After another busy day of development, PR and marketing for our portfolio of dating websites, I sat down before dinner to check how our latest survey was progressing, only to find that BT (British Telecom) have blocked all online dating sites.
I now have to login to my account with BT and unblock my own sites to continue to run the business. So what impact is this going to have on the dating business as a whole? It’s early days, as this block has just been switched on in the past day, but here are my first thoughts.
Loss in traffic and revenue
The first effect I expect to see is a loss in traffic. From Google Analytics, about 1.3% of our traffic to Saucydates.com is from the BT home network. Over time, people will lift the blocks (with difficulty, see later) but in the short term this will result in a 1.3% loss in revenue.
Google Adwords charges
As the block happens when you try to access the site, any paid advertising such as Google Adwords will be wasted. If you click a sponsored link you arrive at a BT block page. Some companies will be wasting $1 to $3 every time this happens. Any other paid advertising will also be affected. For example, sending newsletters and banner adverts.
Turning off the blocks
I have 16 years of web development experience, developed numerous websites, I can build a computer from scratch and have an IQ of 140. So how easy was removing the block?
On clicking allow access I was presented with an error, after a bit of research I found this was due to parental controls not being linked to my BT account. I expect almost every BT customer will see this problem and many will give up at this stage. Only customers who have switched on the parental controls before today will be able to make changes from this page.
I logged into BT and looked for parental controls. It was not easy to find as the site is full of cross-sell and up-sell marketing material. I performed a site search, which resulted in a FAQ that didn’t match the current site design, and a lot more sales and marketing pages. When this happens, the best tactic I can suggest is to use Google and search outside of the provider’s knowledge base. I found from this search that I needed to look for a section called My Extras, which after a bit more searching, I located.
This allowed me to link my BT account to the parental controls. They needed to be set up, which requires a two hour wait, or for me to power off and on the router/hub. This allows me to use the unblock feature on the original block page. However, at this stage I opted to turn off parental controls completely (which still required a power off and on).
I expect that most BT customers will find it difficult to remove/adjust these settings, and I expect as of this evening, BT customer support will be overloaded with people asking for dating (and porn) to be switched back on!
What is blocked by default?
BT have turned on ‘light’ blocking automatically which is the lowest level of filtering. Here is the full table:
Thoughts about this table
Is dating more or less dangerous than social networking?
Shouldn’t nudity be blocked over dating?
Is dating worse than weapons and violence?
And my favourite one of all is: file sharing (which will mainly be an illegal activity) is only blocked at the highest level.
I think these initial changes will be bad for the dating industry. I expect most BT residential customers will not adjust their settings. If other broadband providers follow, then the drop in traffic and revenue will be very significant. Dating businesses with a large UK customer base are likely to be hurt the most over the coming years, however the shift in mobile usage will be a lifeline, as most networks have over-18 content switched on if you’re an adult, and adjusting the settings is a simple on/off process.
The best action for the dating industry is to lobby as a single voice to have default blocks to exclude online dating. My company is in, would anyone else like to join?