There was a very interesting interview with Dan Slater in last weeks Wall Street Journal. He has written a book called Love in the Time of Algorithms, which is a complete analysis of the online dating industry (eHarmony, Okcupid, etc.) I thought that this topic was relevant to what we’ve been reading for two reasons. The first reason is timing. The interview touches on how the online dating industry is about to be rocked by Facebook’s graph search. Their experts are anticipating that people looking for love interests will be utilizing the powerful Graph search for free, rather than paying for expensive monthly subscriptions to their dating services. The second reason Slater’s book is relevant is a little more complicated and it has to do with the methods that information is delivered to customers of online dating services.
I always wondered how the business model of eHarmony was successful. If they perform their job well one time, they are rewarded by losing two customers. How can they make money if by doing their job they lose business? Slater explains that they have to deliver inefficient and efficient information to their customer. They have to deliver efficient information (legitimate dating prospects) in order to satisfy and retain the customer. However, if all they did was deliver efficient information, the customer would find a match and quit before paying for a few months of subscription fees. The answer to this is inefficient information. These inefficiencies are calculated by computer programming, and presented to the customer as profiles of members who don’t use the site anymore, or people who have only created a free profile without in depth information. These fake dating prospects keep the customer distracted and engaged in the service, all while they are paying their monthly subscription fees. By presenting their customers with these dead ends, the computers programming of the online dating services keeps the business profitable.
I have never used an online dating service, but I was wondering if anyone in the class has? If so, were you presented with inefficient information?
Here’s a link to the interview. If it requires a subscription login, I can pull it up in class for anyone who wants to check it out.