Monetization free verse paid.

Looks like snap is making some money  but compared to the traffic they have and ads it doesn’t amount to much.

Snap has  1.4 Million visits a day and made $533,000 in 3 months,  that works out to .4 Cents a visit.   Once they introduced all these paying features and multiple banner ads etc it increased to .6 cents a visit.

Eharmony makes about 75M a quarter on 52 million visits,  that works out to $1.45 a visit.  Even if i’m off by 50 cents its still 200 times as much revenue per visit as snap.

The problem with free is that every time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold.   I really underestimated how much resources it would take,  I have one database table now that exceeds  3 billion records.    The bigger you get as a free site the less money you make per visit and the more it costs to service a visit.

We are going to start introducing some products and features to try and get some of the 10 to 20 million dollars a month my users are spending elsewhere.     There is really no money in being free and we have to start experimenting with other models now  or we won’t be able to compete in 3 or 4 years.

116 Responses to “Monetization free verse paid.”

  1. Juan Saldivar Says:

    Markus, great post, you may be right that free won’t be the future, but well the internet is changing so fast we don’t really know that well in my belief. I send you an email and I’m no spammer to your email and I don’t know why you couldn’t respond anyways my email is juansaldivar17 [at] and I’m no spammer! I’m a college student from Monterrey, Mexico.

    Cheers and good luck!

  2. Simon Says:

    No free in the future? The biggest services online are free to use…

    Google, Yahoo, Facebook, MySpace,😉

    But how do you monetize free…?

  3. Matt Savage Says:


    This is interesting considering that you’ve been touting the “free” model for quite some time now. What I don’t get is that PoF is now one of THE most visited dating sites and you are profitable, correct? Even if visits continue to increase in the future, won’t the costs of resources also decrease? Why change a model that works?

  4. Tom Says:

    Where did you find eHarmony’s earnings?

  5. Marc Says:

    Personally, I think keeping it free, but increasing what you offer is the way to go. If you can always make sure you are the lowest cost provider, you’ll be what everyone else is aiming for. You will maintain the lead in users. I would keep it free and look at inexpensive ways to improve service. That will cement your position of being unassailable. If you start charging, then competitors will gain a toe hold to eat away at your userbase, then you will be forced into competing on their terms.

  6. Zoltan Says:

    I don’t have too much to say…. just this: “You too, Brutus?”

  7. WakeUpDude Says:

    You have made millions, now sell your site for millions more to some dumbass dot com investor pin heads and retire already. Put your ego to rest and cash in on the big money. Don’t end up like that idiot CEO of Yahoo.

    You could learn a little from Johns Wu’s story even though you are on a higher scale.

  8. Ross Williams - Says:

    Salient points from t’dude – however, the time to sell is when you’re growing, making money and showing future growth.

    Multiple revenue sources are also very attractive.

    You have a challenge on your hands relying on other dating sites advertising on your network and as you’re seeing, the costs really do begin to mount up.

    Introducing new revenue streams (I’m presuming gifts, matching, premium, etc) will make your site more attractive. By the middle of next year we’ll have over 50% of the UK subscription market (we’re already the largest private dating company in the UK) and the only way we can show growth from then on is through international growth.

    An important point to note should you ever go subscription (and I suspect you’re likely to go mixed-model rather than full subscription) is that it’s a very different role. When people pay for a site, they expect a lot more – even if they pay one cent, the transactional process results in a value expectation that isn’t there for a free service.

    I employ 45 staff at WhiteLabelDating – growing by one or two per month – and there’s a huge headache which comes with that.

    Do consider whether it’s better to be smaller, agile and more profitable rather than taking on the established subscription players – I know there’s lots of paid sites who generate significantly more revenue than you, but would kill for your lack of overhead and easier lifestyle.

    Best wishes,


  9. Michal Frackowiak Says:

    Honestly I must say that PlentyOfFish was my inspiration some time ago. I still remember Markus being the best paid individual via AdSense and his pictures with checks…

    And yes, I also agree that free is not profitable any more. The “golden time” of AdSense is over, we can feel it too.

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with paid services, especially if you pay to extend your account. Your core users will most likely go for it. It works nicely in most cases, I bet Plenty Of Fish will do very fine. Which brings me another question – why some services try to be free at any cost? Like Twitter? Why not to introduce premium features?

    The problem I can see right now is the recession. People stop spending money on things they do not really need. The sales are dropping right now. On the other hand, the entertainment (game) industry is somehow recession-proof. My bet would be that still many people would go for $5 / month subscriptions because this is “not that much after all”.

    Anyway, great post Mark! I am sure you can find a clean solution.

  10. kim bjorkland Says:

    plentyoffish – put your credit card away. no more?
    don’t make the ‘brand promise’ under deliver markus.
    I guess selling out for 100 million bucks when you had the chance looks like a good move now huh?

