I’m in the communication business. I help you self-publish who you are, what brought you to an affair and then I give you the communication tools to communicate with other people who have done the same. You can chat with them in real time. You can have a fantasy date with them on our service. You can send them an email message. You can send them a virtual gift, a rose, a bottle of champagne, a necklace, whatever it is.
I don’t really have anything to do with the offline side of the business. I’m not recommending hotels. I don’t get a bonus if they have one affair or 25 affairs. My role is relegated to the communication side of it, and so what I can tell you is who my typical user might be, what they look like from a perspective, but I don’t necessarily know that there is a way to define success.
I will tell you this, that infidelity clearly crosses both genders, every socioeconomic group, every ethnic group, even a variety of ages. I think the typical Ashley Madison user on the male side is this: I don’t want to use the word seven-year itch because I think that’s been shrunk down to about a three-year or four-year itch. And when you think about it that’s very logical because that’s when the first child tends to appear on the scene and so whether it’s their wife’s pregnancy or the first child being there their personal lives with their partner have dramatically changed. I don’t want to call it selfish either, but the amount of times that they’re alone, their sex life, it’s all different and a lot of people adjust to that really poorly. That’s the first time they look and begin to wander. And so our site has a typical or fundamental male user.
There are also a lot of men who are now facing an empty nest and they feel like they’ve done their major parenting and so now maybe they’re taking this deep breath saying “Okay, maybe I’ll do something for myself. For the last two decades I’ve done this, maybe an affair will make me feel good.” And so we have a lot of men in that demographic.
On the female side it’s really two groups. Single women make up 20% of Ashley Madison, women who are happy to be with an otherwise already taken man and they have their reasons for it. They’re looking for lifestyle, fun, sex, dinner, whatever, but not looking for the white picket fence or marriage at this time. And to them this works.
Then we have what I don’t want to call a desperate housewife, but a housewife who has been married a decade. If you asked her, her happiest time was when she was being courted, wooed, pursued. That’s why she got engaged and agreed to marry this individual. Now there are no more dinner dates. There are no more flowers being brought home. There is no attention being paid when she changes her hair or her appearance. She is lonely even within a marriage and that probably feels doubly lonely.
What she is looking for is a revalidation of her as an interesting person and object of desire. And to sign up to a service like Ashley Madison and have a half dozen men interested in meeting with her within the first week is that revalidation. Does it matriculate and morph into physical intimacy? Of course it does.
Noel Biderman is the founder and CEO of Ashley Madison.