It’s hardly a secret that online dating giants OKCupid and e Harmony serve very different audiences—e Harmony being an older and more rural crowd, OKCupid a younger and more urban user base.
But Harvard Business School professor Mikolaj "Misiek" Piskorski has recently uncovered evidence that confirms these demographics also have totally different ways of communicating—or e-courting, for lack of a better term.
After personal information was anonymized, he got to the meat of the matter: How users send messages to each other, how they flirt online, and how they use the sites.
"Where e Harmony varies dramatically is communication," Piskorski told me in a recent telephone interview.
"People reach out to each other more on e Harmony, and get more responses on there.
The people you traditionally would think have the hardest time reaching out to people do very well on e Harmony." In his book, Piskorski explains that older women and a subgroup he categorizes as "men who are shorter, older, or overweight" are more likely to send messages to potential partners on e Harmony than on OKCupid.
He attributes that to the different demographics which use e Harmony, but he says most of it is due to the site’s design.
Because users are connected with a relatively small pool of partners—rather than letting them pursue the entire site as in OKCupid’s case—he feels that encourages otherwise timid users to go ahead and message.EHarmony gave him a large data set in exchange for unpaid consulting work, while he purchased site records from OKCupid.Both data sets were scrubbed of personal information that could identify their customers, and then Piskorski went to work to see how they tick.Piskorski told me that he feels e Harmony’s much-vaunted matchmaking algorithms are less central to the service’s success than most people think.Instead, he feels e Harmony became a popular and profitable online service primarily through user experience."Stereotypical norms of courtship dictate that men pursue women, and women wait to be courted—this is not a very efficient solution to dating problems," Piskorski says.