Technology

Dating app Hinge is betting big on audio as Match Group pushes for a better dating experience


Hinge is launching voice prompts

Hinge

Dating app companies have spent the past year indicating change is coming to the dating experience. Now, they’re starting to make good on their promises.

Hinge, one of Match Group‘s biggest companies, is adding audio recording features to its app starting Wednesday. It’s the first dating app to widely offer a feature that lets users add voice clips to their dating profiles. Hinge will also allow people to send voice notes to their matches, a feature that dating competitor Bumble has long offered.

Dating apps are synonymous with swiping left and right. For the most part, people look at other users’ profiles, usually filled with pictures and some text, and swipe left to deny or right to express interest. If two people swipe right, they match and could end up on a date. Hinge doesn’t have a swipe left or right model. Instead, users interact with pictures or text prompts to match.

The addition of interactive media experiences, like audio and video, lets people interact in a way that hasn’t been done yet with online dating. Companies in this space are hoping these features lead people to encourage better connections and attract new users. That, in turn, brings in more revenue.

“It’s one thing to go and take pictures of yourself, it’s another to really go and tell stories and show an interest that get a conversation started. Giving people the ability to tell a richer story about themselves on their profile that’s not just a bunch of photos of themselves, I think, is where it’s going,” Hinge CEO Justin McLeod said in an interview.

Dating apps are catering more to Generation Z, an age group that’s used to more integrative digital experiences. Audio experiences could also be appealing to users who have been reluctant to jump into video dates. Generation Z, or Gen Z, refers to people born between the late 1990s and early 2010s.

“Voice is a really nice gateway to being able to participate in richer media than recording a video of yourself,” McLeod said. “The idea is, being able to send a voice note still communicates a lot of information, but you don’t have to make sure you look good and the camera angle’s right and the lighting is right and all of that.”

Hinge is introducing voice notes between matches.

Hinge

Hinge’s parent company has been working on the growth to audio, video and social for the past year. Match closed this summer closed its $1.7 billion acquisition of Hyperconnect, a social networking company that’s credited with building “the first mobile version” of WebRTC. That will allow the company to focus on its research & development, adding more live chat features and video experiences to its apps.

Match COO Gary Swidler previously told investors the company expects at least two of its brands to use Hyperconnect tech before the end of the year, while a number of other brands will implement it by the end of 2022. (Hinge’s audio features were created independent of Hyperconnect, McLeod said.)

The voice prompts are the first step.

“This is just the beginning of a lot of things that we’ll see come out over the next six to 12 months that really help people tell a richer story in their profiles,” McLeod said. He declined to provide more specifics.

Hinge also announced Wednesday it is adding more features for LGBTQ+ users.

Starting Thursday, Hinge will update its algorithm to add a non-binary gender category, so they can be shown to daters who are interested in getting to know them. (Currently, most apps allow people to identify as non-binary, but ultimately require them to say whether they want to be shown to people looking for men or women, McLeod said.)

Hinge is also rolling out prompts specifically for LGBTQ daters sometime in November.

McLeod said the updates are part of a larger customization strategy to develop products for specific groups to make the app feel more welcoming.

“There’s still a lot of innovation to happen both on the customization front and how you can really make the app work for different people with different views and different ways of wanting to express themselves,” McLeod said. “So providing more options for people to create a more custom experience and build the profile that they feel really expresses who they are and when they look through profiles they don’t look all the same, I really think that that is a massive step forward.”



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