Marketing guru Phil Henricks :: Keeping Gaydar on the radar

by Mikey Rox

Sunday February 6, 2011

Looking for love in all the wrong places? 

Let Phil Henricks help. He's the marketing guru behind Gaydar.net, a pioneer in online dating and one of the most popular LGBT meeting places on the Internet. 

In a recent interview, Henricks talks about the portal's humble beginnings (it started so the founders' friend could land a man), whether online dating among gays is more RT or LTR, which political circle is quietly cruising the site, what Gaydar is doing to connect
the underserved lesbian community, and why its new mobile app is more than just another Grindr. 

EDGE: You have quite a history as the man behind the curtain of the world's most popular dating sites - Manhunt, M4M World, and now you're Head of North American Market at Gaydar. Is it true that that site was started because the founder's friend wanted a boyfriend? Did he find one?

Phil Henricks: Yup. Necessity was the father of this invention. Gaydar began in June 1999 because the founders - Henry Badenhorst and Gary Frisch - had a friend who was desperate to find a boyfriend but didn't have the time or interest in trawling gay bars. They recommended Excite (a popular search engine in the 1990s), which had a personals page where one could post a profile, but it took the poor guy two weeks to get a response. Henry thought he could do better and created a personal site just for the gay market. Five months later, Gaydar launched and their friend got his boyfriend. 

EDGE: Great story. But be honest - is Gaydar geared toward relationships, or are the people who are using it really just looking for sex?

Phil Henricks: I like to think of Gaydar as an online version of a typical gay bar whereas I think of other sites as closer to being online versions of a bathhouse. At Gaydar you have people who are looking for a date, looking for love, looking for a quickie, looking to flirt or just watching the boys go by, just as you would at a gay bar. Cliché as it sounds, Gaydar is what you make it. There's something for everyone.  

EDGE: Is it just me or does it seem like there are no lesbian dating sites - or at least not as many as there are gay dating sites? Why do you think that is?

Phil Henricks: Indeed, there are very few lesbian dating websites. It's a smaller market, but also I think girls prefer to meet under more traditional circumstances, such as being introduced through friends, girl bars, parties, events, cruising Home Depot. That said, Gaydar does indeed have - ta-dah - a lesbian dating site. It's called GaydarGirls.com. It's comparably smaller than the men's site and not as heavily marketed, but busy nonetheless. 

Peak times?

EDGE: What’s the most popular time of day for users to log on? Can you pinpoint it? Like, for example, the third Wednesday of the month at 3:53 p.m. Something like that. What do your statistics show?

Phil Henricks: I have been in industry for 10 years and it is the same at every site. Believe it or not Monday nights are hot. They’re almost always the busiest of the week. Sundays from 5 to 11 p.m. is second, followed by Tuesdays.   

EDGE: What your main demographic? Old, young, top, bottom?

Phil Henricks: Gaydar is a very welcoming site - a friendly gay bar, if you will. There are all types, ages and sizes of guys. That said, we’re really welcoming to guys age 24 and younger, who get totally free, full-access membership. We figure younger and college guys could use a break and we could use the eye candy. As for demographics, I can actually give you some real stats. As of six months ago, 20% of our members are total tops, 15% are total bottoms, and 65% are versatile.   

EDGE: Anybody famous have a profile on the site? You don’t have to say their name out loud, but a clever little blind item wouldn’t hurt. And then whisper the name in my ear. 

Phil Henricks: Apparently Gaydar is big with British MPs (Members of Parliament), the discovery of which has been catnip to the press. They found photos of one in his underwear and that another had "engaged in a sex act too disgusting to describe in a family newspaper." But it’s Boy George who got Gaydar into the gossip columns after his arrest for [falsely imprisoning] a rent boy he met on Gaydar. Google it. 

Gaydar soldiers on

b>EDGE: I know all about Boy George’s escapades, actually. But speaking of profiles, who’s the person who approves them and their requisitely racy photos. I’m sure he’s seen it all. Can I shadow him for a day?

Phil Henricks: Nuns. Seriously, it’s a room full of people - all kinds, gay, straight, men, women, out of work MPs - who go at it 18 hours a day. With over six million members posting in nine languages, including photos and video, it’s a daunting task - but Gaydar soldiers on. 

EDGE: What does it take to get disapproved? I’m sure you’ve got a story. 

Phil Henricks: Gaydar prides itself on its relaxed stance when it comes to profile text, so we prefer not to censor. Members can pretty much say whatever they want. When it comes to photos, of course, they have to be of the member - as in, the person in the profile - and images of children, penetration, ejaculation and sex with animals or office supplies are forbidden. We have had very few issues with member photos. We have a sexy, frisky, but well-behaved crowd. 

EDGE: Office supplies? I don’t even wanna know. Are you required by law to save the chat logs and e-mail between members? I bet some of those are a doozy.

Phil Henricks: Logs are kept, but only for the protection of the site and our customers. Only in the case of a major harassment complaint are the logs opened, and even then they can only be accessed by the customer service director. We are exceedingly strict about guarding our members’ privacy. True, it’d be the ultimate fly-on-the-wall moment, but it’ll never happen. Your secrets - and lies - are safe with us. 

EDGE: Where is the future of the Gaydar site headed? A couple years ago Manhunt.net launched OnTheHunt.com, which facilitates real members hooking up on film, and the sudden popularity of Grindr sort of revolutionized that way gays connect on and offline. So what’s next?

Phil Henricks: Gaydar and porn? Uh, no. We’ve no interest in whoring out our members for profit.  Works for some, but it’s just not what the Gaydar brand is about. Gaydar is about fun, meeting, dating, as well as gay culture. We have GaydarNation.com, which is our huge gay entertainment site, plus there’s GaydarRadio.com, the largest 24-hour, live-hosted gay radio station in the world - with, hello, half a million listeners. Mobile technology also gets us hot. We just launched the Gaydar app for the iPhone, which was an immediate hit since we were the first major gay dating site to offer a fully integrated app, allowing app and Web users the exact same access to its profiles and options. The Android Gaydar app should be ready shortly after Valentine’s Day! Beyond the app, we’re giving the website an extreme makeover, which will be really fun. Look for that in early summer.  

Mikey Rox is an award-winning writer/journalist and the founder of Paper Rox Scissors, a copywriting and creative consulting company in New York City. He can be reached at [email protected].

Comments on Facebook