For many folks last night, cheating meant a chocolate dessert after a high-calorie Valentine’s Day dinner with their sweetheart. But somewhere out there were married business travelers checking into their hotels first, and then, in a close second, checking out AshleyMadison.com on their smartphones to secure an extramarital tryst.
Also, while serial cheaters have long been a fact of life and have probably always skewed male, interestingly, per AshleyMadison’s data, they are increasingly women who use their mobile phones.
Thirty-four percent of its female users access the service via smartphones, says the Toronto-based company, which compares to only 13 percent two years ago. Men—who make up 67 percent of the site’s audience of 17 million worldwide—have ramped up their mobile usage from 7 percent to 19 percent during the same time period. Last year, on the day after Valentine’s Day, the site saw a 439 percent lift in enrollments—and that was mostly driven by women.
Such a slew of data is why AshleyMadison plans to debut a “Traveling Woman” feature during late spring, charging monthly subscribers (price to be determined, but likely $20) for a service that sends a custom email to 30 AshleyMadison users in the city they are visiting. They’ll be able to input the type of person they are seeking by gender, age and ethnicity, as well as the kind of location where they want to meet.
It’s a spinoff from “Traveling Man,” a 3-year-old mobile service that attracts thousands of monthly subscribers. For both Traveling Man and Traveling Woman, AshleyMadison's mobile app will soon entail GPS signals that allow users to find the nearest potential lovers.
“Sitting in your hotel room, you can see who on the 7th floor is looking to have an affair,” said Noel Biderman, AshleyMadison president. “Women have the same exact needs and demands while on business trips that men do. They too are feeling more confident about discretion when they are 50 or more miles away from their significant other. So why not offer the service to them?”
Biderman thinks Traveling Woman will tap into a post-feminist, sex-positive era inspired by digital connections. “It’s not just about the guys they know or the ones in the office,” he said. “Female infidelity has come into its own. When we first started the site 12 years ago, the women on it were searching almost exclusively for married men their age. That’s changed dramatically.”
The digitization of modern life—and more specifically, the onset of mobile-technology-enhanced activities—“has made cheating women more aspirational,” Biderman said. “These are now married women in their 40s who are specifically searching for men in their 20s by race and hair color. The ladies are like the guys now and say, ‘If I am going to have an affair, I am going to do it with a 22-year-old blond.’”
Research by Diane Kholos Wysocki, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at the University of Nebraska at Kearney, and Cheryl D. Childers, a Washburn University sociology professor, supports the idea that women get turned on by mobile communication. Their study found that women are more likely to send nude photographs or sexually explicit text messages than men. While surveying nearly 5,200 AshleyMadison users, the researchers discovered that two-thirds of women surveyed texted risqué messages compared to half of the men.
AshleyMadison competitor Gleeden.com also has noticed more women accessing its service via mobile devices.
"It's hard to cheat when you are at work or at home," said Ravy Truchot, founder of Miami-based Gleeden. "Using your mobile phone with 24-hour, seven-days-a-week access, it's easier to cheat. We are seeing people use mobile during commute hours while they are riding to work or home. We are seeing this especially with women."
Meanwhile, Biderman traveled to economically ravaged Greece this week to launch operations in what will be AshleyMadison’s 29th country. “Infidelity dating sites grow during recessions,” he claimed. “Higher-employment rates entice people to turn to other people who say they are great. Or sadly, other times they turn to drugs and alcohol. We have done exceptionally well in places with economic downturns. For instance, Spain has become our best European market in no small part because of the tough economic times there.”
Additionally, the exec said network TV won’t take his advertising money, making him rely on radio, print, digital and regional cable television buys to attract new subscribers.
“If we had the same marketing opportunities on The CBS Evening News and The Oprah Winfrey Show as the eHarmony.coms and Match.coms of world,” Biderman said, “I guarantee you we’d be bigger than those services.”