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Cached OkCupid Article: Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating (googleusercontent.com)
490 points by JacobAldridge on Feb 2, 2011 | hide | past | favorite | 80 comments

It's sort of funny how removing the article has spawned a bit of the Streisand Effect, though I gather it's probably only limited to our little corner of the web. And even at that, it would probably just 'look weird' if they were still hosting the article after the acquisition, regardless of the attention that removing it draws.

I had to look it up..

The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of perversely causing the information to be publicized more widely and to a greater extent than would have occurred if no contrary action had been attempted. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, following a 2003 incident in which her attempts to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity.


Very fitting username

hey, i'm all for selling out but im not into rewriting history. either leave the post or write a new one saying why it was wrong or what has changed. dont go rewriting history by trying to delete it.

> write a new one saying why it was wrong or what has changed

The problem is that it wasn't wrong, and nothing has changed.

Approximately 50 million things have changed.

It may have been part of the terms of the sale. Would you turn them down?

It depends. Is that $50,000,000 actually going into my bank account? How much do I personally stand to gain from it? How badly does my business need the $50M?

But in the end, I probably would take the article down, too.

At the beginning of any kind relationship, it's generally best not to point out the other person's flaws - that kind of behaviour is traditionally saved for the breakup :)

I guess the same is true for okcupid and match.com.

Sure, but if I write an article about how much the Church of Scientology sucks, and then start dating someone who's a member, I'm not gonna go back and erase it.

Is that why you're still single? ;-)

Is that why you have a short past? ;-)

.. is that why you're still able to comment freely on the internet? ;)

We may pick on OKCupid team for that, but most of us under similar circumstances would probably do the same (delete the article). Just because of implicit pressure from new corporate culture.

We are not under similar circumstances though, so I enjoy pointing fingers at OKCupid for that.

according to OKCupid's response (http://www.observer.com/2011/tech/okcupid-we-didnt-censor-ou...) something has changed: OKCupid's CEO "got to know" match.com a little better (through access to more accurate statistics, etc.) and has backed off his previously "exaggerated" stance against paid models

the timing definitely leaves this difficult to believe

> The problem is that it wasn't wrong, and nothing has changed.

It's certainly not wrong, but something has changed. OkCupid now reports to match.com, which is among the largest paid dating sites in the world.

edit I don't know the specifics, but IAC owns Match.com, and also OkCupid, but does that mean that Match.com oversees OkCupid? My statement above might be wrong on that alone.

Oh, I meant nothing changed in their original analysis of match.com.

Well, presumably now they have access to the real, not benefit-of-the-doubt, numbers. Which only makes Match.com look worse...

It appears that Match.com does control OkCupid.

"IAC's Match.com Acquires OkCupid"


We have always been at war with Eastasia

I signed up for OkCupid years ago, probably around 2005/6 .. I liked the site a lot.

The site always had a lot of emphasis on tests and quizes - and had a main OkCupid test, which was used to introduce the site and categorise each new member into different persona-types.

I remember, in the test, there was the line "if you have any STDs please go .. " with a link to match.com.

I expect that's been 'cleansed' from the site too :)

Rewriting history? Come on, the post was a marketing piece. It was written for business purposes and was later removed due to business purposes.

It's similar to Coke buying Pepsi and then Pepsi removing ads that make fun of Nike. Sure, the post was a bit more factual than the average ad but it's not like it was a scientific paper either.

There's a difference between rewriting history and scrubbing it. I think rewriting is far worse offence.

Regardless, I still disagree with the removal of the article.

What is the difference between rewriting history and changing history by removing things?

Similar to the difference between actively lying and telling part of the whole truth.

I have liked OKCupid's posts in the past, but this one is clearly propaganda. There's a pretty obvious flaw in this argument:

"It turns out you are 12.4 times more likely to get married this year if you don't subscribe to Match.com."

