When cheating on your spouse is big business
Ashley Madison's business is reviled by many, but that doesn't stop it from piling up revenue.
Toronto entrepreneur Noel Biderman knows better than anybody that sex sells.
Biderman pulls in "tens of millions" in revenue a year running a dating site called Ashley Madison. You might have seen Biderman's face on American TV shows like CNN, The View, Dr. Phil or The Tyra Banks Show. He's also received extensive media coverage in various large circulation newspapers.
Ashley Madison - ABC News.com
Why the fuss? Ashley Madison is aimed squarely at helping married people have affairs, complete with an "affair guarantee" that will refund you your money if you don't find someone in the first three months. The guarantee package costs $249 to purchase. Users can browse for free but must purchase credits to initiate a live chat, for example.
It's an objective that has, not surprisingly, generated a
firestorm of moral indignation.
It's also generated in the order of 4.6 million users worldwide, a depressingly dark statistic that underscores other statistics, such as the one that more than 50 per cent of men and women admit to cheating within a relationship at least once.
The results of all this infamy have been mixed: traffic has grown leaps and bounds, but advertisers worried by public perception have backed off. Biderman says the backlash is adversely affecting his company's growth, and grouses that he's being unfairly blacklisted with decisions that are made arbitrarily instead of being based on business acumen.
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And Biderman knows all about the bottom line. He is a former Chicago sports agent who hails from Toronto and attended Osgoode Hall Law School. But instead of practising law, Biderman says he worked for three years as "the Jerry Maguire of Lebanon.
"I took ex-NBA basketball clients and put them in leagues overseas."
Biderman is also a happily married man with kids who says he'd be "devastated" if his wife were to cheat.
Biderman took over the eight-year-old company from his partner a couple of years ago, and since then, he turned himself into the face for Ashley Madison. He took the marketing to the next level with a partnership with Howard Stern's Sirius XM radio show, as well as billboards and the new tag line, "Life is short. Have an affair."
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"From there it has become a huge service," says Biderman, who even wrote a book about the experience.
He also understood that to avoid attracting porn users and pull women to the site, the website needed a female-friendly name and a marketing approach that would target the average, mainstream sort of person. Where to find that person? Through the mainstream media, as in television appearances and commercials, and print advertising. The result is that 30 per cent of Ashley Madison subscribers are women. For reasons he cannot understand, the number of women users is 35 per cent in Toronto.
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