Online Personals Watch Exclusive Interview #7 - Cupid.com's CEO - Online Personals Watch: News on the Online Dating Industry and Business

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Comments

James Houran

Great interview, Mark!

Here are some thoughts I wanted to share in response to some of Eric Straus' comments.

My assessment is that online dating does indeed get singles further along the relationship continuum that Eric discussed. Matchmaking has always been a part of cultures around the world. Talk about Cupid! .... Valentine’s Day even has roots in a Roman matchmaking festival. Most matchmaking people experience is done through family and friends. Aside from these types of personal introductions, people also tend to meet others either through work environments or accidental meetings with strangers. Thus, good matches are akin to a lucky draw in a lottery.

Modern technology now permits more sophisticated and effective matchmaking. There’s substantial research on the factors that are associated with satisfying and stable relationships – now the public has a way to effectively and efficiently apply that knowledge through computerized testing. Indeed, the media have consistently documented the rising trend for the public to use online dating companies for matchmaking based on personality testing.

Naturally, you don't have to use psychological testing to help cull prospects -- singles can easily screen prospects for demographic characteristics of their choosing with online dating. But, as a tool, online dating arguably addresses many of the problems inherent in offline dating.

In fact, it seems to be a smarter approach to dating:

• It saves time (busy singles, learn much about many people in short time… you have to kiss many frogs to find that prince). People have access to more people than ever before, so people can cull a much wider dating pool than they typically offline. This increases their odds of finding qualified prospects.
• People use it with realistic expectations (cf. TRUE’s study on “expectations of finding a soul mate with online dating” published in the North American Journal of Psychology)
• It is private (individuals can leisurely and thoroughly browse prospects in the comfort and privacy of their residence)
• It can save money, when you consider the cost of meeting and socializing offline
• It can be safer, as there is a natural barrier between individuals
• Online communication can be more honest. There are studies showing that people comfortable with online communication easily reveal their true selves and can establish genuine bonds based on Openness, Truthfulness, and Faithfulness.
• Online compatibility testing (if done legitimately, like the scientifically-validated and academically published TRUE Compatibility Test) can help people get to know themselves, what they want and need in a relationship, as well as get to know others. A person can potentially get to know more about another person in two hours than they would over the course of a month or more. Compatibility testing cuts through the red tape and the early game-playing that occurs in dating so you can know whether a particular person is worth pursuing.

Online matchmaking is not for “losers,” but rather for people who have too many dates. Advanced blocking features, filters for demographic preferences, IM, email, webchat, and psychological testing (if done legitimately) allows savvy people to effectively cull the dating pool. I agree with Eric that offline meetings are crucial -- where "the rubber meets the road" for online couples. However, there is research that suggests couples who first meet and come to know each other online have stronger offline relationships than strictly offline couples. So, I do not see a serious attitude to dating as an "online is better/worse than offline" issue. When paired together, these approaches complement and reinforce each other thereby leading singles to greater success in their relationship goals.

Again, in my assessment, online dating helps to move individuals along the relationship continuum much quicker and wisely!

Thanks,

James Houran, PhD
Chief Psychologist, TRUE.com


Markus

I think cupid.com is the only second tier site that is a long term threat. Sites 8 through 16 on hitwise are separated by less then 30% traffic, so being #16 or #8 doesn't mean to much.

Fernando Ardenghi

This CEO did not speak nothing about "revenue and profit" of his company, or about future in Online Dating.

By 2008 or sooner will require Legislation and ISO9001:2000 Quality Norms (more than a simple Code Of Ethics). Legislation and Quality will be a must.

By 2008 or sooner localism will disappear because educated people is / will be CITIZENS OF THE WORLD.

He said "The eHarmony concept is, in my view bulls***"
He is terrible wrong. Personality matching will be a must, for any serious dating site, to narrow the scope of compatible prospects, although the new era of tests and compatibility will require more power calculation. (I will explain this concept in a future comment)


Mr. Brooks, please, keep a record of this entry, so on 2008 July 1ST we can re-read this interview.


