Published On: Fri, Jul 18th, 2014

Ashley Madison’s Noel Biderman Turns ‘Infidelity Economy’ into $125 Million Operation


The latest version of a Hugh Hefner style sexual communicator we have nowadays, the 43-year-old Biderman owns the world’s marketplace for cheaters.

Noel Biderman on Ted

Noel Biderman thanked the TEDx audience for proving his idea of the difference between “declared reality” and “revealed reality, ” which was the foundation of his Ashley Madison, the biggest ever extramarital dating website.

“There is a notion out there that infidelity doesn’t exist, but there is a big gap between that declared reality and revealed reality. There is an economic opportunity that comes in filling that gap between the two, ” Biderman said in his TEDx talk on the “Cyberanthropology of Infidelity.”

“How many of you in the audience are in a relationship of any significance, married or otherwise?” Biderman asked. More than 90 per cent of the audience raised their hands. “Now…people who are cheating keep their hands up, ” he requests.

All the hands dropped.

That, it turns out, was a vivid demonstration of the declared versus revealed thing.



The latest version of a Hugh Hefner style sexual communicator we have nowadays, the 43-year-old Biderman owns the world’s marketplace for cheaters, AshleyMadison.com, a $125 million business attracting 26 million users from 39 countries, with 40 million page views per month.

How did Biderman, a successful sports attorney who considers himself a faithful husband (Heff made no such claims), come up with the business model for cheating for fun and profit?

He read an article analyzing the Internet bubble bust of 2, 000, which, among other things, discussed the flaw in the many dating websites where people were obviously pretending to be someone else.

Biderman started thinking, maybe the real opportunity was in people who didn’t want to pretend they were someone else, they simply sought intimacy outside their relationships.

“I came to the conclusion that a) yes, I could steal those users away, and b) because of financial freedom as well as the rise in divorce rates, women clearly were demonstrating that they were no longer content with the institution, ” Biderman said.

His believed that an online platform with real people and real conversations, could attract real women, in an industry that normally skews heavily towards men.

It all begins and ends with the secrecy and anonymity of the Internet. “I don’t want to say we are a duplicitous species, but when it comes to marriages, when it comes to relationships, we are very secretive…so that’s what I was going to cater to, ” he says.

Creating the service offering was tricky, according to Biderman, who was a total newbie online. “I just wanted them to come on board. So I, myself, was duplicitous. I said we were building a dating service with a secrecy component—that’s how I phrased it, ” he explained.

On Feb 13, 2002, one day before Valentine’s Day, AshleyMadison.com went live. Biderman picked the date because he had read an article that suggested 12 per cent of purchases made before Valentine’s Day were made in duplicates, suggesting that the buyers were picking one for the wife, one for the girlfriend.

So it was the perfect date to reach out for the adulterers. But Biderman’s initiative met with a lot of resistance. The TV networks wouldn’t air his very expensive launch commercial, which made it a challenge to reach the target audience he knew was out there.

He went with clandestine messages he slapped onto more conventional ads, like, “when monogamy becomes monotony.”

“The frequency of which you run these ads is way more than required compared to an ad where you are direct with your messaging, and so all of a sudden, my marketing budget blew up, ” he said.

Biderman has been vigilant about maintaining the quality of his service, knowing all too well that men are pigs, and could easily turn his website into an online cat house.

Also, men and women are very different (duh), including about the way they buy online.

“I decided to sell each communication and my theory was that men and women were probably not perfectly aligned. Clearly, women were coming here looking for attention. And I didn’t want to let men have an ‘all-you-can kind of buffet experience’. I created a model where men pay for each message, ” Biderman said.

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