Online Dating and OkCupid

OkCupid, one of the biggest online dating websites around, has had a bit of an up and down history.

Originally called SparkMatch, itself a by-product of the once popular TheSpark, the site was one of the first completely free dating websites that now abound online. Inc. Magazine looks at the history of OkCupid—it’s struggles and successes—paying close attention to the marketing strategy that eventually pushed the site into the mainstream.

Now Yagan had set out to bring free to online dating, a growing market dominated by a number of, as Yagan saw them, expensive and unsatisfactory competitors like IAC’s Yagan figured he could inflict serious damage on [his competitors] by using the same strategy he employed with SparkNotes. “Take an existing business,” he explains, “reduce the revenue that industry produces by offering a free product, and then claim the remaining revenue for yourself.”

The above quote encapsulates what appears to be the founders’ business model, but it’s the Experts Weigh In section that I found most interesting. With advice from the CEO of the guerrilla marketing agency Interference (don’t depend on journalists to write about your company) and a partner at the private equity firm Accel (be more creative in monetisation), there’s also this from the founder of—their direct competition:

Focus on women. A dating site can succeed only if it attracts a lot of women. […] For any dating site, women, not men, are the customers. Women don’t want a crazy blind date; they want safety and security, and they don’t want to feel embarrassed. I would take the money they’re spending on PR and put it toward affiliate marketing to women. Yagan and Coyne are clearly smart guys: They should start thinking about how to lower the cost of customer acquisition and build a differentiated audience.