  11. Amanda Smith Says:

    FYI: SNAP’s Q3 report came in last month and has increased to $870,000 revenue for Q3. This is attributed to their shift from growing their member base to aggressive monetization efforts.

    View the report here:

    Interestingly, their Facebook app Are You Interested decreased by nearly 20% when they introduced social currencies for access to “premium features” and yet they increased their revenue by over 60%.

  12. Andrew Says:

    Has the Paradigm reverted?

  13. Seun (Nairaland) Says:

    Nothing has changed. Someone jst wants to be linked to (wink).

  14. Aaron Says:

    I sure hope that you are intending to introduce optional premium features, rather than try to convert POF to a paid dating site, in which case I would expect your traffic to drop by 90% or more and you will have to spend any incremental revenues on advertising. It’s also a common mistake to assume that the difference between free and $10 is $10 – it’s not. As you will see, people who go to free dating sites go there because they are free, not because of the features and since there are other free dating sites out there, they will simply go there.

    I would try to introduce a premium service and see how it goes. However, if you limit non-paying members, the site will quickly decline. You may want to just ride out the current economic downturn. You have created a great brand and almost a household name as a free dating site, which in many ways is better and has better features than some paid sites.

  15. Eldho Says:

    Well it depends on the service,whether the Ad-model can generate revenues or not.

  16. Nick Gall Says:

    “Every time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold. I really underestimated how much resources it would take, I have one database table now that exceeds 3 billion records. The bigger you get as a free site the less money you make per visit and the more it costs to service a visit.”

    If the cloud (especially cloud durable stores) don’t reduce the 6 fold increase significantly, then cloud is mostly hype. What would the economics /performace of Google’s BigTable have to be to make it worth using for PoF?

  17. Fer Says:

    PlentyofFish, as OKCupid and others pretend to be free online dating sites, but they are not.
    Their members are now paying with …… time.
    The time they spend searching and contacting low_reliable profiles …… is worth than any paid dating site’s fee!!!!

    PlentyofFish is now like a 1986 8 bit Family Game Console.
    OKCupid is now like a 1992 16 bit Sega Console.
    Prospective serious paying members will demand the last PlayStation.


  18. LyingWithStatistics Says:

    1) “The problem with free is that every time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold” and

    2) “The bigger you get as a free site the less money you make per visit”

    Could you back those claims with data?

  19. LyingWithStatistics Says:

    I understand that you have the data, but I meant: show us the data.

  20. Markus Says:

    its mostly the database, when you double in size the database also doubles in size or more.. Then the CPU power needed to search that data increases expotentially, as does updating indexes etc etc etc.

    its basically the same thing the paid sites see but at 5 to 10 times their scale. ie Eharmony only has 400M pageviews a month verse my 1.8 Billion.

  21. got deleted Says:

    For those of us who invested a great deal of time:

    a) creating a profile,
    b) searching for mates,
    c) flirting with potential mates

    only then to be deleted without cause nor explanation,

    I’d pay $4.99 just to find out why my account got deleted.

  22. jim Says:

    POF has 1.8 billion page views because it’s not designed well.

    I agree with Fer – users pay with their time.

    An improved UI would go A LONG WAY in lowering page views, delivering a more targeted user experience, increasing user satisfaction, and at the same time lowering POF costs.

    I’d also be inclined to offer this improved UI, with it’s time-saving features, at a low monthly premium. Happier customers == POF revenue.


  23. La viabilité des sites offrant des services gratuits Says:

    […] votre service est gratuit pour vos visiteurs (ie: pub Google ou autres). Je vous invite à lire ce post de Markus Frind (CEO of […]

  24. dg Says:

    >Then the CPU power needed to search that data increases expotentially, as does updating indexes etc etc etc.

    Maybe its time to insert a caching layer between the UI and the database?

  25. Jonathan Wax Says:

    My view is that if you make too much of change, like going from free to a paid service, you are risking a large number of customers.

    The less risky approach would be to add some paid for add-ons to get some additional revenue and look into some architectural options that could reduce db size and/or using some cloud services to reduce costs.

    You have been an inspiration to many and would be great if you could develop your business to be free for all (its appeal) but have value add options for those who use and enjoy it. That would just be a natural evolution rather than a departure from your current path.

  26. tripbargains Says:

    If I could make a suggestion, I would like to be able to run som ads in the travel section of your forum. $10 per CPM is about the going rate which I would be glad to pay.

  27. Joe Says:

    I guess it’s easier to go from ‘paid’ to ‘free’ than the other way round.

