The seasonality of UK extra-marital
A news story put out by Reuters has swept round the United States; see this link and this link. Very
quickly it crossed the world e.g. here and here. If you don’t believe the amount of coverage this has
received then browse here (NB you may need to change the date period to around the 7th January
2010). Top marks for the PR agency which created the story. They certainly raised their client’s
“brand awareness” considerably for very little money compared to advertising. In fact, just the
coverage in the UK newspapers such as the Daily Telegraph made this story really effective
compared to any other form of marketing and of course this also generated exposure on Twitter.
Even a solid newspaper man doffs his hat to the PR agency, see this link.
Is it right that a world view of “Brits” could be made up by clever PR and the 2,500 plus people who
are claimed to have “signed up in the last six days of snow.”? To look at the validity of this story the
first thing to understand is the context. To do this I’ve examined a year’s worth of data. One of the
classic mistakes in analysing data is to take too short a time frame. Whether looking at the stock
market or an adult dating website, without a reasonable time span the data can be just *noise.* I
can’t go into much depth in a short article but I’ve looked into some very large datasets of actual
behaviour and triangulated that with some qualitative data to make a call on what is happening.
Exploring the keywords used I’ve focussed on *adult relationships*for several reasons. Firstly,
people using *adult* related words are clearly after sex and not looking for true love. Secondly, a
lot of people seeking to have an affair outside marriage use a conventional dating website. I am
sure of this as I researched this area for a client in the past with a measure of success (see
Customer Insight). Thirdly, the number of people using this kind of search term makeup a large
sample compared to the other terms used.
The chart above shows the top four million Google searches using the word *adult* in the term
that are clearly *affair* related. Google is the predominant search engine used in the UK with
nearly 88% of all searches according to Hitwise. I’ve cut the data off at the four million figure for
the year because that takes the data to a point of 99.02% of all the terms used. This is more than
enough to give an accurate view of whether or not there is a seasonal aspect involved in seeking an
Google keyword data doesn’t make this task easy but having done the sums, sure enough,
aggregated across many terms and a whole year, there is a definite January peak. In fact if
illicitencounters.co.uk membership isn’t increasing significantly in January, whatever the weather,
then they have a problem, lower income. Membership on this website is free for men and women,
but men have to pay to contact the women they choose.
So, yes, I can confirm what illicitencounter.co.uk claims is correct: January is their busiest month, as
it is for all the websites in the extra marital affair category. But that happens every year and has
little to do with the snow. Using the 2009 full year data shown in the chart, activity and interest
peaked last January which was a mild month. Therefore there’s no web analytical evidence to
confirm a snow affect on adultery but it’s clear that every dating website gets a big boost in visits in
the first month of the year. Perhaps after a Xmas excess of family and food many people start the
New Year with a set of resolutions. They determine to lose weight, get a new job, find a lover or, if
they’re married, maybe seek sex on the side.
What is surprising is that it’s people aged under 24 who make up 44% of the total of
illicitencounters.co.uk visitors in December. So young, already so disillusioned. But there are lots of
people of all ages out there, trying to connect. The number of unique UK visitors to
illicitencounters.co.uk in December was close to 19,000, not far off the more specialist 18,500
visitors to grannydating.co.uk. Contrast this amount of traffic to the 110,000 UK visitors to
maritalaffair.co.uk in December 2009, and adultfriendfinder.com who get more UK visitors than
that on a bad day in any month of the year, snow or no snow.
As the other chart on the slide clearly shows using data from the Office of National Statistics. In
any event extra marital affairs are a declining market as the number of marriages since 1981 is
falling notably. The ONS records all the marriages in the UK.
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