Ashley Madison ‘s secret success

Ashley Madison 's secret success"Life is short. Have an affair." That's the slogan of the Ashley Madison dating service, a website for people who want to cheat on their partners. That's right, unlike traditional Internet dating sites – where you're expected to say you're unattached no matter what the truth is – Ashley Madison is honest about its duplicity. Unlike, with its married interlopers, Ashley Madison isn't about to break the hearts of innocent singles who only want to live happily ever after with someone who loves Elvis Costello as much as they do. And although its mission can be perceived as very wrong (for the record: cheating is bad!), the fact that it claims 3.2 million members suggests that it's also doing something right.

For starters, the commercials are hilarious. One television spot shows a glamorous couple in the throes of passion. A title card reads, "This couple is married … but not to each other." In another ad, a man retreats to the sofa to escape his obese, snoring wife while a voice-over declares, "Most of us can recover from a one-night stand with the wrong woman, but not when it's every night for the rest of our lives."

The ads, as well as the slogan, were written by the company's 37-year-old founder and chief executive, Noel Biderman, a former attorney, sports agent and self-described happily married father of two who started the company in 2001.

I met up with Biderman, who is from Toronto, on Monday at KTLA Channel 5, where he was a guest on the morning news. Despite much hand flapping and righteous indignation from the hosts (even the weatherman wanted in on the questioning), Biderman calmly suggested that because many members are in sexless marriages but don't actually want to leave their spouses, the company "preserves more marriages than we break up." He added that the most sign-ups occur around New Year's and that, ahem, Los Angeles is the company's biggest market.

When I talked to him after the broadcast, Biderman, whose mild-mannered comportment belies the seediness of his enterprise, explained that in hard economic times, a lot of people who've been planning a divorce suddenly cannot afford one. The money-saving solution? Seek carnal comfort in others. He also made an analogy between his extramarital dating service and handing out condoms to teens.

"Some people say it promotes promiscuity," he said. "But if you don't do it, you get behavior that's way more harmful to society. Infidelity has been around a lot longer than Ashley Madison."

He believes that hearing about the service in a commercial is not going to persuade anyone to have an affair. "It's a decision they've come to already. All I'm saying is, don't do it in the workplace where it could result in someone losing their job, don't go to a singles dating service and lie about your status, don't hire a prostitute. Given that affairs are going to happen no matter what, maybe we should see Ashley Madison as a safe alternative."

And just who is Ashley Madison? Is she the steamy love child of Laura Ashley and a Dolly Madison chocolate Zinger? Is she Heidi Fleiss with a Daughters of the American Revolution name? Alas, she doesn't exist. In an effort to attract women to the site, Biderman and his colleagues combined two of today's most popular baby names and invented their fictional proprietor.


By tracking information provided on user profiles, Biderman has been able to learn quite a bit about his clients, even if he doesn't know their real names. Seventy percent are men, he says; among those who are "active" members (sign-up is free but you must purchase credits to interact with others), the male-to-female ratio is 1-1. The majority of the men, who tend to be in their late 30s to early 40s, are married. The women, who skew a bit younger, fall into three categories: the suburban housewife "who is seeking validation of her desirability"; the "quintessential mistress" who is not interested in a family life but wants things like trips and dinners out; and women who've been married only a short time and suddenly wonder what they got themselves into.

The company put me in touch with a "quintessential mistress" named Jackie (at least she wanted to be named Jackie for the purposes of this column) who professes total satisfaction with Ashley Madison. A self-described "very fit and attractive" 43-year-old college graduate who lives in Beverly Hills and works in real estate, she says she values her independence too much to pursue a conventional relationship. Of all the dating sites she's tried, Ashley Madison has worked out the best for her. (It can't hurt that the site sometimes offers free points to members who will talk to the media.)

"A few weeks ago, I had a fantastic meeting with someone who's been married for 15 years and has three children," Jackie said. "I met him at the Four Seasons on Friday night and we met up again Saturday morning and went to Vegas for two days. I didn't really care that the guy's married. He has no desire to leave his family, and I have no desire for a commitment. So it's ideal."

What's that furious clacking sound I hear? Is it the sound of apoplectic readers typing irate e-mails about the subject of this column? Or is it the sound of people signing on to Ashley Madison?

Or is it the sound of divorce lawyers lowering their fees? Maybe some good can come of this after all.

Meghan Daum, Los Angeles Times

Category: Online dating news

Comments (2)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. AshleyMadisonSucks says:

    Ashley Madison is a scam.

    Unfair practices by this website include:

    “Hosts” hired by the website to bait members into buying a a paid membership. The “host”, who looks like a normal member, will send a message to someone who does not have a paid membership. The message will say something suggesting they want to chat or hear from you. You will have to buy a membership (at least $50) to be able to communicate with this person. You will never hear from this person again, in fact they will never even open your email, because they are just a “host” hired by Ashley Madison.

    Another thing they do is automatically flag all your messages for “priority” delivery which costs extra credits. You have to learn to untick the unassuming priority flag β€” it is half opaque, you will barely notice it.

    Join Ashley Madison and you will have to babysit their unfair practices and go through extra hidden steps to make sure you safeguard yourself from getting ripped off by their dishonest practices.

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)
  2. One.Tempter says:

    I’m male and in my early fourties. I’ve been a member of this site for many years. I can confirm the “host” theory referenced above by the second comment posted on 03/27/10. I had a female friend that was a member of AM who was approached to do this kind of marketing for them.

    I will say that I really don’t care. There are PLENTY of real women on this site that are looking for an affair. I have made some amazing connections with women here who are very real and quite sincere about who they are & protecting their sense of keeping the family together while not letting other temporary life experiences pass them by.

    Like the well written article describes, affairs are alternatives to lesser evils. I think the founder of this company is a genius. Don’t knock it until you try it πŸ™‚ There are plenty of people like YOU out there that have already made a personal decision for themselves that they would have an affair if they had the opportunity. Your opportunity awaits at AM πŸ™‚

    VA:F [1.9.22_1171]
    Rating: 0 (from 0 votes)

Leave a Reply