  28. Tech Revolt » Free does not pay any more Says:

    […] Monetization free vs paid […]

  29. SitePoint » The Downside of Free Says:

    […] time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold,” says Markus Frind, the founder and CEO of, a wildly successful dating site that makes a lot money by […]

  30. Aaron Says:

    I think it will be a big mistake to change your business model because of a downturn in the economy and a slump in ad rates. POF stands for free dating and if you introduce paid features you will be destroying your brand which has now become a household name among singles. There are other free dating sites out there and they will inevitably move there.

    I have other ideas for you as to how to generate additional revenues without changing your business model and risking your brand. I can help because I have experience with that. You can contact me at this email address.

  31. Dean Says:

    I will email you at pof today an idea which i think you will find intriguing

  32. meir Says:


    I read this article today, it’s very interesting, I think you will especially find it to be.

  33. PHP Blog » Blog Archive » The Downside of Free Says:

    […] time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold,” says Markus Frind, the founder and CEO of, a wildly successful dating site that makes a lot money by […]

  34. TS Says:

    “The problem with free is that every time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold.”

    This statement simply means that Marcus, you hit the limit of “scaling up”. In fact, the old “fit everything in memory” for database simply can’t be done any more since 8GB DIMM memory cost 4 times as much as buying 4GB per DIMM memory..etc. SAN simply doesn’t scale that much either from the price/performance perspective.

    This is when you have to horizontally shard databases and buy cheap 32GB dual Socket Opteron boxes as memcache servers. Spread your 2 huge database servers and SAN architecture into say 26 shards of Master/Master replicated MySQL servers(and dump Microsoft please, at least for the database server) shared nothing architectures. SAN simply does not scale. Read Jeff Bonwick’s blog about the current storage revolution with ZFS and SSD hybrid storage pool models.

    So instead of 2 big database boxes with 256GB of ram each attached to a 60 disk SAN infrastructure, you should have a cluster of say 50 MySQL databases with 32GB/64GB ram , each with about 15 disks, communicating over multiple GigE connections. That way, each incremental database size should cost you linearly vs the 6 times as much.

  35. Markus Says:

    I’ve been using multipul databases for years. You can’t run everything off one machine especially when some tables have over 3 billion records.

    Sharding isn’treally possible with a dating site.

  36. Anonymous Coward Says:

    I have absolutely no experience in scaling sites, but if a doubling of the database requires 6 times the cost, why not try sharding? Then you don’t have to rely on a single server for the database. It’s what many others have done when they need to scale (combined with caching of course, but you do that)

  37. Anonymous Coward Says:

    Sorry, but I posted my comment after your reply🙂

    I’m interested in knowing what’s different with a dating site. I thought most of the database time was spent on listing ads, and sites like ebay and other similar sites uses sharding there.

  38. Jeremy Abrams Says:

    You could add a few additional features that each require a small fee from members to use. People who purchase one or more features would have the equivalent of a premium membership, except that it would appear cheaper from their perspective (because each member would have the choice of only purchasing the features that they want, rather than an entire package) but may actually bring in more revenue for POF as addicted users find themselves having to purchase every feature (thus dishing out more than a premium membership would have cost.) Better yet, you could offer both, individual features and a premium membership, with the premium membership being slightly cheaper; I would be willing to bet that members would want to ease into a paid plan and would therefore purchase many individual features before jumping ship with a premium package.

  39. TS Says:

    BTW, Markus, how big is your database anyways? Have you looked at the idea behind the recently launched Sun Storage 7000 series(especially the 7410). I am not saying you should buy it, but I am saying that you should build a 7410 like system for your database system

    Say a 4 Socket Opteron server with 64GB/128GB of ram is pretty cheap now(under 10K). Attach it to 2 Dell MD1120s. Giving you total of 48 2.5inch bays And stuff 4 Intel X25-E 32GB SSDs as the ZFS logzilla device, giving you close to 14,000 random write IOPS/sec.(that’s 300 15K drives worth of write IOPS) And 8 Intel X25-M 80GB MLC SSDs as read caches, giving you 640GB of flash cache and about 250K/sec IOPS read performance and about 30 regular 7200rpm say Seagate Baracuda ES2 enterprise SATA drives. You don’t even need RAID controllers. Get some cheap LSI 1068E SAS HBAs to use on the dell MD1120s. That system gives you a total of 700GB of read caches. That might be just enough to fit everything in SSD grade cache.

    And you have to use OpenSolaris/Solaris 10 for the ZFS hybrid pools. That means also you have to migrate to MySQL or PostgreSQL.

  40. TS Says:

    Whoops, that 30 15K drives worth of write IOPS…one zero off…bad.

  41. Markus Says:

    My DB is over 1TB

    Eharmony is using 400+ servers for 400M pageviews a month.

    Facebook is serving 15 billion images per day, and 60 Billion pageviews a month with over 50,000 servers.’s Global Operations team supports 3 data centers and over 800 servers that deliver 2 billion page views a month and over 1 Gbps of peak outbound bandwidth.

