Paid Dating sites declare war on social networking & me.

When I was at idate 2 years ago  most people laughed at me when I said I would create a major free dating site.    This year at Idate most of the major dating sites were talking about how they could go free at least behind the scenes.

It is strange to see a completely new internet bubble forming around what i’ve done.  What is the most disturbing is that common sense and reality have given way to greed in many cases. 

The biggest problems i see are..

1.   Monetization via adsense 3 years ago was 10 times higher then it is now.
2.   Free dating sites are way more hardware/resource intensive then paid sites and social networks.   The reason being free sites consume more resources per user then paid sites.  As for social networks, most of those are simple clustered index seeks on the database side,  verse ranged scans where much of the data can’t really be partitioned in a dating site.  Check Spark networks public filings and compare costs to social networks..
3.   The whole idea of creating a free site and then creating widgets for myspace are rediculus.   Social networks consider themselves free dating sites at least internally and I have yet to find one that will allow Plentyoffish to advertise.  The day we see free dating sites advertising on myspace is the day we see facebook widgets all over myspace.

The landscape..

Probably the biggest effect of paid sites going free is it will have the effect of declaring war on social networking sites.   I don’t know how this will play out,  but if you brand a site as a dating site the average member stays only 3 months and has the effect of wiping out viralness.    As a free site I still have to pay $5.00 a member just like paid sites if you want to advertise.  With monetization at 2 cents or so a unique visitor per day, that being a unique visitor that wasn’t tricked into coming  its impossible to build a free site on mass advertising.   Social networks on the other hand require no advertising and are highly viral.

Other free sites.

I don’t think people realize there are other free sites,  although most of them are extremely small it does show you just how hard it is to make money.   Okcupid just raised 6 million,  it has a staff of 9 and a self reported 70,000 uniques a day.  It is easy to see why they raised money,  given monetization at 2 cents a unique they were making about 45k a month.   I would be surprised if the company was at break even, even assuming they spent no money advertising.  Looking at technorati i’d say at least 70% of okcupid’s traffic is coming from the millions of links they have to their tests. Matchdoctor  with over 10 employees has even less traffic.   LTR.com with 16 employees has no traffic at all and not even launched.

I predict 2007 will be a year of carnage,   many paid and new free sites will go under.   Social networking and dating will attempt to merge.   Paid dating sites will seek higher price points and get into personal matchmaking.  Social networking sites will fight back.   If free dating sites gain large market share in the US then the paid model will collapse to a fraction of the size of what it was as it has in Canada.   Just ask any ex lavalife employee what happened at lavalife when plentyoffish and free dating came along.

45 Responses to “Paid Dating sites declare war on social networking & me.”

  1. rob Says:

    Just wondering how much your making a month know, since u said adsense is 10 times less then what it was 3 years ago.

    thanks

  2. Gordon Smith Says:

    What about those sites who have a part-free, part-paid model?

    I’m thinking of those sites which offer free joining and free membership, and a limited amount of free messaging, but also allow customers to upgrade if they want to to get extra benefits such as unlimited messaging. These sites are stable and have been for many years.

    Markus I said this to you at iDate in Amsterdam and I’ll say it again now. If you run a totally free dating site you have a teriffic marketing angle to be sure, but you are leaving money on the table. There are people out there using plentyoffish.com today who want to pay you, just as there are people who wil pay for any service they use and like. But you’re not letting them do so.

    All the best, Gordon.

  3. Mayo Says:

    “What about those sites who have a part-free, part-paid model?”

    Nah, their gonner! I will fuel my fully free dating site from adult content websites. Only way i can see to survive in daiting market and go pass POF and match.com .(^_^)

  4. Mayo Says:

    Neither will the fight in adult market be a cakewalk. It’s largely overcrowded, but with good and partly-unique service i think i could make it.

