When I hear a story of online success, I’m all over it. I want to understand the beliefs and outlook on the person behind it and what they did to make it successful. After plenty of these great success stories this year, here comes another one that perhaps tops all of them.
I first ran into this story a few days ago reading this blog post on “anti-marketing” design. Up against other popular dating sites, PlentyofFish’s design would lead you to believe that Markus would be lucky to be making about $30 a day; in fact, in 2003 he was making $40 a day from Adsense (although this may have been from other sites.)
So lets back up; is it the design that makes his site successful? Between saved bandwidth expenses, and a better Google clickthrough rate, I think it is very important. However, as I dug further into this story I discovered that behind this simple design was a very complex system and someone who worked smart & hard to be sucessful; here is a direct quote from WMW:
Keeping my site fast and running is one of my smallest issues.
1. Approving and editing 20,000 images/day
2. BLocking 1000 nigerian russian scams, escorts etc per day.
3. Blocking fake accounts, trouble makers etc.
4. 100k+ edits/modications/day
5 to 10% of yahoo’s and the industries total signups are scams escorts etc. I’d guess these guys steal on the order of $100-400 million per year from the industry.
How does he moderate all of this? Automation. This is brilliant. Considering other companies must hire hundreds of employees to do all of this, I suspect he is looking at a multi-million dollar buyout within a matter of months. Could he go the way of craigslist and resist it? I don’t know; he’s waving a big flag trying to get a lot of attention right now, and its certainly working.
This story reminds me about computer games. There has been such a huge focus on graphics the last 10 years that gameplay is rarely innovative and often hollow. The same can be said of websites. Post a link on Sitepoint and people are all over you about web standards, not “does your website work and does it help people?” The ugliness of Myspace was the first big single that may be pretty designs aren’t important; PlentyofFish is the nail in the coffen.
As humans one of our biggest weaknesses is becoming obsessed with what is not important. We spend 90% of our time on that little 5% — and that is why so many of us fail. PlentyofFish is an example of what happens when someone understands that its not the fancy design that brings in visitors, its something else. He understands that search engine traffic is important, but its even more important to have visitors that come back to your site again and again.
There is a lot more to say about this story, but for today I’ll leave you to dig deeper here. I suspect Markus is being bombarded with media inquiries but I’m going to try to get an interview with him anyways.