    Currently i’ve got 3 web servers, 1 imageserver, 5 DB servers to serve 500M images per day and 2 Billion pageviews a month. Sure i’ve got scaling problems but i’m still more than 100 times more optimized than everyone else.

  42. Todd Says:


    An interesting post as always. Earlier posts really tout Adsense as a great source of revenue but lately it seems like your posts seem to minimize its effectiveness.

    If you were starting a new site, would you still suggest the use of Adsense?

  43. TS Says:

    Nice 1TB database. It no longer fits in memory. I wonder what is the specs for your current 5 DB servers are like?

    1TB database can be fit in SSDs if you want. (16x128GB SSDs should give you enough L2ARC cache to last you past next year) Also look into sphinx for distributed full text search. That might be the fix.

  44. dave Says:

    Free is dead! Long live free!

    I think the model has to fit the site and where it is in its growth cycle. Free is probably the right model for most sites that are starting out. Reasons include that free services have lower customer expectations and therefore less expenditures to meet those expectations; inherently less customer trust and therefore it is harder to get customers to pay for services; and of course free services can produce significantly faster user growth than paid services.

    Of course as a site grows it becomes, as Markus stated, more and more expensive to scale and add features. Costs grow significantly faster than the user base, and the return per user starts to decrease. It is therefore probably better at that time to introduce additional forms of revenue that are not free. So that the per user decrease in revenue can be stopped or even reversed.

  45. Rex Dixon Says:

    The ad network world as many of you have read is paying out lower and lower every month. The nice thing is that we were able to secure a great deal and we have sold the ad network to Adknowledge/Cubics about 2 weeks ago.

    This lets us focus on the data, and our plans to have sites with huge amounts of data they are willing to share – make MONEY. Yes, passive income. If anyone is interested in how you can make money with your data that you would be willing to share, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

  46. Markus Says:

    SSD’s so far are rather unstable, they also wear out. I would be very reluctant to use them for DB servers. For instance MTrons don’t fully support LBA so they will randomly fail when used in raid. My db servers are 32GB of ram all the way up to 128GB of ram. And the latest ones are using 4 CPU’s with 6 cores each and i’m using up all the CPU power. My scaling issues are all around being able to log everyone into the system and update all the tables within 2 seconds.

    Adsense paid out $3.00 CPM’s 5 years ago, now its 30 cents. A lot of that has to do with the fact I killed off my canadian competitors so i’ve got tons of inventory but no one to sell it to.

  47. Mike Says:

    Keep it simple is the Key.Free website u r a genius! The best advice i can give you is keep your free membership and u can add a store where people can buy stuff like flowers or personal advice how to chat a woman lol.

    Good luck hope that one day u will remember me🙂

    Ps: U know your market only have to add some key features where ppl can buy online

  48. dave Says:

    Markus as always you’re the man. But your hardware could use some redoing. Intel’s cpu’s had scaling problems, because they ran on a shared bus (so there is contention for memory, which of course is probably the most important thing for hardware scaling). Anyway you should consider, whenever possible, moving to Intel’s new Nehalem architecture or even AMD’s new Opteron II’s. They have a dedicated bus to memory for each processor and therefore each core will have better bandwidth and lower latency. Sort of like how you do read-only databases to eliminate read/write contention. It does nothing for smaller sites, but for yours it should be a big difference.

  49. Jeremy Abrams Says:

    Question: why does it become more expensive as the site expands? I would expect costs of bandwidth and managing the servers to go down (if you factor out the cost of additional labor). What is it besides labor that causes the cost to increase?

  50. Markus Says:

    I use both opterons and intel. binary comparisons in SQL kill opterons because of the low clock speed. Also intel is helped by the fact they have more cores which gives you more threads. Each query performs differently so i build each server with slightly different hardware depending on what its task is. Over all the chips intel has put out in the past few months kick ass. There are many ways to skin a cat i’ve mostly elimited RAM and harddisk as bottle necks and now CPU is what kills me.

  51. Steve Says:

    Hi Markus. I have a great deal of respect for you and what you have acheived to date. I came up with the idea for free dating at roughly the same time as you but it took me a while to get things together as I’m not a programmer just an entreprenuer. Hats off to you for your achievement. I had to give part of my brand away to a programmer to get started and have divided it even further since to build it up. For you to get where you are today between you and your girlfriend is a remarkable achievement. My free model in the UK started in 2003/4 but ended up with just a few thousand members and no idea of where to get revenue from. We were trying to sell branded products to pay the bills but as that wasn’t working we opted to move over to a paid dating model via Ross at Whitelabel dating (It appears we both know Ross very well). We were surprised at how many of our free members paid on the new site and reinvested every penny back into advertising and promotion including a radio campaign and Taxi’s at Kings Cross in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Most of our new users still come from Adwords (Not buying Pof keywrods I hasten to add) but we are still experimenting with new ideas for advertising. I was looking forward to meeting you in Miami and shaking you by the hand, but we may not be there now. If you’re looking to find ways to tap into your members spends then perhaps we should talk. Ross has all my contact info.

