Plenty of Fish equals Plenty of Money

by Mathew on January 12, 2008 · 28 comments

Nice to see someone (other than me) paying some attention to Markus Frind and what he has been able to accomplish with his dating site, Plenty of Fish. The New York Times has a story about him — which I found via a Twitter post from my friend Mark Evans — and it highlights the main things you need to know about Markus and Plenty of Fish:

1. The site looks like crap, and Markus doesn’t care (and neither do users).

2. Markus works 10 hours a week and makes $10-million a year.

3. Plenty of Fish gets about 1.2 billion pageviews a month.

The Times’ story mentions Craigslist, and I think the comparison is apt: like Craig, Markus has also focused on keeping the site free and on only doing those things that users want, not what others think he should do. And true to the old rule of thumb that Canada is one-tenth the size of the U.S., Craigslist has 25 people and has 12 billion pageviews a month, and Plenty of Fish has two people and does 1.2 billion.

A couple of little-known facts that aren’t in the Times’ story: Markus once helped to nab a suspected killer for the U.S. Marshal, and his research in mathematics was cited in a paper that won the Fields Medal, the math equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Markus also says there are some major announcements coming about Plenty of Fish.

Update:

Kevin Burton of Tailrank isn’t buying it. If Markus is so successful, he says, why doesn’t he just shut up and run the site and pocket those $10-million instead of bragging about it? Burton says Frind is either a liar or a fool. Any comment on that, Markus?

  • http://www.bestengagingcommunities.com Mukund Mohan

    MI
    Take a look at this video of them from a year (or so ago). Very cool Guy K with Markus and others.

    http://blog.guykawasaki.com/2007/02/panel_of_we

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    Thanks, Mukund. That's a great video — some great companies in
    there. And Drew Curtis of Fark is hilarious.

  • http://joeduck.com Joe Hunkins

    I'm a big fan of Markus as well. PlentyofFish is a great example of using the medium in a simple and powerful way, and puts the lie to the notion that success requires careful planning and big capital. He did it his own simple way, and won big. I'm also starting to wonder if it might have been helpful to be *out* of the Silicon Valley loop as Markus was.

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  • Ted

    http://plentyoffish.wordpress.com/2008/01/04/ho

    In this blog post, Markus says that his Adsense click through rate had dropped 60% in two months as a result of the clickable area changes made to Adsense ads. What that suggests to me at least is that a lot of his clicks were accidental, which is usually due to deceptive ad formating or ad positioning.

    Maybe there's something else going on, but there has always seemed to be something strange going on with Markus's claims.

    I don't really doubt his revenue claims, although he's been throwing around the same revenue numbers for something like 2 years now… However, I suspect there is a lot more to the story than Markus would like us to believe.

    Fake it until you make it as they say.

  • http://www.plentyoffish.com Markus

    I've got no idea who this guy is, but the same thing happens every single time a story is printed.

    There are 2 types of people in silicon valley, those who made a ton of money, and those who wish they did. I swear the later category has read some kind of business for dummies book and every time I do something that isn't “correct” they lecture me on the correct way of doing things.

    The reason is simple, 2 years ago I was getting calls from other dating sites saying, Sell to us now or we will crush you completely by launching competing free sites. Every major site had consultants coming in telling them to go free before it was to late. Second tier sites were barely profitable in most cases and had nothing to lose by going free

    So rather then compete with companies like match or eharmony with billions in the bank as a free service I just released my numbers. After all Plentyoffish is an absolutely massive site and no one in the industry believed I was making so little money. That made it real hard for other sites to get funding, and for paid sites to BS their investors and sell them on the idea of going free.

    So what happend? Allegron, RSVP.com.au, datingdirect, lavalife, zencon and a bunch of others All got sold after looking at going free and seeing it wouldn't work. Lavalife and Questpersonals even launched Free Dating sites to try and compete head on. Those all failed.

    No one else has figured out how to create a site the size of plentyoffish with under $30 million a year in tech related costs. Combined that with the fact revenues would be so small the big sites backed off, for now.

    In the end there are well over 100,000 dating sites at any time, and about 3,000 of those get enough traffic at any one time to be tracked by hitwise and others. Having another few thousand sites started by people who thought they could get rich was a far better option then competing head on with dating sites that had unlimited money.

    Also with compete, quantcast and others out there, any idiot could go and multiply pageviews * CPM and come up with a revenue estimate. Not to mention many dating sites buy CPM ads on my site.

  • http://www.mathewingram.com/work mathewi

    I guess people just can't believe that you can run a site that large
    with such a small infrastructure, Markus — or they seem to assume
    that if you were really doing that well you would have cashed out by
    now.