The data to back it up is based on Match.com press kit:

"12 couples got married or engaged today thanks to Match.com"

What they're missing is that a lot of people get married or engaged while subscribing to Match.com, but not due to Match.com. Heck, my roommate did. It's not an exclusive arrangement. In fact, it's pretty likely that if someone is subscribing to Match.com they are also dating outside of Match.com.

The other flaw is that by definition people on dating sites are not currently in a relationship (well, usually), so of course they're less likely to get married in the near future. I suspect the 12.4 ratio would be similar for active OKCupid users.

> (well, usually),

Not true for OKC. Very poly friendly.

It might appear so, but a friend of mine who's in a poly relationship gets harassed fairly frequently on OKC because she's married.

I've been on OKC for about 8 years, been poly on there, met poly girls there, had poly friends there, never once heard of anyone getting harassed for polyitude.

I'm not saying it didn't happen... but it might be kind of like saying "planes aren't safe, I had a friend that was in a plane crash."

Sorry if it came off as me saying that people in poly relationships aren't at all welcome on OKC, just that it's not universally welcoming.

I'd imagine how welcoming people are to others in poly relationships largely depends on where you are. People in El Paso, TX (where my friend and I live) are likely less open to that sort of thing than people elsewhere.

Oh yeah? I've only ever ...heard otherwise, and I'm pretty sure that several of the founders are poly as well. I could be remembering that incorrectly...

If you advertise that you lead to a marrige then its not about you getting married today, its that x people who use site y get married every day. Of course there is no garantee that the marrige had anything to do with the site. If person x and y are on a dating site, there is no reason to assume that it MUST be true that if x and y met/get merried it is due to the site. They could meet outside. With 20 million accounts it is VERY likely that you got married to someone with an account on that site.

I like the corelation you can build from the site: By giving you bad matches to increase business, each person looking gets less likely to find someone because they have to send so many emails. Note that the 30% chance to get a response * 1/30 chance that an account is not active != 1/100 chance of a response. The 30% chance to get a response can already take into account that a bunch of people may not be active.

You can play with the numbers. I think the final guesses are not that accurate, but it does put things into perspective regarding the marketing numbers.

Still, it would mean that registering on match.com only increases your chances by 0.4%

"But Match.com didn't ask OKCupid to take down the post, CEO Sam Yagan told The Observer, it was just the "common sense thing to do.""

"Furthermore, the data that OKCupid gathered from Match.com's public filings and press kit were not completely accurate, he said, which he realized once he saw the real data."


"And even though the two sites are now playing for the same team, it'll be business as usual at OKCupid's Midtown office, he said. OKCupid will remain free and OKTrends will keep publishing the popular research it culls from its members. (Data from Match.com and its affiliated sites will not be included.)"

So, rather than putting up a correction to the previous blog post that due to fresh data showing something different; they decided to take it down. I suppose either because Match.com either refuses to release the data, the blog post is confirmed to be true or they wanted to appease the new owners.

For a company that's usually so good about publicity, it really seems like they fucked up here.

I must have missed the story on this page's apparent disappearance or whatever.

Just today OkCupid got bought by IAC which also owns match.com which they are critical of in that post.

Time to enter the online dating space, I guess.

Can I counter recommend this? If you're good enough at SEO or online marketing to have a chance in hell at a broad online dating opportunity, there is more money available for less work and less competition elsewhere. The space is competitive, the incumbents are some of the savviest firms online, they have gigantic warchests, the fight will be dirty, and there is easier money elsewhere.

Plus you're competing with OKCupid, which is to linkbait as AirBnb is to PR.

Dating sites are #8 on "Startup Ideas We'd Like to Fund": http://ycombinator.com/ideas.html

Dating sites have very strong network effects. The entry on that page acknowledges that: if you want to start a dating site, the question you answer is not "What should we do better about online dating?", it's "How will we get our initial users and keep them?"

Patrick's point is that if you have the skills to get users in a business with network effects that strong, there are many more lucrative markets you could crack. EBay, for example. Online auctions is hugely lucrative, orders of magnitude more than dating, and EBay sucks in many ways. But their network effect is so strong that it's virtually impossible to break in.

