If a picture is worth a thousand words, how much is a video worth?
Everything old is new again. So maybe it shouldn’t surprise us that the next big thing in dating might be Match… Dot com? Uh huh.
As anyone who’s spent any time on dating apps lately knows, the endless parade of matches — and all the chatting and ghosting and guessing that comes with it — are getting old. Every player in the game is, of course, busy searching for the next magic algorithm or mind-blowing feature that will give users a better way to sort through the masses and find the one. But it looks like good old-fashioned Match may have cracked the code.
Yes, the OG dating site, which was founded back in 1995 (gasp!), is still alive and well. It’s definitely not regarded as the hip app of choice for thirsty millennials, but it does still have a sizable user base of people actively looking for love. And now they’re going to move all those singles into the brave new world of video.
A wall full of successful matches in the Match office
In an interview, Match CEO Mandy Ginsberg, told us the product will be called Match Stories and will launch this summer. The point, in a nutshell, is to give people a chance to convey who they really are — in their own voice.
A focus on storytelling
Match has been working over the last several quarters to perfect a proprietary tool that lets users stitch together short profile videos with minimal effort. They’re intended to help you tell your story, but Ginsberg says, “There’s no way we can expect everyone to be a filmmaker, so that’s why we wanted to make sure it was light and easy.”
To that end, these stories will be limited to 60 seconds, and you’ll be able to drop in a combination of photos and videos. You can also throw a voiceover on top of that, to talk through what’s happening.
A glimpse of what Stories will look like
The name may sound similar to those casual snippets we’ve come to know and love on Snapchat and Instagram, but Match’s version will be a far more composed affair. In some ways, while it’s more formal, it’s lower stakes.
Posting a regular stream of moments from your day is fine when it’s your friends who are seeing it, but when it’s a potential romantic interest, there is pressure to look good in addition to being funny and interesting. And that’s a lot to ask — dating is exhausting enough as it is.
Match’s approach, though, doesn’t require a constant feed of content. It’s meant more as a quick intro that gives fuller sense of who you are. You can look at pictures all day and chat deep into the night, but just a few seconds of someone talking can often tell you everything you need to know.
“It gives people flexibility,” Ginsberg explains. “Hearing someone talk about their photo is far better than just seeing the photo. Seeing a video and hearing their voice is, I think, the holy grail in terms of figuring out your attraction.”
She stresses, though, that these are not meant to be like those often creepy, direct-to-camera style video dating profiles that were once mailed around. (Yes, mailed on VHS tapes!) While you certainly could sit down and give a brief rundown of all your great qualities and what you’re looking for, that’s probably not your best option.
If all goes according to plan, Match Stories should be an efficient way to convey what your life is like and what matters to you — “Here’s me fishing with my brother,” or “I love to travel and have been all over the world,” or, even better, “Here are my seventeen beloved Pomeranians.” And while a photo and video compilation by itself doesn’t exactly feel revolutionary, the voice over is really the game changer.
It obviously lets you hear the person’s voice, which, if you’ve ever fallen for someone over chat only to realize they had an annoyingly high-pitched giggle in person, you know is crucial. In fact, in their most recent Singles in America survey, Match found that 72% of singles think “someone’s voice makes a person attractive.” So if you can gauge that right off the bat, you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of trouble.
It’s also a really good way to get a sense of how someone strings together their thoughts. Are they a good storyteller? Are they funny? Are they off-puttingly taken with themselves or too reserved for your taste? It’s a lot to ask of a minute-long clip, but in the high stakes numbers game that is online dating, this is exactly the kind of sorting tool many people are hungry for.
The right place at the right time
There’s no doubt that moving into video is a big gamble for Match. They’re certainly not the first app to offer a video platform, but as of now they’re the first of the massive dating apps to take on this particular beast. (Bumble did announce a plan to launch of disappearing, 10-second videos earlier this year, but thus far it hasn’t actually materialized.)
While video has fast taken over the rest of the internet, dating apps have been slow to come on board.
While video has fast taken over the rest of the internet — and social media, in particular — dating apps have been slow to come on board. Partly because there was no need to fix what wasn’t broken. People were happily swiping away, so why add something that was complicated and expensive and not necessarily in demand?
For new apps that have attempted to make video their main attraction, it’s proved difficult to build up a sizable user base and moderating all that content to keep the inevitable creeps off the platform is a behemoth task.
Match is in many ways uniquely positioned to succeed where others have failed. They already have scale. And unlike Tinder (which is owned by the same parent company as Match) and other more casual apps, Match has a pretty dedicated community of people who are there looking exclusively for serious relationships.
Those people, especially when they are paid subscribers, are more inclined to invest the time — even if it’s only requires a few minutes — to craft a video profile. Whereas if you’re just looking for hookups, you probably aren’t interested in telling your life story to your potential matches.
Match also has an existing infrastructure for moderating a massive amount of user-generated content, so throwing video into the mix will not be back-breaking amount of work. And if they need to develop a more sophisticated method for automatically screening tons of videos, they’ve got the resources to do it.
Clawing their way back to dominance
Ginsberg is the first to admit that Match lagged behind during the massive shift to mobile, and they’ve spent the last few years playing catch-up. But she now believes “We’re as good or better than any other dating app out there.”
They’ve now turned their attention, she says, to setting themselves apart from the competition and exciting their existing users. Stories is a big part of how they plan to do that, and to that end, they’ve gone in hot. They’ve dedicated somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of their development capacity to the project, which they’ll begin testing in a few markets this summer and will roll out nationally later this year.
Ginsberg at work with the Stories development team
Stories comes on the heels of another successful product launch earlier this year: Missed Connections, which matches you based on locations you’ve both frequented. So far it’s had a very solid adoption rate. Somewhere around 60 percent of users have opted into it since its debut in January, and Ginsberg has similarly high expectations for Stories.
She says, “I will be shocked if not everyone watches video — because how can you not?” Video does seem irresistible as the next frontier in online dating, but will this particular way of doing it be enough to help Match capture people’s hearts again?
Ginsberg is under no illusions that they’re going to morph into Bumble, but that’s not her goal:
“The best situation is that by the time people go on a date, it feels like a second date.”
“We’re really clear on what we are and what we’re not. We’re not going to be for the 19-year-old college student. That’s just not who Match is for. But if you’re 28 and you’re ready for a real relationship. Or you’re 42 and you’re divorced and you’re ready for a real relationship, then we are probably the place you go to.”
That’s why Match is highly focused on creating “features that allow you to create real connections,” and Ginsberg is committed to pushing even further with video in the future. She says, “The best situation is that by the time people go on a date, it feels like a second date. Anything we can do to give people a better picture of their chemistry, we’ll do.”
As the millennials who came of age on Tinder age and get more serious about settling down, they’re a real get for any app. Offering them a real way to read chemistry without having to invest the time and energy of actually meeting IRL could be enough to make them take a second look at the old standard.