  52. dave Says:

    As always you’re on top of it. Having said that I would assume that you’re on the older opterons since you talk about the mhz limitations, which was true for the older generations. But now the opteron II’s scale pretty competitively with intel. I think the new releases go to up to 2.7 ghz and many review sites are able to overclock them to 4ghz (which is a good indicator for future headroom). The generation II’s also come with faster system buses. But of course slower and less cores will minimize this advantage.

    I know the dunningtons you’re running have up to 16mb cache and that may be part of the reason you’re still getting pretty good scaling. I’m actually surprised that Intel’s brute force methods sometimes work better for a site as huge as yours. But the fact that you take the time to separate out your servers by tasks and assign them the right hardware for that task amazes me once again. Hmmm, now your claims of only working a few hours a day are really suspect …

  53. Colnector Says:

    So you’re basically saying the way you’ve made money so far is not a way to make money. That’s interesting… Do you assume you’d have been richer had your site been offering only paid services?

    IMHO, the best model involves free basic services with paid premium services. That’s how it works for the big ones.

  54. Dean Says:

    If you become a paid site you will be in direct competition with the biggest dating sites out their.(although you are already, but you would be on the same level) That could be good or bad…probably bad. I have already seen what plenty of fish is like (so far so good!) but if i find out its no-longer free i will be interested to see what the others are like(dont entirely know why-just seems to make sense) Myself, i would probably go to the next biggest free dating site and wait for others to do the same, your users that dont stay will be split into the other /free/ sites meaning more competition from sites that dont nessercerily want to earn x amount of money, but will still earn enough for them. (and ofcourse users will get something free)
    If facebook maximized its potential as a dating site their would be alot of dating sites in trouble!!!
    The answer-make your site as good as possible. Facebook is bigger than it would be if it were only a dating site…Or just a messaging site for friends…
    Google is bigger than it would be if it were just a search engine!

    Slightly off topic but as for the subject of google…! I have to wonder, if they continue to grow as they are what is the future. Will we be going on a google plane when we go on holiday?? will we be going to the google mall instead of the shopping mall?? Will we buy a google instead of a porche??! (doesnt quite have the same ring to it-but thats just cos porsche has a reputaion of being an ‘achievement’) google has all the adverisement they need-ITS A HOUSE HOLD NAME! What would everyone do if google created a social site, or one day decided to ORGANIZE the internet (which is long overdue!) Oneday the days of watching tv will be over as we will all use computers to whatch it (there will be really simple to use computers that do a few things-make phone calls-watch tv-receive and send mail-ect (the simple parts the most important)

  55. Dean Says:

    I kind of went into a world of my own about the tv bit but i think most of you will see my point.

  56. » Business Models Internet à l’heure de la crise (1/4) Says:

    […] En CPM, cela n’a aucune incidence, le business model est proche de celui de la télévision : plus le contenu est attractif, meilleure est la monétisation. C’est le fondement de Yahoo!. En CPC, cela change tout : la monétisation ne vient que d’une fuite, de l’intérêt pour autre chose que le contenu. En somme, si le contenu est attractif, je ne clique pas sur la pub, s’il est déceptif, je clique sur la pub. Un exemple de cela est le site qui sort en premier sur le mot clef véranda conseil qui génère paraît il environ 200€ par mois d’après ses propriétaires. Un exemple toutefois de site dont le business model repose sur le CPC, rentable et non déceptif, serait PlentyOfFish dont le modèle est simple : adaption des coûts aux impératifs du CPC, c’est à dire optimisation technique à outrance de l’infrastructure (en 2007, PlentyOfFish utilisait uniquement un seul serveur tout en générant $10 000 dollars d’Adsense par jour). Toutefois, Markus Frind, le fondateur (et officiellement unique employé de PlentyOfFish) reconnaît lui même sur son excellent blog Paradigm Shift : The problem with free is that every time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold. I really underestimated how much resources it would take, I have one database table now that exceeds 3 billion records. The bigger you get as a free site the less money you make per visit and the more it costs to service a visit. We are going to start introducing some products and features to try and get some of the 10 to 20 million dollars a month my users are spending elsewhere. There is really no money in being free and we have to start experimenting with other models now or we won’t be able to compete in 3 or 4 years. (source ici) […]

  57. Jamie Pullman Says:


    I’d like to run an idea by you that I think will help you in monetizing PoF. Ping me so that we can take the conversation offline.


  58. Dean Says:

    I hope your not a user!

