We Are All Ashley Madison

If you’re looking for a lucrative small business with low risk, may I suggest the prostitution-strong arm robbery category?

It works like this: you and an accomplice lure a john into a secluded place for a paid sex act, and while he is there, you beat him senseless and steal his money, wallet and jewelry. This often amounts to hundreds or thousands of dollars in value…especially if you can make some credit purchases before the cards are cancelled.

So the ROI is excellent.

And here’s the beauty part: the victim probably won’t report the crime to police, because, well, duh. He’ll just go home to his wife and say he accidentally fell down eight flights of stairs.

Only two problems with the business model. 1) It doesn’t scale. 2) You can’t always count on victim silence.

Remember Smilin’ Bob, the grinningly satisfied customer of the penis-enlargement industry? Maybe he couldn’t keep a straight face because he was promising “natural male enhancement.” These marketers long operated with near impunity on the theory that the following letter would never be addressed to law enforcement and regulators: “I purchased Enzyte to increase the length and girth of my itsy-bitsy penis, only to discover I remained peckerally challenged and suffered rapid heartbeat and dizziness, whether from the ginseng root, the niacin or the horny goat weed extract, I don’t know. “



Unfortunately for the proprietors of Enzyte, enough users who had been shortchanged by God did not like the added insult of being shortchanged by Berkeley Premium Nutraceuticals. They lodged exactly such complaints to law enforcement, and founder Steven Warshak is currently in federal prison serving -- ahem -- a long stretch.

Which brings us to Ashley Madison, illicit-hookup service that seemed to have discovered all the credit-card-number-gathering benefits of the bespoke robbery model, plus actual impunity, plus scale. So brilliant! You advertise to surfers of porn sites (i.e., lots of hound-dog married men) that you can match them with sizzling hot bored housewives and charge all involved a membership fee. There is nobody --nobody -- who is going to write the Better Business Bureau about the extramarital assignation that was promised but not delivered, much less the one where you think you’re meeting a PTA milf but instead encounter a professional sex worker and the meter is running the whole time.

A genuine adultery-facilitation site might offer some utility in the cheater economy, if there were any balance between supply and demand…but there never will be, any more than horny goat weed extract will ever grow a magic beanstalk. The hack and release of Ashley Madison customer info, of course, revealed exactly the secret that its trademark spokesadultress was whispering “Hush!” about: the adulterously minded men outnumbered the adulterous-minded women by at least 87-13 -- and that’s assuming the women’s profiles on the site were all genuine, which it further emerges they were not. 

But once again, that wouldn’t have mattered; it was a perfect business model, so long as -- Hush! -- the imbalance remained as secret as the clientele. Which, naturally, Ashley Madison guaranteed, even for customers who wanted to walk away..

“We’ll go back in time,” founder Noel Biderman told the Calgary Herald a few months back. “We’ll take back every message you ever shared. We’ll make like you’re a ghost — you never were here.”

Oops. This is the Internet we’re talking about. If you dare people to discover your secrets by being infamous (or merely famous), discover them they will. Ask Snapchat, Sony and Jennifer Lawrence. There is no less inevitability to data breaches as to spousal ones. Verily, human frailty giveth and it taketh away. Pretty despicable all around -- and of course, the subject of much finger-wagging, tsk-tsking and vast amounts of cheap moralizing for the past seven days.

But if we are speaking of luring the weak into following their worst impulses, if we are speaking of promising illusory benefits, if we are speaking of failing to disclose potential harm, maybe we should be a bit slower to point fingers. To one degree or another, there’s plenty of Ashley Madison to go around. After all, lust is one of the seven deadly sins. The other six are marketing categories, every one:

Gluttony:  e.g., McDonald’s.

Greed: e.g., Goldman Sachs

Sloth: e.g., Dr. Oz’s Raspberry Ketones Weight-loss supplement.

Wrath: e.g., Fox News Channel

Envy: e.g., US Weekly

Pride:  e.g., Bentley

You don’t think you could make your living roughing up and fleecing pathetic losers? Maybe you already do.





5 comments about "We Are All Ashley Madison".
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  1. Kim Stuart from, August 24, 2015 at 1:15 p.m.

    Friend Finder isn't the father of Match, fyi.  Those two came from entirely different people and places.  And who is to say that they haven't been hacked?  Perhaps they're just more clever at dealing with things...  

  2. Kathryn Gorges from Kathryn Gorges Courses, August 24, 2015 at 2:32 p.m.

    You could probably make a case that almost all consumer marketing is based on sin -- the lack of moderation in every category is what is making people money right now.  We're all too busy consuming (products and curated 'experiences') that we've left moderation and the peace of every day life behind.  

    I'd like to see you take that on -- the extremes have been reached bit by bit -- and it's too easy for people to say: no, that's not me.  Take on the values and actions that have created those towering examples and maybe we can all start to see how we're responsible for that.

  3. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, August 24, 2015 at 6:24 p.m.

    One remarkable fact revealed by the AM hack is that Alabama, with fewer than five million residents, had by far the most AM accounts of any state, even those with six or seven times as many people.  If you can figure out why that is the case, there's a huge, if really sleazy business opportunity to be exploited.

  4. Mai Kok from So What, August 25, 2015 at 11:14 a.m.

    This is so stupid. What exactly are you trying to say amidst your rambling pontification? Those without sin cast the first stone? Take your sin-sympathizing ass and STFU. Ashley Madison was a great concept - but they failed fundamentals i.e. security. And in their avarice, they put a target on themselves with their much ballyhooed IPO - just like Uber. So no - we are not all like Ashley madison. You are. You look like a typical AM client - old and white. So put this crap on your blog - not on MediaPost.

  5. Curtis Brubaker from BCAT, llc, August 25, 2015 at 12:15 p.m.

    Just as an aside...  IOT's page layout (as well as some other MediaPost offerings) are perfect examples of the publisher's lack of understanding (or appreciation for content consumption) wrt the many VIEWABILITY ISSUES it reports on, specifically ABOVE & BELOW the FOLD LAYOUTS where daily it gives prime real estate to its shoutout in-your-face logo.

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