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The Online Dating Recession

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Match.com’s Thursday announcement that it had purchased Singlesnet was notable for its upfrontness; the company acknowledged that Singlesnet’s traffic is “currently in decline” — something it said it hoped to turn around. Turns out, however, that much of the online dating industry is in a traffic slump.

comScore (NSDQ: SCOR) figures show double-digit year-over-year declines in unique visitors worldwide at big paid subscriber sites like Yahoo (NSDQ: YHOO) Personals (down 34 percent), Match.com (down 37 percent), and Singlesnet (down 27 percent). Notable exceptions include eHarmony (up 31 percent), social dating site Zoosk (which has very impressively seen its traffic surpass that of Match and Singlesnet in the U.S.) and PlentyOfFish (up 26 percent), which happens to be the only free site among the top ten.

PlentyOfFish founder Markus Frind says that the overall industry-wide traffic decline — exemplified in the below Hitwise chart he provided to us — is largely recession-driven (“So much for dating being recession proof,” he says in an e-mail). But he says it is overly simplistic to attribute his site’s success to it being free.

“In online dating, success only comes from actually matching people up,” he says. “There were hundreds of free sites before I started and there are many more now. Fifteen percent of my users are actively paying members on other dating sites.” He says that paid sites will only decline “drastically” if PlentyOfFish gains substantially more market share — something he says has already happened in its home country of Canada.

Still, Match’s dependence on paying subscribers has raised concerns among analysts before. During an earnings call last spring, executives were asked whether the industry was moving towards an ad-supported model. IAC (NSDQ: IACI) CFO Thomas McInerney responded that the “overwhelming world of personals is on the subscription paid side” and said he believed that would continue. That presumably remains IAC’s belief in light of the Singlesnet acquisition — and for now it may be paying off. Despite the traffic declines, Match’s revenue increased five percent last quarter.

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6 Responses to “The Online Dating Recession”

  1. fabriceleparc

    Well let’s give him that, Fernando has some pertinent insight and it’s funny that he comments on every dating related post :)
    not sure the debate should be about accuracy of matching tools but rather how paid online dating embraces the Facebook phenomenon.

  2. And, your untested, unproven, no-evidence-whatsoever matching system is superior, right?
    Is it also “**estimated by Fernando Ardenghi using reverse engineering”?

    Unlike your $0.00 in revenue, sites like Match and eHarmony make 100’s of millions of $$ in revenue every year. The people paying them wouldn’t put down their hard-earned money if their systems didn’t work in some way or other.

    Until you have a credible alternative, please (we are BEGGING YOU), quit all the belly-aching, and Get-Back-To-Your-Day-Job. I’m sure your employer doesn’t appreciate you posting constantly on their time.

    Less reverse engineering. More actual work. Please.

  3. markbrooks

    Dating sites are differentiated from social networks because they provide two key things.

    1. Intent. When someone uses a dating site they are demonstrating that they are single, available, and motivated (especially when they pay). This is important to people.

    2. Anonymity. Dating sites offer a level of anonymity to users. Singles can reveal their identities once they are comfortable with the person they are talking to.

    Fernando, I know you’ve not had success pitching your matchmaking product to the ‘big boys’ but this approach will not get you anywhere. I feel you’re bruised and upset at being rejected. That’s a shame. But you have some stiff competition with the likes of Introanalytics.com now. I expect they will get traction with the dating industry. Hang in there. Try and explain in more layman’s language about your matchmaking system and I think you’ll get further.

    Mark Brooks
    OnlinePersonalsWatch

  4. Fernando, your credibility is shot. See http://onlinedatingpost.com/archives/2009/09/academics-say-online-dating-is-inefficient/#comments , http://onlinedatingpost.com/archives/2010/02/dating-blogs-drive-visitors-why-social-media-is-killing-the-press-release/#comments , & http://www.onlinepersonalswatch.com/news/2010/02/my-entry-2.html#comments , for starters

    Your response has been to ignore the (repeated) requests from others to produce something of susbstance – and to keep posting the same nonsense on other blogs, such as this one.

  5. rawiron1

    Good luck getting a date when you are broke. You don’t buy her anything and she ain’t gonna give it up. So what’s the point of going out?

    Jason the Fed