(Online auctions is #10 on the list, BTW.)

Solving the 'chicken and egg' problem has lead to a catastrophe in large dating markets:

Abandoned accounts and men->women spam.

I think a smaller dating site would prosper quite well if it could eliminate wasting people's time. eHarmony has a good practice in this regard, but eHarmony is also marriage, christian, straight focused - and excluded all others.

A dating site that disabled user accounts that hadn't logged in or responded, initiated conversation eHarmony style, and somehow limited the spam that men send, well... that'd be worth checking out. It would drastically raise the signal to noise ratio.

For spam: perhaps you can only send one message per day to new people, and one message per person per reply. Choose wisely.

Also, for every uploaded picture, grab the date it was taken and put that on the page. Might not stop hackers, but that's a small minority.

Other effects to combat: the ego inflation effect, where having many virtual 'options' makes you more selective.

Maybe even a 'ask a friend' feature, where you email a reply history to a friend and ask their advice (helps with network effects).

There's LOTS of room for innovation here, essentially.

definitely, why not? Completely people oriented, and for the most part, people who are on one site, are on another site (match, eharmony, craigslist?, etc.). Nothing wrong with multiple avenues of meeting people - so there's still room in this space.

Don't we all just want to be loved?! ;)

Can you provide some examples of more lucrative segments?

I doubt it.

IAC, the parent company of match.com owns lots of web properties. It's not like match.com now owns okcupid and will use them as they please. Most likely, okcupid ads may become exclusively for IAC sites (match.com, blackpeoplemeet, asianpeoplemeet, [niche]peoplemeet, other dating properties) and they may make the subscription offers a little more prominent (right now they're pretty hidden on okcupid) but I doubt it'll go much further than that.

Free and paid are complementary. A big chunk of upgrades on paid sites come from people who were driven there from free sites.

> A big chunk of upgrades on paid sites come from people who were driven there from free sites.

If this post is correct that the free sites provide a better user experience, why would people move from them to the pay sites? Just out of a lack of information?

For many reasons but the one that seems to come back most often is that people value their time on paid sites more. It seems more "serious" if you know the other person paid to talk to you.

Considering OKCupid's slogan for a while was "always free", I highly doubt that they will switch to a pay-to-use model.

Correct. They will likely use the Nerve/SpringStreet/AdultFriendFinder model of ruining the free options so that the pay ones look attractive.

But match.com might still ruin the site by trying too hard with the upsell.

Ah, I get it now: this is just a repost of a comment from the actual OKC story (where there exists plenty of context, pace Mr. Aldridge):


While it wasn't specifically a re-post from a comment (it was mentioned in another article on the subject which I read), you're right about the previous discussion providing more context than this headline.

I didn't expect this link to overtake that article and discussion on the front page, though I should have given I discussed the same thing in regards to the Flickr Delete thing 6 hours ago!

We have always been at war with Oceania.

So are we Eurasia, or Eastasia?

Whichever has always been at war with Oceania. Please report to minitrue.

It's called "harmonization". China does it all the time.

Next time it will probably be "eHarmonization".

It's unclear to me why I shouldn't pay for an online dating site from reading that article? The only thing that he says that really drives that point is that they're incentivized for you to fail. But I'm not sure I buy that, since churn is probably higher when you get no dates than when you're dating but maybe just haven't found the "one" (if that's what you're looking for).

The main argument seems to be that number of profiles and active profiles are different. It seems like the takeaway to me is to be cautious and try to learn the number of active profiles.

The point I got from it is that the girls worth dating don't pay for it. Girls that don't have to work to get guys might sign up for a free site "just for fun" but they certainly would never pay for a dating service.

The author certainly doesn't make that point clear. For one, I don't believe it, but more importantly there's no evidence in the post of it.

Well, it's the first line of the post. But they don't go into that aspect as much as I'd like, because I think it's the more important one.

I personally would never date someone I met on a pay dating site, because desperation is an honest signal of poor quality. But that's just anecdote.

