Celebrities

POF and Lavalife Founders Discuss their Former Rivalry and the Online Dating Industry

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Last month on the Canadian TV show The Disruptors, an unlikely interview took place between host Bruce Croxton and Markus Frind, the founder of popular online dating site Plenty of Fish. (Broxton was the founder of dating site Lavalife, which raked in members until POF’s free service hit the market.)

For the first time, the two former rivals were sitting down together to discuss the current state of the dating industry, and the history of their two companies.

Broxton noted the quick success of POF, which because of its free service, quickly gained a lot of users – many of whom hadn’t tried online dating previously. Typically, dating sites made their money through selling subscriptions to members, but POF tried a different model to attract a larger audience, and it worked. Instead of selling subscriptions, the site made its money by selling ad space. After all, they had an engaged audience.

At its peak and before its sale in 2004, Lavalife had over four hundred employees. Frind launched POF in 2003 and operated the service alone from his apartment for the first five years, without hiring another employee despite the service’s rapid growth. He managed to turn it into the largest dating site in the world by focusing on the US market (even though he was based in Canada), and by keeping the service free despite the naysayers.

Frind’s experience wasn’t in the dating industry when he first thought of the idea for POF. In the interview, he admitted that he just needed to learn a new programming language and the best way to do that would be through creating a dating website.

Croxton was complimentary in the interview, admitting that Frind was incredibly innovative in the dating space, despite the endless number of dating apps launched in the last few years claiming to change the online dating industry. “I find it ironic because many of the tech ideas on the show really emphasize that it’s not about the technology anymore because you can be up and running very quickly, it’s really a marketing barrier to entry. But you were pioneering that back in 2003,” Croxon said.

Frind Agreed, noting that he sold his company (for $800 million) because he was tired: “There isn’t really much innovation in the dating space; the features we have today are the same features we had five years ago. It just got kind of boring and I wanted to do something new.”

You can watch the whole interview here. To find out more about POF you can read our review on Plenty of Fish.

Dating Apps like The League and Raya Leveraging Social Status

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The dating app market is flooded, so new companies entering the field and looking to make their mark have to differentiate themselves. For some app developers, it’s taking a female-centric approach, like with Bumble. Others look to social networking connections to make people feel more secure about meeting strangers, like Coffee Meets Bagel or Hinge.

The latest grab for online daters’ attention comes in the form of creating a dating app that is as exclusive as possible.

In other words, a new crop of apps are taking a completely different approach from acquiring the most users, like with Tinder. The success of an online dating company or app has always been evaluated by how large its database of users is. But these apps are banking on another measure of success - that is, how coveted the app is. They are driving demand for the app, and then being selective about who gets to use it.

Raya is one such dating app, marketing itself as "an exclusive dating and networking platform for people in creative industries.” This sounds like it caters to creative types, which it does, but mostly those who are famous or well-connected. Members are admitted by a secretive, anonymous committee, based in part on their Instagram presence. Also, the app isn't free - but costs seem to be based on your personal influence, at least according to some early reviews in the iTunes store.

Another new and exclusive app is The League, which calls itself the “country club” of dating apps. The League uses a secret algorithm to mine potential users’ LinkedIn and Facebook profiles, noting where you went to school and what you do, which are two of the most important factors in gaining admittance. A team of seven employees has final approval over who is selected to join.

While The League went into full-force marketing mode for its launch, enticing people who wanted to be admitted into their club (and aspiring for “higher quality” dates) – Raya has laid low. There was no big launch campaign for Raya, and most users joined by word of mouth from their well-connected and beautiful friends. According to one article in New York Magazine, Raya’s user base consists of models, actors, athletes, celebrity chefs, and sons and daughters of the rich and famous to name a few. These folks are looking for a different experience from Tinder – and to be connected with people who also want to keep a low profile on their dating app.

Raya has an interesting user interface – it allows you to create a slideshow set to music, to appeal to its intended user base of creative types. It also keeps you at a distance from potential matches until you are both ready to message each other. You can look through a match’s Instagram feed, but you can’t like or comment. If you want to engage, both of you must tap the heart on each other’s Raya profiles.

Per the company’s website, applicants are evaluated by an algorithm, which considers “overall Instagram influence, who recommended the applicant, and how many active Raya members follow the applicant on Instagram,” as well as a committee’s vote.

