Wednesday, February 2, 2011

OKCupid - Masters at Data, Dumbasses at PR

OKCupid is is a dating website that ran what seemed to me to be an awesome business model - free signups, and supporting itself with revenue from ads. If the central problem of relationship-finding is a lack of liquidity, they did a great job of solving it. Everyone wants to go to a dating website that everyone else is already at, but you don't necessarily know which site that will be. When it's free for everyone, the co-ordination problem doesn't exist, as you may as well sign up and see if it works because it doesn't cost you anything. But because everyone is willing to sign up, it actually does work. Presto!

Their blog gives some of the best data-driven analysis of relationship trends I've seen. These guys seem very solid in terms of working with data, and seemed like they'd really thought about how to run a dating site. In short, they got the Holmes seal of approval (although I haven't actually used their site).

On their blog, they also wrote this excellent post a while ago talking about why the revenue model of paid dating websites like eHarmony and is broken. Essentially they have big incentives to make lots of profiles of inactive members visible, as it increases revenue when new people signup. But this means that there's very little chance the person you're talking to will actually respond.

I'm convinced! I'm not paying a cent for dating websites!

One small problem though...they just got bought out by Which makes their earlier post a trifle inconvenient. Uh-oh, spaghetti-os!

So, if you've got such a great data driven approach, surely you can write a new post explaining why the earlier reasoning no longer holds and you'll still run a great site, right?

Or you can just try and delete the post, thereby starting the Streisand effect where trying to hide the information actually makes it more visible. Case in point, the cached version of the post above is currently the top-rated item on Hacker News. Quick, our left foot is still attached at the ankle! Reload the shotgun and fire again!

They have done a great service though - they significantly increase my estimate of the probability that their earlier post is actually correct, and that they can't write a follow-up post to explain why their new site at will be awesome. It won't.

You know who benefits from this? The guys who originally solved the co-ordination problem in online dating sites, and still operate their dating section for free. Shylock says that when the problem is liquidity, you can't beat a price of free. The guys at OKCupid are smart enough to know that this still holds true, even though they've cashed in to You should be smart enough to realise it too.

No comments:

Post a Comment