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Noel Biderman Created the Most Controversial Website since Napster in Ashley Madison

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Services for Real Estate Pros with ALC Risk Solutions and The Jewish Business Magazine

From the Jewish Business Magazine

Noel Biderman speaks with the Jewish Business Magazine about the controversy he's created, infidelity, Jewish values, demographics, sociology, and business

According to the creators of South Park, Sex Addiction is a huge epidemic in the United States today. And it doesn’t just afflict horny high school teenagers. Sex Addiction has become a serious problem for married men as well, with a seeming increase in infidelity. The solution that the South Park episode came up with was simple, Don’t Get Caught. All joking aside, there seems like there has been a higher frequency of celebrity infidelity, with many getting caught cheating on their significant others: Tiger Woods, Lawrence Taylor, John Edwards, Jesse James, the National Inquirer is even investigating the possibility of President Obama having an affair in around 2004.

It’s hard to say if infidelity has been on the rise, or whether the new Medias and wannabe journalist with camera phones are breaking the news quicker. Personally, I think that the rate of infidelity has remained unchanged, and the rate of these infidels getting caught is what has increased.

So what can someone looking to have an affair do to prevent from getting caught?

How can an individual in a relationship safely go out and find a mistress?

Noel Biderman, created a solution, and in doing so, created an amazing business platform as well in Ashley Madison Agency. Ashley Madison is an online dating service for people currently in a relationship who wish to cheat on their partners. The website was launched in 2001 and has over 5.2 million members, in five different countries and many languages. Noel Biderman, CEO of Ashley Madison, says, “I think it’s a naïve notion that someone is going to hear ‘life is short have an affair’, and they’re in a happy relationship, you know what,  it is short, I’m going to do that, or they see my TV commercial, or they hear my radio spot on Howard Stern”. He continues explaining his dating platform, “Life is full of ups and downs. One of those downs is that people tend to find the need to step outside of their relationship.” In 2007, Noel Biderman and his partner sold Ashley Madison to Avid Life Media, Inc. and Noel was asked to run that company. Along with Ashley Madison, Avid Life Media runs Cougar Life, a dating site for older women looking for younger men, Man Crunch, a dating site for gay men, Hot or Not, a picture rating website and Swapper Site, for couples in open relationships.

If you are a Howard Stern listener you’ve heard Noel Biderman when he recently sponsored the Tiger Wood’s Mistress Beauty Pageant. Ashley Madison put up $100,000 for this contest, but they did so to stress the usefulness of their site for people planning on committing infidelity. Basically people that are going to cheat are going to cheat, with or without Ashley Madison. Without Ashley Madison, the individual committing infidelity will probably cheat with a co-worker, or visit a prostitute, or use a normal dating site like Mate1.com, Jdate or Match.com. The problem with the prostitute is that it’s illegal and unsafe. The other two options usually involve an individual that may be looking for a relationship themselves. With Ashley Madison you are hooking up with individuals that are well aware of your relationship status, and is not expecting anything more than casual dating. Noel says that people cheat, and “They do it in a destructive way…there’s all sorts of outlets for people to do it. The bottom line is that 70% of men in particular are straying. And isn’t it better that they are joining a community where like minded adults exist and everybody knows what they are getting into. That’s what Ashley Madison is.”

