe even clothing stores. We’ve done some great videos, for example, about “how do you dress for a date?” And if you look at our blog you’ll see that we paired up with a really great men’s store around Boston and did a 4-part series for guys on how to easily look great for your date. And we’re about to do a cooking series…
Jeff: We’re also doing some classic search engine marketing.