If you’re launching a dating website, Valentines Day seems to be the perfect day to do it. That’s what Chad Hurley, Steve Chen and Jawed Karim thought when they launched their video dating service back in 2005.
Not a single user uploaded a dating video in its first month of use.
So how did that site earn over $19.7 Billion in 2020 alone? By ditching dating. The site’s name?
In what must be considered one of the most successful about-face turns in marketing history, Hurley, Chen and Karim recognised the failures and successes of their venture almost immediately. It was a terrible dating app,… but the video software and streaming smarts they had developed for it eventually made them a fortune.
Despite an initial enthusiasm that led the trio to launch YouTube on Valentines Day, they pulled the dating focus within a month and opened the site up to any video.
The rest, as they say, is history.
It’s the ultimate example of quick-thinking entrepreneurs adapting to adversity. But why didn’t the site that encouraged visitors to “Tune in, Hook up” take off in its original guise?
Dating is a fragile business at the best of times. Just filling in a dating profile can take days as people um and err over the smallest sliver of personal detail. While modern dating apps like Tinder encourage users to upload videos, 2005 was a very different time. We’re very used to uploading video of ourselves today but back then,… not so much. Not at all, in fact.
In the 70s and 80s there were video dating companies who would record to-camera “ads” for suitors, and these were quite popular. The difference for then, however, was anonymity: the only people who’d see those, often awful, tapes were ladies and gentlemen who were already talking to the matchmaking companies involved.
YouTube stripped much of that anonymity away.
Suddenly you could be seen in your home or neighborhood. There were no interviewers helping you to say the right things or look the right way. You were on your own and open to the world.
It was terrifying,… to singletons.
But to creatives it was a dream come true: a potential audience of millions to show off your skills and talents to?! Why hadn’t anyone thought of it before?
And that’s why, only two months later, YouTube was hitting 30,000 visitors a day. By December of that year it was 2 million videos watched daily.
Creatives flocked to broadcast their individuality. Skaters streamed their best tricks. Cats pushed things off desks.
The moral of the story? Know your audience – and be prepared to change tack if your marketing hits a brick wall. Get a feel for the market.
And buy him or her something nice this year, eh?…