OPW INTERVIEW - Sep 27 - It’s been a couple of years…The last interview was in 2007 and at the end of that interview I asked you what you hoped to achieve with WhiteLabelDating and you said that you wanted to be the top white label dating company. So at this stage let’s pick up where we left off. Are you the top white label dating company at this stage?
We are, yes. A lot has changed since then. Global Personals’ business has grown and white label dating is responsible for the vast majority of our business. I think we’re generally considered the number 1 white label dating company worldwide.
What is your split between Europe and the US
The majority of our revenue still comes from Europe and predominantly the UK. So our core territories at present are the UK, Ireland, South Africa, Australia and the US in that order. We’ve got big plans for the US but it can easily be a graveyard for companies that don’t approach it in the right way. So we need to make sure all of our CRM is localized, the customer experience is localized and everything fits in. It is important that we recognize that and treat the US as a collection of different regions, and by regions I mean cities each with their own attributes rather than do what many people do which is a one size fits all solution. We won’t be doing that.
You have service in the US right now from my understanding, so are these improvements that you’re working on?
Yes we can absolutely service the USA. I don’t want to give away too much about what we have in the pipeline other than to say we realize we need to improve that experience and make it really a better niche offering. We expect to be able to announce more about that later this year.
There are two sides to your business. You have the WhiteLabelDating side and then you have the Global Personals side of the business. How do you differentiate the two different sides of the business?
Global Personals is our limited company. People have known us as WhiteLabelDating up to this point because that has been a massive part of our business. So WhiteLabelDating is part of Global Personals. It represents well in excess of 80% of our revenues.
We are a white label dating business first and foremost. However, since we became the market leader we recognize that we have a responsibility to help grow and shape the market. That is why we have our own branded sites for the consumers such as Singles365.com and DatingAgency.com, which allows us to help direct and shape the market, which benefits us but absolutely benefits our partners.
When I visited you in Windsor not too long ago you mentioned that you had been ‘fighting the good fight’ against abuse and scammers recently and that it had been quite a battle. Tell us more about that.
We made a decision last year to really focus on the quality of our customer experience. To do that we needed to manually moderate every profile, every photo, every wink, icebreaker, diary entry and video. Everything that goes through our system is checked by hand from people in our offices in Windsor. We don’t outsource anything. It is time consuming and it’s expensive but it does mean we can give the best customer experience.
Since we launched our new moderation platform in February of this year, we were hit in the short term. We found that scammers were responsible for quite a bit of revenue for dating site operators because if a scammer emails your member, that member is going to pay to upgrade. So if you reduce the scammers your conversion rate is going to be affected. However, we’ve ended this year in July and August with all of our metrics performing better than they have ever done in our 7 year history.
In an article recently you said there are some unethical practices in the internet dating world that need stamping out. Tell us more, what are they?
I think everyone recognizes that you can go for short term easy money in online dating. It might get you some revenue in the short term; it might be okay for 6 months or maybe a year or two. But if you want to build a successful, long term, valuable business that will be around in the years to come you have to take an ethical approach to business.
OPW reaches many executives in the industry. What would you like to say directly to the rest of the industry?
For the online dating category to grow, we do need to work together. We need to, as an industry, clean up our act and invest in the customer experience. We need to put the customer first rather than our bank balances. You only do that by working together because one bad apple can ruin the industry for lots of other people.
Can you see Global Personals ever IPO’ing?
I don’t think that would be on our horizons to be honest Mark. We are a privately owned company and we’ve grown pretty heavily. We are now at about 80 staff and when you came to our offices you were able to see that we’ve grown rather nicely. We’re enjoying that growth and I wouldn’t rule anything in or out over the next few years. We’ve certainly got a good 3 to 5 year plan with strong growth ahead of us. And we are enjoying ourselves in the process.