  59. Vijay Goel, M.D. Says:

    Have you thought about other means of ad-related monetization outside of Adwords? Seems you have a pretty targeted demographic (people looking to date) that could benefit from other services affiliated with the demographic (fitness, beauty, etc) that the adwords targeting model may not pick up (as its more implicit than explicit)

    For example, I have a startup that sells health appointments (currently massage therapy and soon into fitness classes/personal training, etc). I’d love to get a reasonable CPM/CPA on people who’re looking to get/stay in shape on the dating circuit. Or take a class as a fun date idea. Either way, we’re in LA, not Canada, but I can see us piloting in Canada if you can point good traffic in our direction.

    Vijay (opening up in about a week–feel free to email for a sneak preview)

  60. Online Dating Insider Links for Friday, December 5, 2008 | Says:

    […] Plen­tyo­ffi­sh O­n­ Fr­ee v­s. Pai­d­ D­ati­… […]

  61. Technology news - Techvibes Blog Says:

    […] The online dating market has been tracking the economy closely and experienced a major slowdown in traffic over the past couple months. Although, Vancouver-based has been enjoying a US/CDN dollar exchange rate bump on Google Adsense revenue, it has the legendary Markus Frind contemplating a paid business model. […]

  62. Steve W Says:

    This is the most fascinating discussion on the net. To me it sounds like Markus has already acheived all the efficiency he can from both his database and his ad revenue. But I’d be scarred to charge customers. It aint broke – don’t fix it! He has the world’s largest free dating site. Start charging customers, and you’ll lose your position very quickly. In many mature markets, the top two players often control 85% of the market. (Example: Google and Yahoo) Why give up that position?
    I think it’s worth experimenting with a paid model in a small country like the UK. If your membership drops substantially, you really don’t lose too much. But I wouldn’t change the US and Canada stronghold before knowing those changes are going to work. Eventually countries like China and India will become serious players in online dating. The free model at POF will be hard to beat in a country where most users can’t afford to pay $30 for a subscription.
    In an attempt to lower your costs, why not create a contest? Whoever comes up with the most cost effective db model wins $10,000. Of course, create a caveat that it must be x% more effective than your current model.

  63. Chrisser Says:

    Why not try something less dramatic like add on services – there are plenty of other sites that have had success increasing the monetization of their users this way.. Just shooting some ideas off here at a late hour..:

    Advertise yourself
    – ads where your profile gets exposed in front of your audience of choice at a low CPM.
    – your profile comes up first, in bold etc.

    Plus Profile
    – flirting slightly with paid access here but make the payment small like $4.99 (and recurring on a quarterly basis or such). The Plus shows other daters that you are serious and it might add some safety as POF got your card details/paypal account/mobile phone number (SMS payment). Once a Plus you could add a bunch of other services that the user pays for (that you dont have now) like show larger image when mouse is over thumb, etc etc etc..

  64. TDZ Says:

    It’s nice to see how some people forget where they come from and also the promises they made to the members of their site. I’ve watched Markus for the past year now, knowing what he says weren’t true. It’s interesting to see the curtain getting pulled back on the wizard. We all know what happened to the wizard when that happened.

    Now, people can sit in here saying there is no money in Adsense or Free any longer. Okay, then let’s look at it for a moment. From the simple cost point of view using the numbers from Snap & we’ll even cut the income in half & use 1 server for the moment.

    It costs $249.00 to fire up a dedicated server: $10 for 5 additional IPs & approximately $1500.00 software costs to start a decent site like mydatery. Those are my costs on the startup which launched yesterday.

    So, with this in mind, an average Linux server can handle up to 50k users but starts to feel drag at approximately 30k users. I’m running a Media Server on my site, so we’ll figure in at 25k users for optimal perfermance without tweaking any SQL Tables.

    Now Snap is getting 6 cents per visit. Let’s move that to 3 cents per visit and show an aggressive site can pull 25k members hitting 1 time per day each after 90 days.

    Server: 249 * 3= $747.00
    IP’s: 30 * 3= $90.00
    Software $1500.00

    Total: $2337.00 To start up and build to 25k members.
    Advertising: $2000.00 To build to the 25k members

    Total Investment $4337.00

    Return: 25,000 * .03 = 750.00 per day * 30 = $22,500 per month

    Now, this is just for a small site that is not charging. Personally I don’t know about you guys, but as a new small site owner and a marketing analyst familiar with target marketing and geo/demographic drill downs. Well, I’ll bank on providing a better service for free to my members and continue on the path that Myspace forged of consistently adding in more toys to bring them down the road.

    Oh yeah. My site does deliver paid products, but they are tangible items people use for themselves. Not to talk to or impress a potential mate. I guess Markus is missing the boat on that little idea.

    Point being folks, while Markus did build a site, he did not forge the road. He just followed myspace down the road and has since gotten lost. I’d be interested to see how many members he’s lost with that little paid flowers scam he pulled.

