OPW INTERVIEW - Sep 18 - Manhunt.net is gay and adult. Apple doesn’t do adult. After trying a PG app Manhunt decided to take a different approach. Here’s my interview with the CEO, Adam Segel, and their head of Product, Tim Feeley. - Mark Brooks
You've taken an unusual approach with Manhunt with mobile. You've actually gone with m.manhunt. Why did you go the online route instead of the native route?
We are an adult dating site and there are a lot of content restrictions to be in the Apple Store and the Android Market.
How is the conversation with Apple?
Apple is elusive. They don’t' really have conversations with you, they just tell you no. We see 40% of our traffic using mobile, I'm glad that we don’t' have to pay 30% of our revenue to the Apple Store. People are paying us directly on the phone and it's terrific.
How does that work?
Well they just use their credit cards. They go through our regular credit card processing, we just made a mobile version of our page.
The element you're missing out on is the element of discovery. People going on Google Play and the iPhone store and looking for apps like yours and not finding you. They are probably looking directly for you, but they'll discover you on Manhunt.com. They'll know about m.manhunt.com?
Yes. Fortunately we have a tremendous brand throughout the world so we're able to get the word out about our product. But you are correct, we do not have that advertising platform.
So how have you dealt with location with HTML5?
Luckily, HTML5, especially on mobile platforms, does support querying for a mobile users GPS coordinates. Technically, there's a degree of precision that's a bit less when you are requesting via HTML5 versus a native app. But for our intents and purposes, it's perfectly suitable.
Most people, when it comes to mobile dating, don't really want specific location from what I'm hearing. Vicinity is of more interest. As long as you're within a 20 minute drive, it seems reasonable really. Or a 15 minute walk if you're in the city.
For our users, it's more like a 5 minute walk, but still that's within the scope of what we're able to offer.
What limitations have you found with HTML5 versus a native app?
The largest limitations is the notifications systemthat come with iPhone and Android and that we're unable to have. When people get new messages or when a friend of theirs is online, they can't get that push notification. The other is the ability to upload photos. It's perfectly fine on Android, but Apple has blocked that. There is no way through a browser to upload a photo. So our solution to that is a third party applications that facilitate that.
Have you got a solution for Blackberry?
You can use Manhunt on the Blackberry, but it's a pretty rudimentary, very old mobile system that isn't pretty and doesn't have location and all that. Every time we query our members, it's really members abroad that have Blackberry. In the States, they don't really seem to have it as much or really care. It is something that we're thinking about, it is on our radar, but top priority is Android and iPhone.
How about international? Have you seen particular growth of mobile in international markets?
Our number one biggest international market for mobile is Australia, where just short of 60% of our logins come from mobile devices. We also have great adoption in Spain and England.
In the USA, in terms of modes of payment; have you got a preferred provider you could recommend?
We use Litle as our credit card processor – a combination of Litle and Global Collect. Global Collect helps us with all of our international billing and Litle does our domestic.
When did you launch the mobile app?
It was less than a year since we've had the m.Manhunt out there.
How did you get the word out?
Fortunately for us, there were two primary ways. One was when people started accessing Manhunt through mobile browsers, we took them directly to the mobile version. We also message all of our customers.
What features are you most proud of?
I think that we're still rapidly improving to this day, but I'm proud of how we are able to integrated our millions of desktop members who aren't yet using mobile or choose not to use mobile, and exposing them on the Manhunt mobile experience. From a feature set, we try to be very much on par with Manhunt and extend that experience to your mobile device.
What's your thoughts on the iPad? How does that fit into your product roadmap?
We are available on the iPad. We are seeing a slight, but steady increase in iPad traffic.
Have you really seen much difference between the demographic of your mobile users versus your usual online users. Does the age skew younger at all?
A tiny bit, but not really noticeably. We're really seeing a broad user base of the mobile, just like the desktop. We're seeing guys in their 50's and 60's using their mobile apps, just like we are the 21 year olds to 28 year olds.
We are. We are advertising through our Google channels and we advertise mobile separately. We haven't found any tremendous mobile channels on which to advertise. Our competitors don't allow us to advertise on their apps, so it's been a little bit difficult. But we are seeing a steady increase in people joining through the mobile phone.
We've probably got a few of them watching this interview. What message would you have for them regarding advertising and swapping advertising?
I can't really pressure them to let us advertise on their app because I probably wouldn't let them advertise on mine. But I would tell them that they do a great job and I'm very glad for them because it's helped us all to evolve to a much better mobile place for users to be able to have the solutions available.
Who do you hold in high esteem? Who else out there do you think is doing a good job on mobile?
I think Grindr obviously started the trail and did a really nice job with it. I also think Scruff do a terrific job of having the app readily accessible and easy to use.
How would you say Manhunt mobile is going to look in a year's time? What's your goals and vision for the mobile product?
We're making it easier and easier to offer your precise location coordinates. We've always kind of struggled with “are users willing to travel the extra 5 miles to find a guy that's exactly their type?” We found that they won't go 5 miles. They'll take a lesser guy who is closer than a hotter guy who's farther.
Also as people are using our apps more and more, they are asking us for some of the features that we haven't yet incorporated into the app; so this our next step.
I went to a conference recently and saw Windows Mobile exhibiting and I was very impressed. They've done a nice job with it. What's your thoughts on the future? How do you think they're going to be easy to work with?
We haven't really looked into designing for that platform yet. Once we're able to discover the best way to approach that, we're looking forward to bringing Manhunt to all of the devices.