>> Read Part 1
The most efficient and comfortable way to do almost any type of research is online — finding a date is no exception. There are 44 million singles Americans, or approximately 40% of the entire US population. Of that, close to 50% have used online dating services. Over 120,000 marriages a year result from relationships started online.
As someone very comfortable with social media, I have tried online dating before and would definitely do it again. The pros far outweigh the cons. The benefits to online dating are many. The opportunity to meet more people than ever before (exposure) coupled with the ability to leverage the long tail (finding people with your same niche interests) and ability to meet people at your convenience (24/7 discovery) is a major advancement in cultural social behaviors.
Online dating also levels the playing field by allowing people who are shy or less comfortable in-person to have the opportunity to engage potential mates in a no pressure environment. Plus with work hours ever increasing and younger demographics moving away from traditional places of community (church, affinity groups, etc), online dating is likely to become the standard rather simply an ‘option’.
However, there are still some issues. First, text descriptions and photos cannot do justice to the complexity of human beings. Even if a profile could adequately convey someone’s personality, the fact remains that most people are biased to images (the superficial). For example, posting a photo attached to a profile results in page views 15x a profile without.
Second, there remains a stigma around online dating. People still tend to keep online dating hidden from the friends and family “We met at WholeFoods” is still the preferred story. Why does the stigma remain negative? Part of the reluctance maybe be attributable to online dating’s closely related and notoriously shady counterpart: adult entertainment.
Third is the issue of fragmentation: there are literally a hundred different sites to choose between, from Match.com to non-traditional sites like Friendster and Facebook (see relationship status). My contention is that the key to a better online dating experience is not more functionality, but in the number of users. Whomever has the most profiles is most likely to win.
Right now there are effectively three types of successful dating site models:
1) Niche Demographic Portal (Examples: JDate, or the network for men earning over $100k per year).
2) Paid, Name Brand Portal (Match.com has name recognition and a large user based so people are the most likely to sign up for it)
3) Free, But Terrible Experience (Examples: Plentyoffish, Craigslist Personals).
What will be the next evolution? I would rather not have to choose one portal for my monthly subscription. Instead, I would rather pay $5 per targeted lead (based on my pre-defined specifications) and be able to select potential mates across portals, or networks.
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