While online dating companies traditionally have seen value in the numbers – how many people are in the database – now it seems there is a new measure of value for those seeking matches based on exclusivity and social status.

'How to Make Online Dating Work,' According To Aziz Ansari

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Who is your go-to for dating advice? Your best friend? A parent? A stand-up comedian?

The last one may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but Aziz Ansari is out to change that. Together with Eric Klinenberg, a professor of sociology at New York University, he has penned a new book called Modern Romance. In a recent article for The New York Times, the duo shares a few insights gleaned from two years of research for the book.

“Online dating generates a spectrum of reactions,” they write, from exhilaration to fatigue to fury. The question is, “Is there a way to do it more effectively, with less stress?” After two years of study, Ansari and Klinenberg believe the answer is yes. They offer the following tips for singles looking to make online dating work better.

Don't rely too much on algorithms. You can filter to your heart's content, but at the end of the day, “we are horrible at knowing what we want.” Think of online dating as a vehicle for meeting people, rather than a method for finding the love of your life. An online dating site can only predict so much. Introductions are guaranteed, but only by meeting in person can you decide if you have long-term potential as a couple.

Your picture matters (probably too much). OkCupid launched an app called Crazy Blind Date that offered users only a blurred photo and minimal info. After going on the date, users were asked to rate their satisfaction with the experience. On OkCupid's regular site, women who were rated highly attractive were unlikey to respond to men who were rated less attractive. But when they were matched using Crazy Blind Date, they had a good time.

What does that mean? According to Christian Rudder, an OkCupid co-founder, “people appear to be heavily preselecting online for something that, once they sit down in person, doesn’t seem important to them.” Next time you look at a photo that doesn't seem quite up to snuff, remember that the person behind it could be exactly the date you're looking for.

Swipe apps don't deserve the stigma. You've heard critics complain that swipe apps like Tinder are too superficial, but Ansari and Klinenberg call that cynical. “When you walk into a bar or party,” they write, “often all you have to go by is faces, and that’s what you use to decide if you are going to gather the courage to talk to them. Isn’t a swipe app just a huge party full of faces?”

For more insight into modern romance, read the original article and, as Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.”

Aziz Ansari Thinks Technology Is Probably Ruining Your Love Life

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Aziz Ansari already has a reputation as an actor, stand-up comic, and fashionable gentleman. Now, as author of a new book called Modern Romance, he's looking to add “dating guru” to that list.

The book is a humorous collection of essays and observations that chronicle the challenges of looking for love in the age of Tinder. Ansari is no stranger to the subject. He's talked extensively in his stand-up about the ways technology — smartphones, texting, social media, online dating, and more — affects today’s dating landscape. But this time, he's coming at it from a different angle.

Modern Romance was written with sociologist Eric Klinenberg, who provides a welcome dose of serious insight to balance Ansari's humor. Together they conducted a research project that took over a year to complete and involved hundreds of interviews.

“We talked to old people, married people, young people, single people, everybody,” Ansari tweeted. “We also enlisted some of the best social scientists to help us understand and study all the facets of modern love and romance.”

The results are both funny and fascinating. Texting, in particular, was a popular subject. Modern Romance highlights several bad texting habits plaguing 21st century daters:

  • Ambiguity. Are you “hanging out” or going on a date? “The lack of clarity over whether the meet-up is even an actual date frustrates both sexes to no end,” Ansari writes. “Since it’s usually the guys initiating,” he adds, “this is a clear area where men can step it up.” Guys, time to step it up and get straightforward.
  • Endless nonsense. “I can’t tell you how many girls I met who were clearly interested in a guy who, instead of asking them out, just kept sucking them into more mundane banter,” writes Ansari. Let that be a lesson to you: skip the boring back-and-forths about laundry and grocery shopping. Get to the good stuff: are you meeting up, when, and where?
  • “Hey.”If that's all you have to say in a text message, it's better left unsent. Especially if it has multiple Ys. Although Ansari admits to sending plenty of his own “hey” texts, he cautions that “generic messages come off as super dull and lazy” and “make the recipient feel like she’s not very special or important to you.”

