Response To OKCupid’s “Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating”
So according to Christian Rudder, co-founder of OKCupid, pay sites are dead. Great! We can all put our credit cards away and use free dating services to live happily ever after, right?
Not by our calculations.
Here at VIDA we feel we can offer you an impartial view. We have no vested interest; our only aim is to find the best dates possible for our clients. We don’t have agreements with dating sites; Match and eHarmony are not paying us to spring to their defense. We just use whatever works. So hopefully our thoughts on the matter are a little more objective.
Here are a few of our arguments to bear in mind along with the ‘grain of salt' Mr. Rudder asks us to take with his findings.
1. We get better response rates from pay sites.
We ran a preliminary analysis on our figures over this past year to get a breakdown in the differences between our results on free and pay sites. We would like to collect more data before we try to draw a concrete conclusion (stay tuned for a blog on this in the future) on this matter, but our early findings are still pretty interesting:
• Messages sent to pay sites were 46.9% more likely to get a response than those sent to free sites
• Of the successful messages, those sent to pay sites were 44% more likely to end in a date.
So, according to our figures, you're twice as likely to set up a date if you take a proactive approach on a pay site. *
* Note: These figures apply to paid dating sites with free-roaming capabilities such as Match and Yahoo! Personals… not relationship sites like Chemistry and eHarmony that deliver matches to you and have a guided communication process.
2. Payers aren't players.
It stands to reason that if you've shelled out your hard-earned dollars for something, you're going to take it more seriously than if you got it for free. Free sites are perfect for playing around, people with nothing better to do can set up joke profiles to amuse themselves, or just set one up to see what the online dating rage is all about and then forget about it.
If, on the other hand, every time you open your credit card statement there's a little sum going to Match or eHarmony, it's another nudge to push you back to the computer and make sure you're getting enough bang for your buck.
3. Don't kill yourself over dead profiles.
One of the big points Mr. Rudder makes in his argument is that the user stats given out by Match and eHarmony don't take into account profiles people don't use anymore, or users who haven't paid and so can't receive messages. So what?
Free sites have the same problem – probably to an even worse degree. And, if you’re a savvy online dater, there are ways you can get round it. The vast majority of the unpaid users on these paid online dating sites are not active. And since most sites have a search feature that allows you to order the results by last login date, it’s not hard to weed the duds right out of the picture. Just use your common sense. If the profile is half-assed and incomplete, you shouldn't be surprised when you don't get a response. Just as if it's completely filled out and they've been online recently you should presume they've shown Match the money. Who goes through the painstaking process of completely filling out a profile and then makes the effort to log in every day when they can't even communicate with other members?
4. You're 12.4 times more likely to find ‘the one' offline? Come on!
In the blog, Mr. Rudder claims that: “You are 12.4 times more likely to get married this year if you don't subscribe to Match.com.” There are so many problems with this statistic that it's hard to know where to begin. One important consideration that he fails to take into account is that online daters are a different breed. They have made a choice to find someone in a different way; they’ve decided against hanging out at a bar until two pairs of drunken eyes meet and stumble home together to live unhappily ever after. Plenty of people do this and if it works for them, sure… But generally speaking, the people that are on online dating sites are tired of that old approach.
So if you're selective and you want someone who is as crazy on 18th Century French literature as you are, are you 12.4 times more likely to stumble upon them in a bar than on a site where you can search for people with the same passions as you? Our guess is no. The stat does not take the number of Match members each year who get married outside of Match into account either. Maybe they've honed their skills online and then started emailing that guy/girl in the office they've always dug.
5. Pay sites want you to fail? Hmm…
You should always feel worried when one business attacks another because, surprise surprise, they are trying to make money out of their customers!
Rudd uses a flow chart to show that it is far more beneficial for pay sites if you email non-paying users… that way your email may help persuade them to sign up as a paid member. He’s right. We do wish paid dating sites would tell us who is subscribed and who is not… it certainly seems like an evil marketing tactic that wastes the time of these sites’ subscribers. Luckily though, if you know what you are doing, this is not a huge issue. As explained above, dead or non-paying profiles are not boosted to the top of your search results if you have them sorted by last login date (caveat: never join a paid site that doesn’t have this capability).
In defense of pay sites, most of them do try to find the balance between new client conversions and giving their paid members the best experience possible. Like any subscription-based business, they do count on revenue that is generated by renewals and referrals from satisfied customers.
And it seems a little hypocritical for OKCupid to complain about pay sites making money through more site activity since they benefit from clients having to click through dead profiles in the exact same way as pay sites. Reactivating idle members means more traffic to their site and more clicks on the advertisements that keep their pockets fat.
But don’t take this post the wrong way… we use free sites as well as pay ones and they can and do work. In fact, you should use them… once you build what I sometimes refer to as a “wink-worthy profile” then it can really pay to maximize your exposure by setting up accounts on multiple sites and keeping them active. The main point, though, is when it comes to online dating, as with so much in life, you often get what you pay for!