OPW INTERVIEW -- Aug 2, 2005 -- Joe Brennan Jr joined Webdate's team in April as SVP Marketing and Strategy. He was formerly the Director of Interactive Strategy at AOL. Mark Brooks, Editor of Online Personals Watch, interviewed Joe after the Mobile Internet Dating Convention at which Joe shared the keynote address.
Why is Webdate driving mobile/cell phone based dating?
Our strategy for Webdate is focused on wireless as a complimentary piece of our entire offerings. Webdate is not focused on ‘online dating,’ we're focused on ‘dating.’ Our wireless services are every bit as important as the internet services and are totally integrated. So the philosophy is 'Webdate anytime, anywhere.' Users may come through the online channel but then decide it's more convenient for them to use us through wireless. We're connection channel agnostic. We believe our members should be able to use our services through any connection, so they can Webdate, anytime, anywhere.
Are location-based services the future?
I think so. But, one of the challenges is that the technology is available right now but the carriers are concerned about the liability of offering location-based services to their members. We have to show that such services can produce good revenue streams, address the liability concerns, and demonstrate to the wireless carriers why this technology really is necessary in serving their wireless customers in the future. The market and technology are moving in the direction of location-based services. I would not bet against it right now.
Why are you also leading with video based services?
We’ve placed our bets on using technology that creates more intimacy for our members. I mean, with most online dating services you make this hard leap from profile, email and instant messenger over to face-to-face meetings. We want to create more interactivity and give users a better opportunity to learn and get to know dating partners through the online medium before they meet. We’re creating interactive experiences that allow potential daters to get to know each other better so that when that first meeting happens, it isn't a shock. So, the best way to do this is to approximate some of the real world dating experience. We've started down that path with video dating. We call it ‘webdating.’ I think that by fully integrating both the online and wireless products we're able to drive a better user experience whilst also reaching underserved markets. Certain demographics index low on PC ownership and high on cell phone ownership. By using wireless technology and combining this with our efforts to improve the dating experience, we think our service will be much more valuable than services merely listing personals ads and allowing email introductions.
Will you eventually combine video based webdating into a mobile/cell phone based service?
Right now the bandwidth is not available on the mobile networks. The handset technology is not quite available either. But it will be. If we look at South Korea with their live streaming video broadcasts we can see the shape of things to come. That technology will come to America along with the ability to do video dating on the phone. It’s inevitable and something we are pursuing.
We need to create more dating opportunities for our users and we have chosen to use technology to create those opportunities…in a real world, live way. Picture if you will…you’re headed out for the evening and you’re able to broadcast that you are going to be at a certain club, in a certain area and are interested in meeting singles who are also interested in meeting other singles. We can use the mobile application as a way of facilitating this. When you walk through the door of the club you will know who you can socialize with and who is available, rather than it being a guessing game. You can know who's looking for new friends, who’s looking for a relationship. We want to use mobile applications to facilitate meetings in real time and real space but we need the cooperation of the carriers to facilitate that.