Cordially,

Fernando Ardenghi
Buenos Aires
Argentina
[email protected]

Robert Lee

I think that Eric Straus has many valid points to offer about the general state of online dating.
People that have answered surveys on my site have indicated that the majority believe that member’s profiles are, to some degree, lies about themselves.
Breaking the barrier to full personal revelation is eharmony’s main selling point. If you have to go through an hour plus interview process, eventually your lies will be found out and the matching system will work. That helps to sell eharmony but it’s also a large turnoff for many potential members.
Getting people together is the final aim of any online service, with face-to-face meetings being the relationship qualifier. Success cannot be achieved without that real-world meeting, regardless of all the similar likes/dislikes shared by any couple that a programmer manages to bring to attention.
Too many online services allow for ‘matches’ that are geographically unavailable, thus set for failure. Their selling feature of X numbers of members, does not anticipate the real singles market available.
For any online service to be successful, tying offline activities to online personal ads is the future. That’s why Match.com is doing so well. Going wireless and adding forums that encourage offline meetings.
Even Fark.com’s personals section is becoming more successful (hosted by Spring Street Networks) because of the sense of community and tie-in to offline activities through the main Fark.com site.
Background checks, as proposed by True.com, will be a local selling point, but with the current state of verifiable and reliable background information (http://www.baselinemag.com/article2/0,1540,1825728,00.asp ) being of such poor quality, with an estimated 41% of all credit reports contain serious errors, leading to bad reporting of any type of personal background check, these background checks will provide a very poor sense of security. I’d fully expect lawsuits to become predominant when incorrect information is relied upon in the online matching world.
Mergers and acquisitions of online services that have found successful niches will be the rule in the years to come, as new services can adopt emerging technologies faster than establishes services.

Tom Jaffee

Good interview Eric and Mark. I agree with much of what you say, but have a couple of points of contention. First is that, although Pre-dating wrote their own press release proclaiming themselves the world's largest speed dating company, I have no idea what measure they used - 8minuteDating has hosted the most events (nearly 4000), in the most cities (more than 70), with the most Event Organizers (more than 100 active), for the longest time (since January 2001) than any other company.

Second, my view is that online dating is very complimentary to 8minuteDating. We encourage our customers to login to their online dating sites to recruit singles who appeal to them to meet them at the event they've signed up for. That way they don't have to spend so much time emailing back and forth when they do get someone to correspond with them, or as noted in the interview, men don't have to get frustrated when women don't reply, and women don't have to get overwhelmed with all the men trying to connect with them. Instead, the 8minuteDating website can integrate with any online dating site. This lets both men and women, in one night, quickly and safely meet a room full of singles who they've invited to meet them. Now that's where the rubber meets the road!

Tom Jaffee
CEO, 8minuteDating.com

Glenn Gasner

These interviews are truly phenomenal. In what other industry can you read such casual, honest opinions from the major movers and shakers?

Vince G.

