CEO Q&A: Sam Yagan, Match.com

Sam Yagan, CEO of Match.com, talks to Diana Bradley about how the online dating site differentiates itself in an oversaturated market.

Sam Yagan, CEO of Match.com, talks to Diana Bradley about how the online dating site differentiates itself in an oversaturated market.

You have been CEO of Match.com since October 2012. What roles did you have prior to that?

In 2003, my friends and I launched the website OkCupid on the premise that we could use math to get people dates. We compiled huge amounts of data, launched OkTrends, and grew the company for years.

In February 2011, OkCupid was acquired by Interactive Corp, which owns Match. com. Today, I oversee a global online dating portfolio consisting of more than 40 brands, with users in more than 100 countries.

How has Match.com evolved since its launch in 1995?
We're the original social network. The website pioneered one of the most successful Internet categories about two decades ago.

However, we are vastly different now than when we launched. Most people didn't have Internet access back then and smartphones were nonexistent. We have changed as the industry has evolved and technology has improved. We optimized our algorithm to better serve users and created a mobile app that is used by more people each year.

Match.com has consistently seen strong growth during the past few years. In Q3 2013, we saw a 7% increase in paid subscribers compared with Q3 2012.

How do you contend with the growing number of niche dating sites such as Farmers Only and Gluten Free Singles?
We see new sites pop up every week, but it all comes down to scale, innovation, and success. We have members aged 18- to 80-years-old who are looking for the same thing - to meet and connect with other singles.

Our most concentrated group of users are in their late 20s and mid-40s, but our younger and senior demographics have seen exponential growth in the last few years.

Our PR outreach is aimed toward core users - those in their late 20s to mid-40s.

Our PeopleMedia brands use a more niche, targeted PR approach - on sites such as OurTime.com and BlackPeopleMeet.com.

What are Match's biggest challenges?
Safety and security is always a concern. We are working to educate members about safety and strive to put the best measures in place. Our goal is to put the right tools in customers' hands to protect themselves through on-site messaging, dating, and have a feature where they can report concerns.

We constantly challenge ourselves to create the best experience through smarter matching, easier search tools, simpler ways to communicate, and better off-site offerings.

What off-site offerings does Match have?
Our most recently added feature is actually offline - our singles events. We launched Stir in May 2012 and are now holding more than 400 events a month in 80 markets. We have a variety of options - from cooking classes for foodies, to rock climbing for more active members, to larger-scale happy hours with more than 150 singles.

We promote these events through social platforms. For Stir's one-year anniversary in June, we ran a contest where singles could submit an idea for an event and created videos showing how much our event platform has grown in recent times.

We always send media out to experience events for themselves and work to place stories about Stir partners and why they work with Match to target singles.

What role does PR play with your site?
We work with our in-house communications team at our headquarters in Dallas and DKC in New York for our PR efforts.

PR helps to change the perception of not only Match, but also online dating as an authentic means of finding a relationship.

How do you get the word out?
Our team uses a combination of methods, including pitches throughout the year to highlight our data, tech innovation, partnership collaborations, success stories, and site offerings, alongside relationship building so we can assist with reactive opportunities that range from relationship expert commentary to human interest stories.

We leverage Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, Pinterest, and our blog to generate social media-specific initiatives. We only push out social content, such as event recaps, success stories, and overviews of hot topics.

We continually issue interesting data such as our annual Singles in America study and teamed up with NBC's Today show to help find Martha Stewart a date [she went out with two Match guys.] Reactively, we use social platforms to engage with our current, former, and potential new members.

What's on the horizon for next year?
January kicks off our peak season. By analyzing historical data, we can predict that January 5 at 8:57pm is going to be the best time all year to meet someone on Match. The new year brings a renewed interest to find someone.

We have several big initiatives in place, including our fourth annual Singles in America study that will launch in February.

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