Business of Infidelity

Noel’s business is just that, it’s a business and a great business at that. But, Noel has faced more than his share of adversity because of his company. “I’ve received my fair share of hate mail. People directing everything from anti-Semitic comments to aggressive and violent threats to people wanting the business to be shut down to people ultimately suppressing the freedom of commerce and expression. The rules of the game, as they apply to Ashley Madison, are the rules that any other business in society gets the benefit of. I don’t just get to build a product and market it as I see fit and where I want to place it. CBS Evening News won’t take my ads, The Super Bowl won’t take my ads. I don’t have those same opportunities, because people are so sensitive about this topic.” This has been a huge challenge to Noel and Avid Life Media in growing Ashley Madison. “The biggest challenge, honestly, is archaic notions that float around. Whether it be supposedly progressive companies like MSN, who won’t even let me buy a keyword. (MSN) won’t even let me buy the word ‘infidelity. Why is this important? This is important because if someone goes to Bing, and types in the word infidelity, they might be thinking of a lot of things. They might be thinking of ways to avoid infidelity, discover a partner doing it or how to pursue it. But, if you limit the return of a search word to just the first two, your redefining the word, your presupposing what people are thinking. Clearly, 5.8 million Americans are thinking about having, or how to pursue it, on Ashley Madison. So, that presumption where people control a marketplace is really problematic. It’s really getting at a freedom of expression issue. And the same way, if you have Football properties like the NFL saying, ‘no, we’re not going to take your ad, we don’t like your kind of business, but alcohol ads are ok, or erectile disfunction ads are ok’, you’re really dealing with a slippery slope. When does society catch up with what’s going on”

But, with all of that adversity, Noel has charted his own path, and created his own form of advertising by engaging everyone that will listen on infidelity and his company, “ABC News won’t take my ads, but they’ll put me on Nightline to talk about the Ten Commandments. So, I’ve knew the landscape was against me, so I created a new one.” The benefit of this is that Noel gets a lot of advertising for free. Every time he appears on ABC’s Nightline, he pitches his product, without buying the commercial. But that’s not as effective as having a level playing field and advertising where Noel sees fit.

Ashley Madison has been a great revenue stream for Noel Biderman, his partner and now, for Avid Life Media, but it has also been a great revenue source for its affiliate marketers. Affiliate marketing is when a 3rd party gets paid a commission for generating a lead. Ashley Madison has a great affiliate marketing program in which its affiliates can earn up to $200 per individual signing up for the dating website. Ashley Madison’s affiliate program also pays affiliates for signup other affiliates and generates a revenue stream from the people they sign up. According to Noel, Ashley Madison has paid out millions of dollars to individuals and businesses in their affiliate marketing platform. To become an affiliate go to http://affiliate.ashleymadison.com

For an affiliate marketer to be successful they really just need to have an audience that they speak to either through blogging, newsletters, facebook, twitter, or other types of networking. Noel says, “My guess is, because this is so pervasive, that 70% of your audience, is also my audience.” So Ashley Madison can be a great tool to monetize your audience, when you think about the payout from other affiliate marketers and pay-per-click returns.

And it’s not just men that you get paid for, even though they are the only ones paying to be members of the website. Women are a commodity in the online dating business world, so Ashley Madison pays up to $25 per woman that signs up for the service for free. So if you have a site that is read by a lot of women, signing up for Ashley Madison’s affiliate program can be very profitable.

On Howard Stern

A few weeks ago, following Tiger Wood’s reported infidelity, and the controversy surrounding it, Howard Stern decided to host a beauty pageant for the mistresses of Tiger Woods on his Sirius XM Satellite Radio show. The first thing Howard Stern looked for was a sponsor. Ashley Madison stepped up, and offered $100,000 for the winner of the Tiger Woods Mistress Beauty Pageant. In exchange, Ashley Madison received numerous mentions, not only on Howard Stern’s radio show and on his channels on Howard 100 and Howard 101 on Sirius XM, but also on the many news reports around the country about the beauty pageant. Noel Biderman also was given the honors to judge the mistress beauty pageant and help pick the winner. Noel did an excellent job judging Howard Stern’s Tiger Woods Mistress Beauty Pageant. For those of you who didn’t hear it, Noel’s pick was determined based upon which mistress was the best mistress of the group, in that she was really in love with Tiger and she didn’t get paid, she just was having sex with him. I asked Noel about his return on investment from his appearance on Howard Stern and his $100,000 sponsorship of the beauty pageant. He didn’t have exact numbers, but they media exposure was definitely worth it, and Noel says that if Howard asked him to do something like that again, he definitely would.