In response to Tom Jaffe's comment above, Pre-Dating's claim about being the largest speed dating service is easily and independently verifiable by anyone who has a free 45 minutes or so. To clarify the issue, anyone can do what we did (and still do from time to time) which is go to each speed dating service's web site, and go into each and every city listed, and see if there are active events posted and then counting them all up. Most sites tend to list a lot of cities but may not run events in some or many of those cities. This is a painstaking process that you have to grind out, but it was the best way to make an apples-to-apples comparison. Also, our comparison is not about how many coordinators or events that have ever been active in the past, it's about currently, who's consistently running the most events each month, month-in and month-out. In June of 2004 when the Pre-Dating release came out, the results were Pre-Dating was active in 63 metro markets with 8MinuteDating in 56 markets and the smallest of the national companies, HurryDate in 38 markets. Those numbers were based by going to each Web site and seeing how many events were posted in each metro market. I have not done this as of this writing, but I'm pretty sure the gap has widened substantially, as Eric and the Cupid team has added many more cities and they are close to running one or more events every month in nearly 100 markets. But alas, the reality is that customers probably could care less about "who's the biggest" so much as that they get a great experience at an event. And I think all three of the major speed dating companies, (Pre-Dating, 8MinuteDating and HurryDate) do a great job of that. My hat's off to Tom of 8MinuteDating and Ken & Adele of Hurrydate for creating companies that offer quality events and to have thrived in a business where many have failed. The speed dating industry is robust now that the herd has been thinned by natural selection and companies who did a poor job of organizing the events (or were not getting good turnouts which is a key to customer satisfaction) are gone. The concept of a series of face to face mini-dates has stood the test of time and is no longer considered a fad just as online dating was once speculated to be a fad that would go away.

And of course, while online dating isn't for everyone, neither is speed dating. Ultimately each of these is just one of many tools in the single person's tool box and everyone has their own preferences for what is the most fun, desirable and effective way(s) to meet someone. I do feel that the linking of online dating with offline events is a no-brainer, and it offers another way to make a customer feel more safe to meet someone in-person they interact with online by telling them that they will be a event so-and-so and wouldn't it be great if you went to so we can meet. This offers a more public and comfortable venue for online daters to connect.

I've always been impressed that Eric had the foresight to see that there were/are a small finite number of national offline event companies available and sought to acquire the one that would best fit in with Cupid.com's online dating business before other online dating companies did the same. Their focus on being local, local, local makes perfect sense, as who wants to date someone half-way across the country? Heck, most people complain about having to drive an hour down the road to meet!

Vince
Founder, and former owner, Pre-Dating Speed Dating Events (www.Pre-Dating.com).

Markus

Vince/eric i would appreciate it if cupid.com/pre-dating would stop trying to spam my site in an attempt to get people to sign up. I mean come on what reputable site goes around attempting to spam other sites? Doesn't exactly sound like you have a booming business.

http://www.plentyoffish.com/member876087.htm

I suggest other sites look to see if they have been spammed by cupid.com/pre-dating.

E Menuey

I joined (paid) Cupid.Com and I am having problems with some of the "advanced" features. Their customer service responses via email have been worthless.

They do not have a phone number listed whereby you can talk with someone to work out problems. Apparently the so-called customer service people lack the knowledge or the responsibility to accurately help a customer.

Eric Straus, CEO, Cupid.com

Dear E Menuey: I'm sorry you've been unhappy with our Customer Service Team. We pride ourselves on solid customer service; and I'm sorry that we "fell down on the job".

I would like to make one point. On Cupid.com, the President's (that's me) email address and phone number are listed so customers CAN contact me if there's a problem. (I admit that my contact info is NOT on the home page... but it is findable. I converse with about 50 customers every week.) I don't think that most other dating sites offer such access.

John Wayne Fan

I tried to cancel my membership to cupid immediately after placing it and the web site would not allow me to do so. I can not access the customer service/help wizard either. What kind of company is this that will not allow you to reach customer service to cancel?

Eric Straus, CEO, Cupid.com

Cancellation is easy on Cupid.com. We don't scream "cancel here" on every page of the site; but it's easy enough so that most of our customers have no problem canceling their subscriptions online. I'm sorry you had a problem.

Click on "my profile".
then "my account",
then " Credit Card Info"
then "Auto Renewal Controls" and "Turn OFF Auto Renewal".

shelby antrim

we have tried two different pre paid credit cards on your web page and they were both denied and we want to know the real reason why please email me back

free dating

i think customer service is one of the most, or the most important part of a dating site, it offers confidence and safety to its members and happy members are more long term members. I think its good that eric offers all those contact avenues for his members, it is true that most dating sites will only offer a general customer service e-mail address or drop down menus to try and solve your issues.

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