  • http://feedblog.og Kevin Burton

    Markus.

    I'm not sure if that comment was directed at me but for the record I'm very happy with the company I run :)

    My point is, that if other dating sites our floundering, don't chime up and clue them in. Stay silent and let them crash around you.

    Google only talked about their ad revenue when the had to go public.

  • http://www.plentyoffish.com Markus

    by saying nothing they would have all converted to free. By publically stating my revenues were far below what they thought I undercut their reasons for going free.

  • http://graduallythensuddenly.com Daniel Gibbons

    As Markus indicates, it's hard to see how his revenue could be any less with that number of page views and the plethora of ads on the site. There have been other cheap shots speculating that he's spending all the money on google ads to drive traffic, but try searching for any online dating term and I don't think you'll see any PoF ads.

    In fact that might be the most interesting story of all — the practically free cost of customer acquisition (at least if you don't count the piece of the pie Google and the ad networks take, which the publisher never sees anyway). Didn't Match.com spend almost $175 million on ads last year (more than half of their 2006 revenue)?

  • TicTac

    So let me get this straight. Based on the info out there, your site started in 2003 as a way for you to learn .NET after being out of college for only a few years, and somehow you've stumbled upon an architecture compromised of a few servers that would cost others $30 million/year to operate? I think you have every right to be proud of what you've accomplished, but call me skeptical for not buying that.

  • http://www.plentyoffishdatingnow.com jenny

    Woh, Mr. Markus is the top sample that I am impressed in my life. He has a master mind in marketing and managing his site by himself.
    Again, Mark, if you read this note, I just want to say how smart you are.
    Again, thank you for sharing his successful story.
    Jenny.

  • George

    “but try searching for any online dating term and I don't think you'll see any PoF ads.”

    Have you tried typing “dating” into Google? There's a POF ad right there.

    But he could do well without AdWords, the site is sticky and I'm sure he gets plenty of organic traffic. Revenue makes sense based on numbers, and with smart caching and limited DB calls the load could be handled by only a few servers.

    Besides, one nice benefit (or goal?) of releasing the numbers means stories like this, which mean free publicity and page rank boost.

  • http://www.welcometowallyworld.com/plentyoffish-mate-or-date/2007/9/19/plenty-of-fish-the-23-primes-in-arithmetic-progression.html Malcolm Lambe

    He's an amazing guy. You do know that Marcus Frind is a mathematical genius? Check out Marcus & the 23 Primes

  • Anonymous

    The owner and the mods have a lot of disrespect towards the users. You see this displayed in the suggestion forums and any other forum where we get to interact with them. Snotty attitudes. And lots of control issues. They disallow chatting in the forums which is how many people get to know whether or not the want to befriend or date someone. They are big on rules and don't seem to care about pleasing the people who have made Markus rich. And I've read on the site that the mods don't get paid. My God, how stingy. If you're rich Markus, pay the people who help run your site.

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  • http://www.dating72.com Pretty

    I agreee with you.
    Nice and impressed.

  • http://www.adultpersonalssite.com/ Adult Personals

    Problems with the free dating sites are they are pushing so much advertising on you, its nice to have an online dating sites that not having ads all over the place. Adult personals are bad to so might try a paid one if you dont want the banners

  • Sean

    For some reason POF appears to be unavailable as of 28 Feb 2009? The message I have been receiving all day is: The Web Page Can Not Be Found,
    More information

    This error (HTTP 400 Bad Request) means that Internet Explorer was able to connect to the web server, but the webpage could not be found because of a problem with the address.

    Any thoughts appreciated

  • KahMajaih

    I would love to meet you and explore your home. Its beautiful Sir:)

  • pock

    i am onmy way to ANOTHER PLANTY OF MONEY Sorry no Plenty of fish

  • luvbird21

    Calling from UK .Very impersonal site system generated welcome from Marcus and then you find you Profile has been obliterated (apparently this happens for no reason from time to time POF says) You try to find out why and you are ignored. Marcus you are very shallow and another example of someone whos made his money and couldnt give a s…

  • freedatingsite

    Excellent post

  • jena

    Is it true his is involved in porn http://www.datingcare.com/is-porn-behind-markus

  • mmacneil007

    Numbers dont' lie…POF is an incredible success…hard to say for sure what he's pocketing…but multiple millions would seem logical.

    Mark

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  • mmacneil007

    Numbers dont' lie…POF is an incredible success…hard to say for sure what he's pocketing…but multiple millions would seem logical.

    Mark

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