  5. Neal Says:

    There is a critically important fact that people may be overlooking here: the amount of $$ you will generate off each 1000 visitors from AdSense is about 5 times LESS than you will pay to obtain those same 1000 visitors via PPC. Thus, the only way to be viable as a free dating site is to be a top 5 for significant keywords on the search engines (free traffic). The two significant problems there: 1) Google, Yahoo etc have many whims and whereas you may be #1 today you could be on page 2 tomorrow; thre is no control and thus you’re putting your bussiness’s future into a big gamble. Problem #2 – the first 5 listings get 80% of the traffic. That means only 5 dating sites will really be able to succeed with this plan. Those are low odds. The odds are low and the risk is high. No major corporation could jusitfy such a business model, particularly if they are public.

  6. Andrew Johnson Says:

    And what happens to the dating PPC market when the paid sites start goin free? Dating site won’t be too interested in paying 4 or 5 dollars for a new member to a free site. Looks interesting.

  7. blondie30 Says:

    Free versus paid Dating Sites

    In my experience the whole internet free dating thing has been taken over by weirdos and players. Dont you think we should try to do something about that??

  8. $hoeScam Says:

    One would think that private ads would be the most profitble way to go vs AdSense

  9. Gomer Says:

    >>Just wondering how much your making a month know, since u said adsense is 10 times less then what it was 3 years ago.

    You can do some math using Markus’ numbers. Markus has said he as between 250K and 320K visitors a day. Lets say that number is 300,000. At $0.02, that gives us $6,000 a day.

    I sure miss those pictures of AdSense cheques, they just may not be as big as they were😉

  10. Julian Says:

    Neil, what are those top 5 keywords for generating users?

  11. activeco Says:

    I don’t think it will work anymore. The key was being among the first.
    Don’t forget that your adsense income was mostly from the paid sites. If most od them go free – where will the income come from?
    Yes, they continue to advertise, but at much lower CPC which produces the downturn spiral.

  12. Patsy Copus Says:

    Remember if you are in the top ten in the search engines, everyone wants to advertise with you. Advertising does not end with Google. There were tons of places at IDate that have advertisers who would like this kind of exposure. Singles are a great market, cellphones, iPod, music, ringtones you name it

  13. CJ Boston Says:

    Thanks for the post, I have started a blog , http://www.SocialNetworkingSiteHQ.com , and I will be adding you to my list of reference sites. I hope you allow track back ,would appreciate it. As of the dating site, if most sites had maximized thier adsense back then they would have made more money than they did.They pushed away people with an fee and reduced thier reach. But thats enough for Monday Quarterbacking.
    Thanks again,
    CJ Boston

  14. Tiberius Brastaviceanu Says:

    I want to start by saying that I admire very much what Markus has done by creating this web phenomenon that he baptized Plentyoffish.com. But please don’t call this a dating business! The difference between Plentyoffish.com and a real dating business is like the difference between “American Pie” and “Casablanca”. Now, for the people that are serious about providing dating services for men and women that are really looking for someone in their life, there is no reason to panic. Here is why.

    Internet business is very volatile. One of the most important reasons is the very little (or non existent) physical connection between a particular online business and its customers. It’s not like the local restaurant where you, as a customer, develop some sort of relationship with the employees and/or the administration, and integrate that space, ambiance, smell, etc. within what you call your well-being. The relationship that is established between a customer and an online company is purely pragmatic. If tomorrow some other .com offers more, or if it’s more in vogue, people will switch to it with no remorse. The case of a site like Yahoo! is different, here you have an aggregation. If you adopt 3-4 of their services, you might quit one of them and they still can hook you on another one later on, but here we are talking about sites that offer a unique service. Yesterday, Lavalife was feared by American dating companies, today they are gone. Plantyoffish can follow in its steps, and I predict that if Markus doesn’t expand into social networking he will soon become history.

    Free online dating is not a sustainable dating business! And that is just because it cannot serve customers that are serious about dating. Reports from unhappy online daters suggest that free dating sites are oversaturated with rude people. Furthermore, misrepresentation and security issues are more of a concern for free dating sites. Yes, Plantyoffish can generate clicks, but it cannot provide a decent service to the serious dater. If the industry were regulated, you would probably not even be able to label it as a dating site, the same way a therapist cannot call him/herself a doctor. Without giving names, some have said that having quality members is better than quantity; they were obviously talking about providing dating services.

