We caught Male2Male's Webmaster Krystian Terlich in the middle of a site facelift, but that didn't keep the indefatigable promoter from showing us around with enthusiasm. "We will have a whole new look for the site in two weeks' time," he assured us, going in. With the transmogrification complete, Male2
Male.com, awarded Best Gay Dating Site on the Web by Cybersocket in 2003 (as voted by Internet surfers) and a Web destination "for active men with eager bodies," remains cyberspace that's "for men only; a place you can visit to meet other men for whatever you choose."
The site explains itself as "safe and discreet," so the curious can explore health issues, sexuality, and dating to heart's content. "Being a strictly male site has allowed us to include more specific categories to suit anyone's preferences," as the location explains itself.
Of course, this begs the question, "Isn't it possible that some fantasizing, tricky female might get in there?"
Terlich chuckles in response. "If a hetero woman wants to sign up, she has to do so as a man! And she probably won't get very far ... gay men are generally pretty in-tune with each other and, after a while, they'll probably be able to tell that they're actually talking to a hetero woman. And then they can use our 'blacklist' function.
"That said, there are provisions to look for transsexuals and transvestites at Male2Male."
Male2Male is devoted to "making life a lot more fun and interesting for all gay men," according to information available at the site. "As well as helping you get in touch with thousands of hot members, we'll help you stay in touch with all the latest news and issues on our lifestyle. Plus there's advice on health and travel, as well as fantastic online shopping. And we'll provide all the personal support you need to help you find the sexy partner or partners you're looking for."
Terlich had a great idea, and took advantage of the 2002 Internext Expo in Las Vegas to pitch it to Male2Male's owners. (He reveals that the owners themselves met through a personals ad, and now run other dating sites, including the popular SexyAds.net.) Terlich relates that they "were approached by some of their affiliate Webmasters to create a niche site to exclusively cover the gay market. Coincidentally, I had been pestering them about this very idea for ages. So they hired me to get the project off the ground and make it a going concern. The rest, as they say, is history."
The initial response to Male2Male, says Terlich, "has been very encouraging, indeed. We're experiencing a healthy, steady growth in membership. I think this largely has been due to our commitment to providing a quality service to our primary target market (gay men over 30).
"Most of these people are getting on board with Male2Male because we offer them what they are seeking: real men who they can connect with. Many of our members have tried the club and bar scene without success."
What distinguishes Male2Male from other personals-oriented Web concerns, Terlich feels, is pride in "our service and our understanding of gay needs. We have dedicated support staff, and make every effort to ensure our members know that there are real people running Male2Male.
"They know we're here solely to make their experience with us a positive and fulfilling one," he continues. He opines that a staff of gay Webmasters helps keep members well informed about current gay issues and events. "For instance," he says, "we were recently proud sponsors of Central Florida Pride."
Offerings at Male2Male include an online magazine, the monthly Male2Day, that promises to keep readers "up-to-date with everything that's happening on the site," in addition to providing articles on gay issues, queer achievers, fashion, entertainment, events, and more. Advertised at the time of this article were Male2Male Success Stories, info on same-sex marriages, and a bio piece on the life of Alan Turing.
No doubt the main attraction is the award-winning personals service, through which members can contact one another anonymously or by e-mail or short message, courtesy of the site's e-mail filtering system.
"At the moment," Terlich informs, "we have around 30,000 members. Male2Male's entire service and support operation is conducted in-house, and our technical operation is hosted by Cave Creek in Phoenix, Arizona. Our support staff provide a level of service that I have yet to find with any other online dating Website.
"I think the best way to provide service over and above [that of] your competitors is to join their site, log in, and get to know it. Find out what they are offering and go one step better - or even three steps better - where you can. Which comes back to my earlier point: Our support staff has a 'real' presence to our members. They put in great effort to make our members feel important, that their questions will be listened to and answered. And we do this within 24 hours, 365 days a year.
"Of course," Terlich adds, "such prompt service increases member retention."
Explaining the Cybersocket 2003 award for Best Gay Dating Site on the Web, Terlich says simply, "Cybersocket's annual Web awards are 100 percent surfer voted, so I think it was a reflection of the old saying 'one good turn deserves another': We treat our members so well, I think they were happy to vote for us to give something back."
Terlich's advice to anybody thinking about building and maintaining a personals site, "at any level," is to first realize that it's "no small undertaking.
"It's a huge job, and takes dedication and devotion. People need to think about the amount of hours they are willing to put in to the site."
First, "You need to offer great software functionality and even better member support. There's no better ally than knowing your market well, and there's a lot of work involved in that, too."
Also, "For those who do have the time, energy and inclination, I'd suggest spending time on sites which have inspired them, and finding the niches in the market that they want to exploit."
But be warned: "Anyone who just wants to work a 9-to-5 job shouldn't get into the online dating game."
Terlich smiles when asked about upcoming changes to the site. "Even though we are flat-out working to attract new members to Male2Male, and servicing the ones we've already got, we're making the time to develop an all-new look for the site, with the focus on our core mission of men meeting men - for whatever reason.
"We'll continue to cover important gay news and other issues in our online magazine, Male2Day, but the message on the main site is going to be that we've got guys, guys and more guys. And to prove it, we're about to add a photo gallery where our members can surf through thumbnails of all the other members. Extended profiles are also on their way. As you can see we're quite busy."
Addressing the Visa/MasterCard regulations regarding chargebacks, Terlich assures that worried affiliates won't encounter any problems with Male2Male. "Our company has never had a chargeback level higher than one-half of 1 percent, we've always paid on time, and we've been around for years. We fully and clearly explain our paid memberships, and offer a quality service to justify the fees. We respond to every query from our members within 24 hours, and most of the time just answering them with timely responses is enough to diffuse a possible chargeback."
Terlich's "hint for success" to the Male2Male user is pretty basic: "Log in every day!
"By doing so," he explains, "you have a better chance of appearing at the top of search-and-browse listings, where you will be more noticeable. Of course, members should also be sure to place a good ad and upload a photo. Profiles with pictures get way more responses than profiles without them. Another important piece of advice is to send lots of messages and e-mails. Gay boys love to chat, and the more you spread the word about yourself, the better your chances of scoring that hot guy."
As the site itself proclaims, "Whether you're looking for a lifetime of love or a night of spirited passion, your personal ad at Male2Male can help you find the man you're yearning for." Terlich's focus on customer support and site integrity helps make it so.