Commentary

What's Love Got to Do With It?

Well dear readers, love is in the air. For some, it's digital. Did you know that in the U.S., there are about 30 million people on dating sites? According to comScore Networks, it is estimated that people spend over $500 million a year for the most popular matchmaking companies, such as Yahoo! Personals, Match.com, eHarmony.com, and MySpace.com.

It seems as if there was a stigma a few years back; many looked at online dating as seedy or unnatural. Now it seems as through just about everyone has at least gone to a site and looked at personals. It's becoming more mainstream.

Why are these sites so successful? Some say it's due to the fact that users can search beyond sex, age, sexual orientation, and race. Many look at personal preferences like politics, hobbies, religion, if they have or want kids, if they have been married, or income.

According to a Jupiter Research survey:
44% of adults using dating sites were looking for a serious relationship
43% for friendship
39% for a date
37% for physical intimacy
20% for marriage

Facts and figures tend to be a bit disparate. However, there are close to 100 million single adults in the United States alone. Of those, 17 million looked at online dating sites in 2002, with 2.5 million paying for site memberships (SiliconValley.com). Nielsen//NetRatings NetView said there were 18,846,000 visitors to these online dating sites in the week ending January 9, 2005.

Some say these numbers will double by 2006. FriendFinder.com claims over 9 million members. Eharmony.com reports 10,000 to 15,000 new users every day, with more than 6,000 marriages to its credit.

On the other hand, there are those who think the online dating industry may have reached its saturation point. In a recent Christian Science Monitor article, consumer spending on these sites declined slightly in the fourth quarter of 2004. This indicates that growth for online dating sites may be cooling off.

Even though Match.com's owner InterActiveCorp reported a 9 percent increase in quarter three paid subscribers last year, the numbers seem to be leveling out. According to the WashingtonPost.com, revenue for the personals division in the third quarter of 2004 was up 3 percent, to $49.7 million, compared with the same period of 2003, but operating income was off 37 percent, at $2.8 million. The company explained the drop was due to higher marketing costs and other expenses needed to attract customers, which are expected to continue, it said.

From the beginning of 2001 to the end of 2003, customer spending on the sites rocketed from $8 million to $117 million, according to the Online Publishers Association and comScore Networks. But in the second quarter of 2004, the spending was stagnant at $114 million.

I'll leave you something funny. According to The Lycos 50, Valentine's Day searches increased 172 percent last week. Pay particular attention to No. 9. It looks like gifts for him made the list, but gifts for her did not.

Top Valentine's Day Searches

1. Valentine's Day animated e-cards
2. Valentine Lingerie
3. V-Day Clip art
4. Valentine's Day Flowers
5. Valentine Star
6. Valentine Chocolate
7. Valentine Day Gift Basket
8. Valentine's Day Wear
9. Valentine gifts for him
10. Valentine's Day Greetings

And no, online dating sites did not make the top of the list. But then again, this was last week (wink). Do you think this industry has lost its steam? Post to the SPINboard and Happy Valentine's Day.

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