OPW INTERVIEW - July 3 - Dating Factory has done well white labelling in Continental Europe, and is now setting its sights on the USA and UK markets. Tanya Fathers has some considerable heritage in the idating industry now, after co-founding World Dating Partners in 2001. She moved onwards and upwards to co-found Dating Factory in 2009. (Full Disclosure: Dating Factory is a client of Courtland Brooks)
This interview was conducted by Brian Bowman, CEO of theComplete.me. Formerly the VP Product at Match.com.
What makes your company unique?
First we don't have our own dating websites, so we don't compete against our customers. We only provide technology. Secondly, we allow people to own databases.
Can you give us two examples of URLs running on your business?
We have about 8000 URLs all together. eDateability, for example, which was on CNN News or DatingBuddies.com.
A question around identity. Why do you think that dating sites require consumers to be anonymous? Is it to protect the business model of paying to communicate or is it something that consumers want?
Both reasons. People are paying to be able to talk to each other. But also a lot of them want to stay anonymous.
So do you think that anonymous as an option is OK, or do you think every user should be required to be anonymous? So if I'm a consumer and I don't want to be anonymous, do you think a website should allow a user to do that?
I think on freemium websites, maybe. On subscription websites, it just defeats the object.
Do you think that criminal background checks are important?
They are very misleading at the moment. To conduct a proper background check, it takes a lot of a person's time. I would be against this particular approach.
Misleading because you think that the information you get back is less than accurate?
Yes, it's not possible to do it 100% accurately with this particular approach. It creates a false feeling of security. They think that this guy is properly checked but he is not.
So you think that jDate, Match, and eHarmony went far enough or did not go far enough in terms of the background checks? And should they have offered them to everyone including non-subscribers? What's your take on that?
I think it can be a service on demand. It needs to be connected to proper background check agencies. Consumers have to realize that they have to pay more for a proper background check.
What matching do you provide for your clients? Is it scientific matching, or is it just based on the parameters in the profile?
We run two platforms at the moment. Partners can decide which one they want to use. We offer a standard and advanced matching where people can choose different criteria and narrow down the searches by interest, age group, and so on. Then there is a proper psychology matching based on 60 different criteria and social metrics; sexuality matching that was designed particularly for the dating purposes by a proper psychologist; there's a combination of sexuality, psychology and interests which we call “a perfect match”.
Eli Finkel has come out pretty strongly showing that the science of personality testing doesn't produce compatible long term relationships. What do you think is the future of sites that use that as the foundation of their matching algorithm? Do you think they have to change? Do you think they should stop making scientific claims, or just let it be a marketing message?
Just let it be a marketing message. There are plenty of audiences that want to be matched.
Where do you think the responsibility of a dating site ends? What should be the promise? Is it a good first date? Should it be that we have more marriages than anyone else? What is the actual deliverable promise of a dating site?
Connecting people. You can not promise marriages. You can connect them and hope for the best.
Is matching around interests important?
It is. In our system, we have quite a few dating sites created around different interest groups.
Where are you pulling the interests from? Is it just asking the person or are you pulling it out of the social interest graph?
We are asking people at the moment. We do offer automatic registration using LinkedIn, Facebook, and Google+ but not so many people are using it because of the privacy.
What do you think is the impact of asking them to register using Facebook? Is it negative?
Our conversions dropped when we asked them to.
Dropped by how much?
It was about a 20% drop, which is why we removed it very quickly as a mandatory entity and left it to our partners to decide.
How do you define social dating? What does it mean to you?
I think social dating is creating an environment where people can communicate slightly wider than only looking for other single people. It's creating a sense of belonging to some sort of community as well as adding some gadgets people can use on mobile. Creating more modern technology.
Is the integration of social networking features like friends and interests and social profiles important into a dating experience? Should it be required or do you think it's just an optional benefit?
I think it's optional. Possible interests can be more enforced on people because it creates all of their profile. People don't want to tell their friends that they are on a site looking for somebody.
What demographic would be most interested in social dating?
Probably younger people at this stage.
Why do you think the major dating sites such as Zoosk, Match and eHarmony, haven't integrated friends, or the interest graph into their dating experience?
I just don't think they are flexible enough to try and experiment. Maybe Match.com's demographic is not ready for social dating.
Social discovery, if we were to define it broad as meeting new people, sometime for friendship, sometimes for dating. Do you think the social discovery market is broader than online dating?
I think online dating is part of social discovery.
Do you think social discovery consumes online dating or do you think they continue to be separate markets?
I think it actually consumes it from what I can see.
In what period of time?
It's hard to tell. Social discovery is definitely much broader and there's lots of single people that go for this sort of situation in hopes to find somebody around social events. The dating entity will always be there. I don't think it will be completely consumed.
When do you think it starts to really impact the dating industry then? Do you think it's already started or it hasn't started yet?
Since 2002, every year there is this question. Free dating will kill paid dating, social networks will kill dating. Dating is a basic human need. I can't see anything killing it.
How important is mobile to your business? What percentage of people use mobile on your platform?
It is very important. We’ve launched our mobile version recently, and we used HTML5. But we are also producing apps on demand. Before we had a mobile version, about 10% of our users were browsing the dating sites on mobile devices. We expect it to be higher now, of course because the interface is more user friendly.
Do you think HTML5 is hurting that, because it is not interactive enough, or no?
We'll see. We've done HTML5 as a basic version for the whole platform. And we do applications customized for partners because we don't want to jeopardize marketing initiatives. It has to be different.
So what are the important features for mobile?
Register. Login. Browse. View profile. Pay.
Do you think a different business model will be embraced because of mobile? Is it micro-transactions or mobile check ins?
Micro-transactions are imperative if you want to cover world wide. In some countries there are restrictions on how much you can charge.
With Groupon-like dating, do you think that can extend the lifetime value of consumers? Do you think mobile enables that more? Or not important?
Mobile is more interactive. I think everyone keeps it in their pocket and if a nice lady pops up they will look at it. So I would say that mobile is essential for longer term interaction.
In terms of profiles, do you see profiles changing from this sort of heavy text-based profile to something different, whether it's on social or mobile?
It becomes more visual. People hate doing lots of typing these days, especially if they register on mobile.
To learn more about Social Discovery, check out the Social Discovery conference, August 6-7th in San Francisco.