On Sociology and Demographics

Although Ashley Madison is a secure site, and your information is private when you’re a member, the company still has pretty amazing statistics regarding general information of its clientele. For instance, Ashley Madison is in both the United States and Canada. According to the statistics, Noel says, “Yes, it’s true, Americans tend to cheat a little bit more than Canadians…” He continues on later to add, “There are always nuances in the marketplace and not always ones that I can explain. I don’t know why there are so many younger women in States like Florida and the Carolinas versus a more aging population in Arizona. I don’t know why there are more women as a percentage of the service in Houston, Texas and Cincinnati, Ohio, then in other marketplaces. I would have thought there’d be higher in say, L.A., where it’s more liberal, or New York, but it hasn’t played out that way. There’s always these surprises in the marketplaces and so each community has its nuances and I’ve never been able to put a pulse on it and say, ‘oh it’s because of my marketing’. The one thing we have found is that economic downturn, meaning unemployment rates, directly correlates to Ashley Madison sign ups and revenues, so we’ve seen blips from States like Michigan, when they restructured the automobile industry.”   On the topic of Sociology, Noel says, “Ashley Madison has become a bit of an authority on the topic. It’s a really sociology experiments when you think about. These are people self publishing what’s driving them to infidelity at the genesis of infidelity versus so much research to date has been, you know, therapist and writers polling one hundred or one thousand people post infidelity and trying to get a retrospective and that’s very different kind of evidence as anyone who knows anything about that can tell you.”

On Privacy of the Website

Noel says, “It’s not so much the lipstick on the collar that gets you caught, it’s the digital trail you leave behind”. So Ashley Madison has been designed so that you never have to take the conversation off of their digital platform. Their website has chat, email and messaging capabilities, all of which are password protected and can be deleted with the push of a button. Second is billing, your credit card account will not be billed as “Ashley Madison”. Another aspect is the picture, which is under lock and key, until you decide to show it to someone after chatting with them over the Ashley Madison platform. Lastly, even the search is different from other dating sites. Most sites you can search members before joining, but with Ashley Madison you have to sign up before you can even search.

On Being Jewish

Noel grew up in the Jewish community and his family is currently active at his synagogue. Noel says, “I grew up in a community that put a lot of emphasis on marriage and monogamy within that marriage, and that’s the path I chose for myself, but I think there are a lot of people around the world that can be really effective at creating a product or service that they don’t necessarily need to consume themselves. I think I do understand where my member base comes from, and where they’re trying to get to, and I think that I built them a world class product. But, I myself happen to be a very dedicated partner and family man…” He does face challenges on his product in the Jewish community, particularly, but when it happens Noel is able to articulate his side of the argument and can easily win over most detractors willing to be open-minded.

In conclusion, Noel thinks that infidelity is misunderstood, like Ashley Madison is misunderstood, “It’s being pursued because want to stay in their relationships, they love and cherish their partner and their children, their extended family, their economic situation, they’re just not happy in the bedroom.” Ashley Madison is a success, and continues on its path and more and more people take their cheating out of the massage parlors, night clubs and office coat rooms, and onto this website. Ashley Madison Australia just launched recently and plans on expanding over the next couple years. Noel expects the website to be in over a dozen countries with over 12 million members as they grow. Avid Life Media’s other websites are also growing and prospering. Cougar Life has become one of the fastest growing websites in America, and has a lot less marketing obstacles than Ashley Madison. And Noel thinks that the next big thing will be Man Crunch. He feels that the United States is lagging behind the rest of the world in its acceptance of gays and lesbians, and hopefully that will change soon. Noel’s last comment on the controversy surrounding infidelity and his website sums it up pretty nicely, “When their relationships breakdown it’s easy to blame someone like me, to blame a website. And if you do that, if you blame an inanimate object, or someone that has nothing to do with you, then it’s no wonder that your relationship is not working because you’re not being accountable, its naïve and silly.”

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