A new study shows that internet savvy individuals with demanding careers and busy lifestyles have not turned to online dating services to seek out romantic relationships at quite the rate that internet dating sites have suggested in their promotions.
Alan Smith of the Department of Management and Marketing at Robert Morris University, in Pittsburgh, PA, suggests that social networking of the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter kind is flourishing. Businesses are gradually recognizing the need to have an active online presence on such services too. However, while the likes of Yahoo Personals and match.com have been successful over the last few years in gaining clients, the rate of growth in online dating has begun to slow. Smith points out that the market peak was 2002-2003, when growth was around 70%, not surprising given the almost 90 million potential clients in the US alone.
He points out that by 2005, total membership fees for online dating sites outstripped online porn revenues in the US. However, the latest statistics suggest that these sites are losing users faster than they get new ones. It is just possible that the emergence of Facebook and the rather obviously named sexsearch.com have nudge, nudged aside the dating sites in the last few years. The more generic online social networking that allows singles to form couples precludes all the pseudoscientific matchmaking of Chemistry and Harmony type dating sites. Moreover, Facebook is free.
Through a survey of well-educated professionals in employment, Smith has investigated several of the factors affecting that particular group’s choices when it comes to using online-dating services: security, financial limitations, career/school, psychological and society. His findings suggest that the management at online dating sites may have a battle to garner new trade, but they should open up their options based on the recognition of how and when their sites are used in preference to free social networking sites. For instance, he suggests that married couples or committed individuals are a market that online-dating websites need to capture. But, it’s not what you think, already e-Harmony offers married couples counseling apparently to help them build “a stronger marriage,” while other websites offer couple vacations and social activities for members of their website. It’s dating…but not as we know it.
After years of double-digit growth, the US$516 million market has slowed to about a 9% increase annually, just as social-networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook and sexsearch.com flourish, Smith says. If traditional online dating sites are to retrieve their shrinking market share, then they must adapt and offer improved features, as well as targeting specific segments of the singles scene.
Alan D. Smith (2012). Social media and online dating service providers: reexamining the new face of romance Int. J. Business Information Systems, 9 (2), 127-148
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