Recently, we had the chance to meet Hee Eun Park, the CEO of ium, an online dating site with a new twist. ium is a dating site where you get matched with one person per day. Once you see your matches profile, you can make a decision whether you are interested. If both parties say yes, contact information is exchanged. If one or both parties say no, you have to wait until the next day.
While most people associate “one a day” web sites with the booming social commerce model, Ms. Park says it also makes perfect sense for dating websites. The general problem with online dating sites is the highly unbalanced ratio of males to females. Males can not find a suitable match because there is too much competition. Females can not find a suitable match because they are bombarded with dozens of requests per day and can not figure out who is sincere and who is not.
ium tries to keep the ratio of males to females under control by moderating new membership. Currently, the site maintains a ratio of 1.2 males for every female, which is leagues better than your average dating site. Ms. Park states that maintaining this ratio is one of the most difficult aspects of the business at the moment. A couple of male friends of mine signed up but were put on a waiting list and ultimately accepted into the site a couple of weeks later.
The second area of importance for ium is quality control. Fake profiles and multiple accounts is a major problem with traditional dating sites. New member moderation also helps tackle this problem. Register with a photo of a celebrity and you will most likely be caught by a member of their staff. Registration also requires the user to input their Korean ID number. This means users can not falsify their name, age or gender and ensures that each person can only create one account.
The site boasts 90,000 registered users and is currently profitable. What’s the profit model? In order to actually say “yes” to a match, you must pay a fee of 3,300 won ($3) each time you wish to do so. Subscriptions are also available at 9,900 won ($9) and 14,900 won ($13), giving you the opportunity to say yes for 14 and 30 days respectively. Other premium features include trying to connect with a past match, seeing how others have rated your profile, etc.
One of the most interesting topics that came up was in how the site algorithmically matches users. When a user joins, they are “scored” by a member of ium’s staff. Users are also scored by former matches as well. The system takes these scores as well as profile keywords into account to match users. Ms. Park stated one of the secrets lies in varying the matches to keep interest levels high. For example, ium will mostly match you with users with similar ratings but every once in a while, they will match someone with a much higher rating to keep you coming back. Due to their algorithm, ium is able to hold a retention rate of over 80%.
The last interesting tidbit was in regards to the actual average ratings. It seems males are more generous with their ratings as females are scored a few points higher (on a scale of 1-10) on average than males.
Interested in joining ium? Check out the site at http://i-um.net. You have to be a Korean citizen to sign up although Ms. Park states she is working on getting foreigners like myself into the system.