  65. Free isn’t always free › Nick Gehring Says:

    […] founder laments about the advertisement downturn and a surging, but server-intensive, user base. He writes, “The bigger you get as a free site the less money you make per visit and the more it costs […]

  66. Marcyes / Coding Horror: My Scaling Hero Says:

    […] you get as a free site the less money you make per visit and the more it costs to service a visit. viaStill, he has managed to build PlentyOfFish on just a handful of servers, maybe I should look into […]

  67. x Says:

    TDZ…. we know of top-class operations that are paying nothing for software and very little for hosting, but 25k members make only $30 (yes, thirty bucks)…. adsense depends a lot, you can have 10,000,000 pageviews per day, but if adsense can provide you ads for only 1,000,000 worth and pays $.10 CPM, you’re in deep sh*t, even with the best setup.

    As for premium services ($1 gifts, $1 premium mails, $1 whatever) versus recurring monthly memberships at $29.95. The difference versus the best tweaked premium service setup imaginable vs an average $29.95 dating site is that the average dating site makes 30 times more money.

    It may sound unlogical – but empirically, whether it’s $1 or $29.95, around the same percentage of your members will use the premium service!

  68. Dizzy de Wijngaert Says:

    Do not be afraid to change the rulls. Don’t be afraid that if you would ask some money for your services members will go away.
    If the service is good, hardly anybody will stop buying your product.
    And your product is traffic.
    And people around might say you cannot change the site to a free site again. But who says so. You are the one who decides that.

    And never be afraid to raise proces is what I learned this year after 2 years entrepreneurship.

  69. Dizzy de Wijngaert Says:

    I meant after 25 years

  70. alharlow Says:

    Marcus, to me, I think you have a good business model to follow for future revenue growth by imitating Ebay in many ways. One idea I have is for you to build your own advertising engine where people can buy improved placement, enhance their listing and stand out. There are a hundred creative ways you can build new revenue streams without changing the premise of remaining “free-to-join and use”. Monetizing the web is challenging but possible. We’re doing it for our customers. You just have to give people what they want. I could write you a list of ideas, if you’d like to see them. For instance, have members buy credits in “kisses”, and then being able to send kisses to favorites, like how throwing roses on the stage after a performance or sending flowers use to send a clear message when you wanted a girl in the lime-light to notice you. These kisses then could be exchanges (at a discount – which is your take) for gifts at a registry. It would be as active and as much fun as FaceBook, but better.

  71. Match.com被逼做DownToEarth免費交友社群,社群網站也可轉戰男女交友! | Says:

    […] 你說,不對啊,這件事早就老掉牙咧。早在知名的多倫多創業家Markus Frind創造PlentyOfFish免費交友網站,以Google AdSense收費,曾經創下一天一萬美元(33萬台幣)以上的收入,他聘請他的女友在一個充滿主機的公寓裡賺得很爽!不過,我們要分清楚什麼是真正趨勢,什麼是媒體捧的熱潮──後來Markus也曾在他的部落格透露,大家很羨慕他,但他坦承,POF的這種以廣告為主的獲利模式還是很有壓力,被景氣所影響,而且需要龐大人事開銷。這本來就是如此,人類經濟體最像樣的收費模式終究還是「使用者付費」、「愛用者付費」,像電視廣告這種使用者不直接付費中間卡了一大堆價值鍊,是因為「電視」本身這個東西的特殊使用性質。但,來到網路,網路趨勢有如天上的月亮,初一十五不一樣,今天某個模式可以work,換到下個月說不定就開始閃人了,所以,還是回歸「使用者付費」要來得較為穩定而紮實。這是後來大家對 POF的看法。雖然POF大紅,但大家依然相信男女交友網站最好還是收會員費,尤其是已經收得這麼順利、這麼多年的會員費,使用者也OK的情況下,應該繼續收下去。 […]

  72. Fernando Says:

    What dbms are you using?

  73. the rasx() context » Blog Archive » “My Scaling Hero” and other links… Says:

    […] Markus Frind: “The problem with free is that every time you double the size of your database the cost of maintaining the site grows 6 fold. I really underestimated how much resources it would take, I have one database table now that exceeds 3 billion records. The bigger you get as a free site the less money you make per visit and the more it costs to service a visit.” Of course the Windows Azure rates schedule has not come out yet so it remains to be seen for the Microsoft cloud… […]

  74. Juan Says:

    Hi Markus, if I were you, I would delete old unused profiles. To be honest, every time I do a search, I don’t bother browsing profiles that have not been online in the last 30 days. I believe this is common between free services. If you keep your hotmail account inactive for a period of time, it will be deleted. I think since the service you provide is free for users, it should be a user responsibility to keep it alive. Cheers.

