OPW - Feb 19 - The highlight of the iDate Las Vegas was the Online dating disruption panel moderated by Dan Slater, author of "Love in the Time of Algorithms". In the first part of the panel Dan Slater gave a quick overview of the history of online dating. Then Steve Carter (VP of Matching at eHarmony), Brian Bowman (CEO of LikeIt), Lawrence Cervantes (Managing Editor of AnastasiaDate International) and Dan Winchester (IntroAnalytics) discussed what is online dating disruption and where it is happening. Dan Slater pointed out few stages of disruption that happened in the past such as eHarmony's heavy TV advertising, the rise of free dating sites, behavioral matching and offline dating. Of course now it's Facebook with its Graph Search that might shake things up.
Steve Carter: What disrupted online dating more than eHarmony was the changing societal attitude about being online. eHarmony got people to realize that online dating wasn’t just for hookups. Freemium or free services have been very disruptive. What Facebook is trying to do and what everyone is afraid of, it is to leverage that enormous amount of data that is out there on people. Any use of big data offers the potential for mass disruption.
Dan Winchester: I would argue that there hasn’t been any meaningful disruption in the last 13 years. The closest I’d say anyone has come to disruption is the free space.
Brian Bowman: eHarmony took the high end of the business away. POF and took out the bottom end of the industry. The biggest reason dating hasn’t innovated is the business model, and this 1990 model of charging to communicate obfuscates all kinds of innovation. The major innovation in dating is going to be infusing social networking.
Larry Cervantes: I think instead of being disruptive, a lot of what we call innovation is simply adoption and implementation, which AnastasiaDate does as a business model. One example is the video chat market, which may not be as prolific on some domestic sites but is a major mover in our.
The other issue is the pay model. We don’t have a membership component but we feel it’s fair that you cut the largest slice you like and pay as you go. I don’t think that international dating is a disruptor per se because our clientele are kind of different animal.
Dan Slater: Would you say having moved mail order brides online has moved the yardstick at all in terms of enhancing a number of folks who are interested in it because now it’s so easy to access. Do you think online dating has shifted the stigma a bit?
Larry Cervantes: The shift has been in the international move, the ease of travel and the Internet itself… the wall is coming down.
Dan Slater: In the past year or so we’ve been hearing a lot about social dating. But it still only appeals to a very small segment.
Dan Winchester: Social is all about eroding privacy. Dating is all about respecting privacy.
Brian Bowman: Privacy doesn’t matter. I believe the role of a dating site is to let me have a great first date. The industry does a horrible job of matching. People are having bad dates because we just don’t have enough information on people to match them.
Dan Slater: What impact Facebook Graph search may have on the online dating?
Dan Winchester: Graph search, in my view, is Facebook trying to add intent into their already well established advertising business. They want to serve job ads, dating ads, classified ads but they don’t want to become a dating site.
Dan Slater: What if it’s not about dating. Facebook has always been used for dating, but now it just has this enhanced dating capability.
Dan Winchester: Facebook is saying we’re no longer going to be a social network; we’re going to be dating site. They could do that but they can’t do both.
Brian Bowman: If they want to do this they are absolutely positioned to do it better than anybody because they know a tremendous amount about you and they know who you are. The question is, is that a priority for them?
Steve Carter: Facebook doesn’t really know that much about us. Does anyone know why Google hasn’t entered this space?
Dan Winchester: I didn’t get the sense that Facebook users are on Facebook saying I really wish Facebook was a dating site. This isn’t going to disrupt dating because dating is actually a pretty simple problem to solve. It’s about discovery and messaging and that’s already being done very well and the only way to disrupt it is to do it cheaper.
Larry Cervantes: Google is ideally positioned to create a separate dating function. I think there’s a lot of media out there, a lot of magazines that have their own proprietary dating sites.
Dan Winchester: There are plenty of people who use dating sites specifically because they don’t want to meet friends of friends. They want to meet people who they have no friends in common and if all goes wrong it is completely insulated from their life.