​Match vs. Facebook dating: Focus, monetization may trump scale

Facebook's planned move into online dating has analysts concerned about Match's future prospects. Match and IAC execs note that focus matters too. The battle makes for a nice digital business case study.

Facebook is launching a dating venture and the primary storyline is that Match and its Tinder money machine is going to suffer. Enter one interesting digital business case study going forward.

The current Match vs. Facebook narrative is a bit too simplistic. After all, Match just posted its best quarter as a public company. Simply put, Match customers--especially Tinder users--are paying up for features and connections.

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Naturally, those Match results and the follow up earnings conference call had a lot of questions about Facebook. It's also worth noting that Match's slide of challenges had a twin-bill with GDPR getting as much play as Facebook.

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The technology industry always goes for that "___-killer" headline. How many startups was Microsoft going to squash back in the day? Every category Microsoft entered was supposed to be win. Then Google was entering multiple categories with mixed success. Today Amazon is going to disrupt everything--until it doesn't.

With that backdrop it's worth noting that Match has a lot more focus than Facebook when it comes to online dating. Facebook Mark Zuckerberg said at F8 that Facebook's dating feature will recommend matches based on friends, preferences and things in common.

Sure, Facebook has scale, but there's also an argument that Facebook and Match will be frenemies. Think Amazon and Netflix and how they are rivals and partners.

Match CEO Amanda Ginsberg said on Wednesday that Facebook has always been part of the dating landscape. Facebook's now dead Poke feature was a start. Then there was the Graph Search where you could search for single men by locale. Messenger and Discover People are all part of the dating mix. Ginsberg added:

We now know that Facebook is going to turn the screw further on the dating continuum, including the dating profile, which means users will declare explicitly that they're available to date and invite contact from strangers. I think this point is important. The expectation of overt dating features and apps reflect all the complicated emotions that dating evolves -- involves: rejection, dissatisfaction, great dates, bad dates, and then ultimately, people churn. We -- in our category, we have to deal with it by explicitly introducing and promoting dating in their ecosystem. Facebook will have to confront and carefully manage this dating dynamic into their customers' experience.

The upshot is that Ginsberg said that Facebook competes with Match just like churches, bars and friends do. Toss in the fact that the majority of Match sign-ups don't include Facebook authentication today and you can argue that the two companies co-exist.

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And then there's the reality that Match is a Facebook advertising client. That partnership won't end as long as there is return on investment for both side.

But perhaps the best argument that Match's singular focus can trump Facebook's scale and reach into new areas came from IAC, Match's parent company.

IAC penned a shareholder letter that also addressed the Facebook issue. CEO Joey Levin wrote that IAC respected Facebook's power, but Match has "a 23-year head start."

Levin added:

A single new competitor, even a powerful one, cannot just uproot us - our fate is in our own hands. No matter what our competitors may do, or large internet platforms may announce, we have tens of millions of people all over the world who visit our brands every month to find like-minded people with the express purpose of finding a relationship. We have 1,400 talented, driven employees who spend all day every day trying to figure out how we can get better at helping our customers find successful relationships. And we have passion for the cause.

Facebook can give up and scrap their dating project anytime, but that's not an option for us - it's our life.

It's unclear how the Match vs. Facebook battle will play out, but it will be one scrum worth watching.

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