Beautiful People – the model model
There was a time when we believed you could be anything you wanted to be online. That was the age of Second Life, of avatars and chat rooms… the age where you could don a persona and interact with people using it, and then shrug it off when you were done.
But the web is ruled by people, who have human desires. Soon it was no longer enough to have an imaginary interaction based on an imaginary self. We wanted something genuine, something real. We wanted people to love us for who we really were. So we turned to sites like MySpace and Facebook where we could post our real lives for others to consume and enjoy.
One such site, with a unique business model, is BeautifulPeople.com, which has apparently been around since 2002. BeautifulPeople made news headlines today when they reportedly removed 5 000 members because they put on weight over Christmas. The site justified the actions thus:
“As a business, we mourn the loss of any member, but the fact remains that our members demand the high standard of beauty be upheld. Letting fatties roam the site is a direct threat to our business model and the very concept for which BeautifulPeople.com was founded.” – Site co-founder Robert Hintze.
In an effort to be genuine and real, the people in question posted pictures of themselves – and this got them booted off the site. I blogged about cyber relationships a few months ago, and I asked,
“Can dating sites be considered just another part of the Internet shopping phenomenon?”
BeautifulPeople.com is a clear example of where the answer is “yes.”
BeautifulPeople.com is a business. Founder, Robert Hintze is very clear on that point with his clear adaptation of the classic, ‘It’s not personal, it’s business’ statement. And as a business concept, BeautifulPeople.com works because it appeals to human nature:
- The desire to be elite
- The desire to be accepted
- The desire for beauty
According to The Register, “Since Brits were first allowed to apply for membership back in 2005, 295,000 have made their pitch, but a mere 12 per cent of men and 15 per cent of women have come up to scratch.”
The rating system is merely a materialisation of what people have been doing to each other in social groups for years. Are they good enough to be one of us? Yes/No/Maybe.
Not only to be beautiful, for this is to do with acceptance. But the desire to date, to love, to have something beautiful.
And so, by making it so difficult to join, Hintze and co-founder Greg Hodge create the desire to join. After all, you always want what you can’t have.
And this move, kicking people who are no longer elite enough off the site, only adds to that. This move is so large and controversial – calling people “fatties” outright, the sheer number of them removed – that it was bound to make waves. Don’t think for a second that it wasn’t planned, that Hintze, Hodge and their marketing guys didn’t want people to go up in arms about it.
Just as the site goes international, the name goes out there on the news… BeautifulPeople.com’s server is already down with all of the hits.
It’s a solid model. Love it or hate it, as a business idea it’s pretty well thought-out.
But will it work?
Are people really that stupid? Or has BeautifulPeople shot itself in the foot but exposing, out in the open, their nasty side? Will people want to be part of a site that is so openly shallow?
My bet is on human nature to win this one. It’s the rule of group acceptance. No one cares if the Out Group is made fun of as long as they, themselves, are in the In Group. I expect that BeautifulPeople.com’s membership will climb exponentially over the next few weeks. Eventually it may even rival some of the better known dating sites despite its strict membership criteria.
But we will see. Perhaps I will be proved wrong.