I personally would never date someone I met on a pay dating site, because desperation is an honest signal of poor quality.

That's the same thing people say about free software. :-)

With that said, I think you may confuse desperation with efficiency. If I were single in this day and age, I would certainly use pay dating sites (assuming prices were reasonable). Not because I'd be desperate, but it widens your network considerably, and you don't have to waste time at bars, clubs, social mixers, etc...

And given the number of colleagues and friends who have met people online -- I'd say the superficial quality at least (looks, jobs, education, humor) seem to be higher than average.

In any case, the article provided no evidence either way. What would have been useful is for them to show proof that women on pay sites are less desireable than women from say, MySpace ;-)

I have met people online, and known people who have met people online, but they were all on okcupid or other free sites; never on a pay site. I didn't say all online dating was like that, only pay sites. A free site does widen your network, but I think the point of the post was that paid sites have mostly dead users and therefore the network is rather small.

V.v. free software, I think the better comparison is between a free dating site and free software; lots of people contribute to make it better. Certainly it's partially true with OkCupid; users do add a lot of the content, writing match questions and quizzes.

A free site does widen your network, but I think the point of the post was that paid sites have mostly dead users and therefore the network is rather small.

But he doesn't argue this effectively. In fact a free site would be worse in this regard -- especially for the scarce resource (women -- who I suspect are often free on paysites, as they are in some nightclubs).

As a female (which I'm not), I'd rather be listed on a pay site than a freesite, if the main issue I have is too many emails from guys.

It almost would appear that desperate women would be on free sites -- since paying a nominal fee for first level filtering would indicate a less desperate act than someone who opted for greater volume, even at slightly less cost.

In any case, I think we can both agree that the blog entry didn't really address in a satisfactory way the central thesis.

The problem with free dating sites is that they have to be fucking enormous to make any money. OkC is an amazing product with a huge user base and guess what? They had a tiny office and weren't making much money, then they were bought by (shock) a dating site with a sustainable business. IAC/Match sucks but they understand something the OkC guys don't—how to make money from their product.

Do you have any idea how much they were making? http://onlinedatingpost.com/archives/2010/02/at-okcupid-open... suggests $15 million in revenues.

And selling a business with $6 million in investment for $50 million is likely to be lucrative enough, anyway (and you'd hope that they were turning some profits to justify the $50 million.)

From what I can tell, the article you linked says that PoF is making $15mm in revenue.

If OkC were making 15mm in revenues why in the world would they sell for $50mm? That just doesn't add up. Their overhead outside of bandwidth costs wasn't that high, they employ 10-15 (I think) employees and have a small office in Chelsea or sommat. Their profits would be enormous if they were generating anything near that.

I'm not sure it's the end of the world it was deleted, it was a conflict of interest and leaving it up would have been something they got criticised for, but on the whole I don't think the article was that bad. It just pointed out that paid dating sites are tricky with their marketing.

leaving it up would have been something they got criticised for

I don't think that strategy has been working out for them very well so far.

I really hope that OKC keeps publishing articles about the online dating scene. They had some good insight about a lot of different online dating phenomena.

Match seems like a shady outfit that would not want to publicize this type of data.

It appears to be gone. Anyone have a copy?

Here's a mirror/copy/screenshot (trying to hit all the browser text search keywords; it's not actually a screenshot):


the original link is dead to me. Clicked text only version and it works. http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:9OtAvuo...

Still wondering why I should care...

UNDELETED! Google Cache copy (for when the Google Cache expires) http://machinesentience.com/why_you_should_never_pay_for_onl...

I love this article, and I always loved OkCupid for their statistical analysis and myth debunking. I am very saddened that they had to join their competitor. O well.

For most American women a $19/month subscription is a good investment for them to sleep around for a while with some bad boys, and when the time comes, marry a chump who will pay her to quit her job, go to coffeehouses and have nice lunches with the other married girls, or get her nails done at the cost of maybe $15k a year. Then maybe divorce him a few years later for a nice change of $100k. Not a bad return at all.

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