  75. Sama Baby! Says:

    Has anyone here ever tried a Donate or Don’t come back policy…

    I think a free site should offer a Please donate module that asks the free members to give any amount over $X to satisfy their cost of usage on the site (of course you wan’t to put it as nicely as possible.) If at some point … ie. the users 100th visit has not made a donation yet you are forced to let them go elsewhere because you can not simply afford to keep them longer. (again as nicely as possible)

    For this to work (I haven’t tried it out yet, but plan to at some future date) you have to A.) Make the donation request as frequent as possible .. I.E. when they login they have to decide do I pay today or later… and B) Make that message as personalized as possible. Ex. “Hi John Do, we see you’ve been a member for XXX days, we appreciate your patronage but it isn’t easy running a free site…. That’s why we rely 100% on donating members to stay alive.. etc”

  76. Sama Baby! Says:

    P.S. I forgot to mention C.) Which was if the person made a donation (i.e. became a paid member they get access to more exclusive features on the site (in my case the best features on the site).


  77. Baldrick Says:

    1. you have to hire people to delete nude profiles.

    2. you want to add paid premium services

    Why not charge to see the nude profiles?

    please mail for to know where to send the cheque. I thank you.

  78. Jared Says:

    I know you don’t listen to users. Why not a simple poll or survey of users to see what they want. I would imagine the majority of them like it just the way it is. Then again, many won’t bother to vote so that would tell you something. “If it ain’t broke.” Continue to watch page views and signups’ if they continue to degrease over say a three month period where in the past they have steadied or increased, have something in your back pocket to try.

  79. compellent storage area networks Says:

    Whether you are considering a first SAN or you already have one in place, a communications standard called iSCSI can help you build a more cost-effective storage infrastructure.

  80. Dr Blotto Says:

    what’s this … SAN-spam? iscsi? puh-lease.

  81. Monetize your photos Says:

    Monetization is not an easy thing, you must be very patient.

  82. Tony Zaros Says:

    WOW! snap is really getting paid😐
    Great blog post, love your article.

    Tony Zaros

  83. Tony Zaros Says:

    Great blog, love it so much:)

    Tony Zaros

  84. Plenty of Fish decides to go paid but is its effort half-baked? | Drama Blog Says:

    […] are losing marketshare fast and paid sites don’t really have a future.” 10 days later he wrote, “There is really no money in being free and we have to start experimenting with other models […]

  85. Mathias Says:

    I am following this conversation from the very first and I think it’s currently one of the most interesting / exciting discussion in the web. As I am preparing a study on the subject “how to monetize free online services” / “Doing business with free online services” I would be delighted if some of you running their own business could fill in my questionnaire! Of course, all information will be handled anonymously and you will get a summary of my report if desired! Send me a mail to and I’ll provide you with the questionnaire as well as the results of my study.
    Thank you very much in advance!

  86. online dating Says:

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  87. Uzo Eke-Okoro Says:


    Nice article,

    I am still starting…

    I just opened up this new website and so far have up to 500 members,i work all day and all night, how do I improve on my PR within a month.

    Thanks for your advise.

  88. yinka Says:

    One of the top searched words on the internet is “FREE”

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  90. Mobile Apps and Games Says:

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  91. Paediatric first aid courses London Says:

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  92. dating Says:

    I heard that Amazon’s Cloud Database is good for such things,maybe your dating site could try that

  93. compcrawler Says:

    Agree with dating for data overload problem, any room for scaling with cloud/outsourcing data solutions? Also why not offer premium packages, give the bare necessities for free but offer services and more matches for X dollars. Get them on the line with the free aspect then keep them hooked.

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  95. the devil Says:

    Free is the word people search for.

  96. Ayoola Says:

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  98. bob Says:

    I think the demand for free dating site and other free stuff will never end

  99. Sites Dating Says:

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  100. dating sites reviewed Says:

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  104. First aid training Manchester Says:

    Why not a combination of free and paid services on a site. Offering the best of both worlds and capturing all of the market. Charging would be the niche services.

  105. ads4apo-Hottest Job Base Says:

    Simon I agree with you the best services online that i know are free, But they do make there money through adverts which i a major source of income online.Facebook,Google.Yahoo and Bing do run ads.

  106. Mark Cody Says:

    Really does Magnify the Big risks and Headaches when you are taking on board bigger databases and increased traffic.

    Could be the biggest killer: Policy

    Good Blog

  107. Gary Says:

    Nice Post and shows the potential of making BIG money on the internet

  108. Mark B Says:

    No such thing as a free lunch and method in the madness as they are still making BIG money

  109. WikiNaira Says:


    Nice article,

    The rate at which people want thing free is amazing, When people are free to do what they want they usually imitate one another,

    My opinion

  110. NairaOffer Says:

    Markus, great post, the internet is changing so fast and people are now appreciated paid compared to free, Nice post lol

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