    I have to give Markus this: online paid dating sites are in danger. The reason is that most online paid dating sites are NOT dating businesses according to my definition. They are in danger because they cannot offer real dating services for the dating market. They cannot differentiate themselves in a fundamental manner from a social networking site. Niche online paid dating sites are OK. They truly serve the dating market, by providing individuals with specific characteristics, that are very diluted in the general population, the chance to get in touch with one another. These sites constitute genuine online communities, since the individuals that they serve associate very strongly due to their specificity.

    The generic paid online dating site cannot stay in business only by charging enough to keep the troublemakers out, and by portraying a good image. As Markus says, and I have to give him this one too, they might consider to “get into personal matchmaking”. And to make it even more solid, get involved into live singles events. They have to define themselves as a dating company, providing services that satisfy the needs of serious daters (looking for romance, long-term relationships, and even friendship), and consider that dating is a very complex human activity that expands into real life.

    For more about myself, and about my opinions on the dating industry have a look at: http://tiberius-dating-industry.blogspot.com/

    Tiberius Brastaviceanu
    Inventor of the new Matchmaking Device System

  15. Gregor Says:

    All debates about free versus paid on line dating services… Khm, for people who are passionate about their work (as Markus is and his customers probablly feel it) I think their is no fear about completely loosing their customers.

    Did any of you hear about an owner of good restarurant (great food, kind waitresses, etc) going broke unless start playing in casinos..

    I see a good point in Neal’s comment. Bank who is asked for financial help would thoght hard before doing so..

    The most important issue i see is Blondie30’s comment on respect, better say falling respect of on line dating business industry as whole. Markus should start debate about that..

    Sorry on my English, it si not my native language as you can see.😉

  16. Lee Says:

    I have a question and a comment.

    Question: (to Markus but anyone can comment if they desire):

    The click rate is obviously high on plentyoffish.com for you to earn that kind of money. But i wonder if those clicks are mostly from your users or from people who stumble on your site via SE and decide to go somewhere else via your google ad (since they are dating targeted ads).

    And if the clicks are from your users are they unhappy and looking elsewhere or are they typically just like to fish around the net anyway?

    Comment:
    The money you make from AdSense ultimately come from consumers (the members who pay for have dating services). If all dating sites go free it seems like self-destruction for the online industry doesn’t it. Unless, of course google start running IRRELEVANT ads on the free dating sites.

  17. Dr. LeRoy A. Stone Says:

    For anyone interested in the general topic of online dating, there is a new URL that describes a great new safety tool for those who make use (or who are contemplating such) of any of the
    online dating sites, of which there must now be thousands available on the Internet. Only a few of the most major such sites offer any type of psychological testing and/or background
    informational searches to be accomplished on the users of the sites. Compatibility testing and matching really does not help filter out those who are attempting to make use of the sites
    based upon scamming, criminal, or otherwise harmful motivations. Reviews of the only couple sites that offer users some degree of criminal background history checking and unfortunately
    these checks have been reviewed as being too limited in scope; generally only limited to the police records in a single State or else useless as the focused upon individual is making use of
    an alias or pseudo name in his/her communications with the site.
    Just very recently, a new approach has been developed that addresses this very problem. A psychologist who has an extraordinary background in psychological test development, as well
    as in security related integrity or honesty testing has developed this new tool. This psychologist has developed a rather short/quick psychological test, based upon well-established and
    sound psychological test construction logic, that is designed to assess almost a dozen problem areas that are highly associated with personal integrity/honesty. This 72-item, multiple-choice
    test, the Personal Security Standards Psychological Questionnaire (PSSPQ), has recently gone through a rather thorough testing when used to screen or otherwise evaluate the general
    integrity of persons who were attempting to contact potential ‘dates’ through the services offered by online dating sites. The PSSPQ has recently been made commercially
    available to users of online dating sites. An extremely complete (and quite lengthy) description of the PSSPQ when used in the online dating arena for individual evaluation purposes is
    available on: http://www.home.earthlink.net/~lastone2/psspqdatingtest.htm . On this PSSPQ website, many helpful links are provided that greatly aid a reader in understanding and
    evaluating the PSSPQ, its development, and its developer, as well as the many dangers that face anyone making use of the online dating sites.