Thankfully, it's not all bad. “We also found some really good texts that gave me hope for the modern man,” Ansari says. A good text, he explains, involves any or all of these:

  • An invitation to something specific at a specific time
  • A callback to a previous interaction with the person
  • A humorous tone

Pre-order a copy of the book here and start channeling your inner Aziz.

Luxy Dating App for Rich People Offered Money to Rename a City

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Luxy, a new dating app for rich people, seems to like provocative gimmicks to attract new users to their service. First, they launched their app in 2014 describing it as “Tinder without the poor people.” Now, they have taken their brand to the next outrageous level by offering $3.4 million to rename the celebrity enclave of Hidden Hills, California after their own app – Luxy, U.S.A.

Hidden Hills is an exclusive suburb of Los Angeles, home to celebrities Jennifer Lopez, Miley Cyrus, and the Kardashians. The app is trying to tie in its own service with the rich celebrity lifestyle.

According to an article in CNN Money, the app so far has 135,000 active users, including its latest member – an actor from Californication. (Luxy is apparently using this bit of celebrity news to help promote the app, too.)

To qualify to use Luxy, members must prove they make at least $200,000 per year – by providing income tax statements.

Luxy is not the first company to try and re-name a town to increase its brand cache. There have been other towns that have renamed themselves, thanks to some clever business marketing. Topeka, Kansas renamed itself Google for a month and Halfway, Oregon renamed itself halfway.com during the 1990s dot.com boom. But Luxy will be the first app to try and achieve this goal – and they want the name to stick for 10 years, rather than just a month or two.

There have been other dating apps catering to the jet set crowd. The League launched recently in New York and San Francisco, gaining a lot of attention in the press for its exclusivity. So far, the company has refused to allow more than 2,500 users in New York to join, but they do provide each of the members two VIP passes to give to friends. These friends are then able to bypass the 16,000 people who are apparently on the waiting list to use the app.

You might be wondering who all of these rich single people are. According to Luxy’s website, their clientele includes “CEOs, entrepreneurs, investors, millionaires, beauty queens, fitness models, Hollywood celebrities, pro athletes, doctors, lawyers and many more.”

So far, City Hall has not responded to the app’s offer to purchase the city name. The company’s spokesperson told CNN: "This is just the beginning. Texas is next. We can't wait too long. There are other cities who might want the publicity and the money more."

Hilary Duff Tries Tinder, Possibly For A New Reality Show

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Little Lizzie McGuire herself, Hilary Duff, is officially on Tinder.

Her appearance on the popular dating app has been big news since a Tinder user came across her profile and posted a screen shot to Reddit. Naturally, there were plenty of skeptics, but Duff confirmed to radio show Valentine in the Morning that she is indeed on the app. And that's not all she had to say about her new adventures as a mobile dater.

"In my life I've always had really serious boyfriends, I've always met people through work, and I've never been on a blind date," she said. Determined to try something new, she turned to Tinder and called the experience “wildly addicting” so far.

Some would dip their toes slowly into the online dating waters, but not Ms. Duff. She jumped straight in and says she's talking to “probably about nine guys right now.” Not to suggest she has no standards – a shirtless mirror selfie is an instant swipe left, she explains, while a funny profile is likely to get you a right swipe.

Duff even went as far as to dish on her first Tinder dates. It appears her style is low-key, active, and affordable. Her first date was to a bowling alley, with the second scheduled for a go-karting track. She even brought friends along to the first date, making sure things stayed safe and laidback.

So how did things go on the big day? During an interview with On Air With Ryan Seacrest, Duff said “He was cool. He brought a friend and I had some friends there. He used to be in editing for reality shows. Now, he’s an actor and he just wrote a play. He’s an interesting guy.”

Still, it doesn't seem that sparks flew on the first try. She says the night didn't end with a kiss, and that she's unsure about the prospect of a second date. “I don’t know how I’m feeling,” she told Seacrest. “We’ll see how it goes.”

Duff likely has plenty more meetups to look forward to, as rumor has it cameras were rolling during her bowling date. Sources told TMZ that Duff plans to capture her exploits in the dating world on camera for a reality show that chronicles her life as a new divorcée.

So far her rep has no comment about the potential reality show, but Duff was allegedly seen on a second date and once again cameras were recording the proceedings.

Will you be tuning in if the Duff dating show makes it to TV?