Brief encounter: Steve Pammenter, MD, WhiteLabelDating.com
According to dating software company, WhiteLabelDating.com, having a relevant web site will always encourage relevant people to dip their hands into their pockets. We speak to Steve, Pammenter, managing director about profiting from niche.
Free is the magic number of the Web. Whether it is from downloading music, accessing research, or viewing photos of your friends on social networks, users expect their Web usage to be supplemented in some shape or form.
With traditional advertising seemingly failing to make the most of the Web, how can companies continue to profit from Web users? According to dating software company, WhiteLabelDating.com, having a relevant web site will always encourage relevant people to dip their hands into their pockets. We speak to Steve, Pammenter, managing director about profiting from niche.
WhiteLabelDating.com enables partners to set up their own branded, online dating sites. WhiteLabelDating.com's services include the provision of the back-end system requirements, software, billing and customer support, as well as database management.
So is it quite similar to Ning in that you have invested in the back end and it allows your partners to create bespoke sites?
Yeah, I suppose in a way, what we are doing is very similar to Ning. However, for our partners we also offer a database of contacts, and obviously the market it is targeted at is different.
What are the differences between the online dating sites that you have in your portfolio?
The main difference are the networks within the database, some of which include: Adult, General, Over 50's, casual etc.
We support many niche sites, all aimed at a different demographic of users. Traditionally, these specialised sites produce a lower volume of members but have higher conversion rates. We have found that members are more willing to pay for a niche site as they can be sure that it is relevant to them and what they are looking for.
Do you do anything differently to target the various demographics?
We provide the tools for our partners and they can create what they think will appeal to their target audience. For example, one of the features we offer is video profiling. As expected this is used by the more tech savvy and younger members. Conversely, older users prefer to have a more functional, streamlined site where they can view information easily.
What other forms of communications will you be looking at implementing into your offering?
We already use a range of communications tools such as instant messaging and video chat. One of our main focuses will be in improving the personality profile matching – the uniqueness of our service is its relevancy, we want to make it more so.
Will microblogging and blogs be integrated into the offering?
To a certain extent our members already have the ability to blog on their profiles, using the Diary facility we provide for them. Here they can write whatever they want and others can reply. They also have use of chat rooms, which is used as a main 'community' chat facility.
When we begin to offer white label social networking sites, blogs and forums will definitely feature as a facility.
One of the key issues in the Web 2.0 world is how people can make money from it. What is your business model?
Our business is a white label service, which supplies the use of a shared database application. Put very simply, it allows partners to drive traffic to the database and take the revenue share of subscriptions.
The business operates a recurring billing model, meaning that partners get a percentage of all revenue for the lifetime of each member. Although retention rates vary from site to site, they are very high across the entire database.
Our additional revenue streams include mobile technology and Lifestyle Facility (i.e. personality matching, horoscopes etc). We are currently exploring other services.
And what are these?
We have our own currency on the sites which can be used to purchase virtual gifts. We are looking at how we can improve this application and integrate it into the customer experience.
But aren't we all bored with throwing sheep? On Facebook these are free, why would people pay for them?
There is a difference between how people use Facebook and how people use dating sites. Gifts on Facebook are little more than token gestures – send them to everyone. As such it is not at all valued or seen as having any thought put into it. However, on our dating sites, people buy gifts for a reason. It's a conversation point, a catalyst for contact. You can really put thought into these gifts and it shows in people's appreciation.
What sets you apart from other dating sites?
For our partners, our conversion rates and stickability are much greater. Our members generally remain much longer than other dating sites and use the site more often.
Because of the niche markets?
We are catering to niche single people. Go on any general dating site and you'll find that a search can lead to literally hundreds of people that you would have to sift through in order to find someone with the characteristics you wanted. This is time consuming and one of the reasons why we are proving so successful.
We experience excellent retention rates across the network as a whole but in the last year have seen the niche sites vastly outperform the more general sites, in some cases having doubled the rate of retention.
One particular site that sits on the over 50's network is currently experiencing retention rates of up to seven months, nearly double the general dating network average.
How do you see online dating integrating with social networks or will they remain completely separate?
In my opinion they will remain separate. Traditionally social networking sites are free, whereas members are willing to pay for dating sites.
Members of dating sites like to keep details of their personal love life hidden from general view on the Internet. As they like to keep their social and love-lives separate, they would probably not want to provide information on a larger networking site. Dating is about finding suitable friendships or love matches, whereas social networking is about finding a central area to discuss each other's interests.