  18. Fervor Singles Says:

    Markus,

    Who is going to purchase Google Adsense ads on our sites, when these paid sites go out of business? Will it be a round robin? Your ads appear on my site a lot! So what happens when your buying ads on my site and I’m buying ads on your site – Google makes out and we get screwed!

    The death of the paid sites will be a bad thing for everyone.

    What do you think?

  19. Kallla Says:

    Watch out for new sites!…check this one:
    http://www.BlackSingleLove.com

  20. BabyKella Says:

    There is a new thing going on with dating sites. Some starting to concentrate in a specific market for booty calls. This one for instance, http://www.HBCUBootyCall.com – When love fails try somethng new, Get some booty is their tag line.

    Has anyone heard of them?

  21. rooney nelson Says:

    am nelson i need a lover.

  22. uslaura Says:

    Hello dear sir,I’m laura by name,it is pleasure to be a member of pletyoffish dating relationship..
    Laura.

  23. No Name Says:

    Thus, the only way to be viable as a free dating site is to be a top 5 for significant keywords on the search engines (free traffic).

  24. chatteress Says:

    I think the paid dating sites that offer a quality service for the money you are paying them and that have a large, diversified and active member database, those sites will still service with a paid model because they will be able to offer you you’re money’s worth. The problem with free sites is that they have you do all the work, a paid site is supposed to work for you.

  25. Michael Says:

    Hello everyone. I came across this site after searching Google for “How to start a free dating site.” I have enjoyed reading this blog and the posts that follow…it has been very informative; however, I think I have more questions than I did before🙂.
    I own several domains (purchased within the last year) that I think would be great for dating sites or social networking sites….matchedbyfate, matchedbyfaith, singlebutready, lustymatches, imjusthorny (my favorite), and swingersandflings. While my sole aspiration is to provide for myself and my family to live comfortably, I would be extactic to reach a fraction of the success that some of you seem to share.
    It appears there are three formats available for dating websites…Paid Dating websites, Free dating websites, and social networking sites. So, I am curious what you think will have the longest lasting lifespan? It seems that mosts of the posts believe that the social networking site is the way to go, but that free dating sites…as long as they are full featured…might succeed.
    If anyone of you have some additional advice to provide, I would sincerely appreciate it.
    -Michael

  26. GoFrostfire.com Says:

    $0.02 per day, per user that is nothing

  27. uohaa Says:

    Great Information blog ! Thank you for keeping up the good work. I look forward to returning to your blog, and learning more from you !
    The New Age Is Coming Soon!! http://www.uoha.com

  28. The Metrics of Free Dating Sites : Marketing a Niche dating Site Says:

    […] Great post by Markus Frind (plentyoffish.com) with revealing metrics on free dating sites. […]

  29. CarmenVj Says:

    A great read. When I think of a dating site, your site, plenty of fish is the one the comes to my mind first. So you have definitely created a brand name and that’s a good thing. I know your site will be around for many many years. Great job!

  30. John Says:

    The entire model is a little incestuous overall. I think there is still an opportunity for niche sites to generate both ad revenue from various sources, as well as paid memberships. On our site, swinglesonline.com, we specialize in matchmaking for singles in the swinger lifestyle, and my major complaint about adsense is that they will allow me to pay for adsense ads, but will not allow me to display the ads because our site is an adult personals site.

  31. taw Says:

    It’s amazing how much money is in dating. I only wish I new what make some sites work so much better then others,

  32. June Says:

    Free Dating Website
    http://www.sexysplash.com/

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    Love changes darkness into light and makes the heart take wingless flight
    We know that love can make our happier life and enthusiastic, but love can also make our life suffers. How build love without end that will make our life is happy all along be one question which we shall answer. Building love without deceitfulness, selfless love and strenuous love and sacrificial.

  34. Social King Says:

    There is nothing in this world I enjoy more then making friends. I’m always looking for new social networks!

  35. How to tell if someone is compatible to you Says:

    Does love at first sight truly exist? Can you make a date fall for you? How do you know whether the person personality is compatible with you? I always ask this question to myself when I am going out with strangers aka online friends where I meet them at facebook or friendster.

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