Monday, September 28, 2009

Presented at idate 09 last week. A fascinating conference. Even a relatively new industry like online dating is in the process of being heavily challenged by new ideas. Dating sites are going to have to choose what to do next from amongst others: integrating with social networks, implementing mobile offerings, implementing personalisation techniques (the basis of my talk), implementing location based offerings etc. Constant change - standing still is not an option, prioritization is a nightmare.

It was also interesting for one other insight (at least to me). The biggest company in the online dating scene is undoubtly Google - who take a huge percentage of the total value from the industry value chain. The cost of acquisition is by far the largest cost and Google advertising is the dominant method of acquisition. I'd love for someone to crunch the numbers - my guess is that they would be astonishing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Recommendation systems for dating

I'm very excited to announce a new spin-off from the Netflix competition. Online dating. For the last few months, I've been working with a dating expert (Nick Tsonis) to see if we can improve the way in which people find dates.

Well, our first dating recommendation system went live last month. Its early days to calculate whether its adding to the sum of human happiness, but first results are very, very promising. Its already taken over as the main method of finding potential dates on the site. Even with its relatively rudimentary implementation, it's preferred roughly 60/40 over the more traditional search mechanism (I'm a boy looking for a girl aged between 25-30, non-smoker etc etc).

What this suggests, in the first instance, is that when searching for hedonic items (i.e. those chosen on the basis of the pleasure they might bring (books, music, dates etc )), its very difficult to describe to a search engine exactly what you are looking for. Discovery processes based on analysing yours, and everyone elses, actual behaviour provide a better method of getting you to your desired target.

With further launches on other dating sites planned for September, October and January - we should be able to start to collect even more data on what works best in helping people find their ideal dates and, hopefully, make a sea change to the way online dating works.