Writing is on the wall.

I have been tracking domain name searches on yahoo for the big paid dating sites.  Domain name searches translates into word of mouth and signal trends in paid membership about 8+ months from now.

I’m comparing Jan 06 to Jan 07 and here are the results.

Eharmony 29% decline
Americansingles 68% decline
match.com 71% decline
cupid.com  21% decline
mate1.com 37% decline
perfectmatch.com 78% decline
Lavalife 70%+ decline

Nielson says that traffic declined 20% last year.  I think the hit this year will be a lot bigger and many dating sites won’t be around for 2008.

Most of the free sites are trending negative as well and i’m seeing some reversals in certain demographics.   Hotornot is throwing away 4 million + a year in profits to try and expand beyond what they have in order to make money in the future.    Like hotornot I have to sit down and find a way to make the site appeal to more people and tap into the community/ viral aspects.    Social networks and hotornot are social/viral,  any dating site that says they are a dating site will never really experience super viral growth because the average member quits after 3 months.   Even worse  social networks don’t let free sites advertise,  and no doubt that ban will extend to paid dating sites soon enough.

25 Responses to “Writing is on the wall.”

  1. Mike Says:

    lol, there you go again Markus. Stating useless information.

    Comparing search stats from one day to the next…

    Thats like saying one day it was 2degrees outside and the next day it was 5degress! OMG GLOBAL WARMING IS GOING TO KILL US ALL! The temperature is going up 3degress everyday! In 8 months we’re going to fry.

    Lets see some useful stats, like January’s 2007 searches compared to January 2006’s searches.

  2. james Says:

    Hi Markus,

    Nice meeting you last week, albeit too briefly! We got caught up with all the people coming up to us after the session, and did not get a chance to talk more. next time you are in town, send me an email!

    now in regard to this post.. you make a few presumptions about our intent that are not necessarily true.. namely that our goal is to make money.

    Something I learned from watching friends is that being a billionaire does not equate to happiness. And happiness is all we really want. We’re not throwing away profits to necessarily make more money in the future. We’re just trying to have a stronger impact on the world and have fun doing it, because that is what makes us happy. Someday I am sure you will look back on these days and realize that the best part of it all wasn’t the money, but all the marriages you are responsible for. (Right now we figure we are responsible for 10 a day).

    Please do not presume that we are foolish because we are not trying to profit maximize (in fact, we tested our pricing and found that we could increase our profits by 80% just by increasing our price a few bucks… but we chose not to.) The bottom line is, we don’t measure success by the same yardstick that you do. I am not saying that we are in any way superior or inferior because of this, i am just saying that we have different objectives. We aren’t trying to make money, we are just trying to make a difference in other people’s lives.

    This all being said, I think a lot of what you say is true, and the data I see supports your assertions. I’m not sure what Mike means about wanting to see Jan 2007 compared to Jan 2006, when it appears that is precisely the comparison you gave in your post.

    cheers,
    james

  3. Ben Says:

    @Mike

    If you read the post that exactly what he’s doing comparing Jan 2006 and Jan 2007!

    Heh- thabks for the chuckle tho ;p

  4. Markus Says:

    It was good meeting you to, i’ll send you an email when i’m in town next. I rarely go down there so could be a while.

    As for the post I agree, I its not about the money I don’t even have ads on most of my pages.

    But having said that I see growth, revenue etc as all being part of the same thing. The more people you effect the more money you make. Its funny I barely look at how much money I make, nearly all the stats I think are important are tied to usage. Without a good product that people can use, you wont make money in the long run.

  5. Chris Says:

    Markus,

    How about you start facelifting your site a little bit? – Adding a little bit of flare in terms of branding.

    You have the traffic and the idea down, why not Web 2.0 it? – You’re at the right place to do that. I think you should try.

  6. Justin Says:

    So my question is: How have the domain name searches for Plenty Of Fish changed from Jan 06 to Jan 07?

    Justin
    (writing from Ottawa, Canada)

  7. Mayo Says:

    B.S. James,

    You are not only for the “we are just trying to make a difference in other people’s lives”, you are in the business of making “our life’s different”!

    People can easily live without HOTorNOT, POF, match.com, eharmony, myspace, ICQ,….

    It is the added bonus that counts, and that is to make a product, make money of that product, impact lives, and make more money to impact personal life….

    James, you saw that you were loosing the game and income and HAD TO change the game or you would loose your LIFESTYLE…..

    Don’t know if you have condo’s, fast cars, enjoy expensive hollydays,…. and i’m sure you have them, and now that the traffic on your main cash-cow is dropping like ROCK you have become NERVOUS…. you haven’t made next cash-cow and now you HAVE TO STICK TO HorN because you have not made another HOT property, and haven’t spin another property on the basis of the HorN.

    Only example of successful entrepreneurs i have seen to leveraged big time are guys of Skype, they have used Kazaa as a marketing tool for Skype and all that for FREE, and there is where you STINK – you haven’t used your property to make another property, or you weren’t capable of another high success idea and the HorN is the only HOT idea that you minds could come with…

  8. Tony Colan Says:

    Markus, we have built a very passionate community at Blogster.com and we have a way to go in terms of design, maybe we could work together or you could pick up Blogster at the Traffic West auction in Vegas; we are selling the site through the domain auction run by Moniker. Monte Cahn appraised the domain only at $700,000.00. I think you could get a steal, maybe we can make some news together.

  9. saidamin Says:

    I was at Community Next last week and enjoyed the spirit and energy that James shared. It seemed genuine and I believe that like all good entrepreneurs, James has fun with what he is doing and truly seeks to bring value to people’s lives (which he is).

    Money is good, sure, it allows us entrepreneurs the freedom to bring ideas from a sandbox to fruition, without seeking institutional money. If we can’t make money, we need to pack it up and go work for the man *ugh*.

    James has made good money and is probably itching for a new challenge. After all, the hustle and uncertainty of a new project is one of the highest highs that entrepreneurs enjoy. Hell, World Singles does pretty darn well and I could just coast…what the heck is the fun in that? There is more to life than just doing 1 thing ALL the time and squeezing the same lemon over and over again.

    Let’s change the world, try something new and dream beyond the illusion of limitations. Good for you James.

    Life is good.

    Shine,
    – Saïd

  10. Val Says:

    Markus, thanks for the great writeups in your blog. I’ve learned a lot by visiting off and on. I’m intrigued by your comment that most social networking sites won’t advertise dating sites. We’ve been running a photo sharing site for some years now and are happy to run ads by larger competitors as long as they pay well. After all, the low click through on ads means a limited number of our members will actually visit based on the ads and even few will end up joining.

    Let me know if you’re interested in an ad swap. We’re always looking for creative link exchanges.

    Val

  11. Gordon Smith Says:

    Don’t forget that dating via social networking can be agonisingly time consuming and much slower than online dating. There will always be people who want the quick route to dating, and that’s why online dating will stick around and has a bright future.

    Gordon.

  12. Neal Says:

    Yes, I think there is some important minutia being overlooked when suggesting there is not future for online dating. Naturally things are down compared to 2002-2005. There was a big curiosity factor and lots of people looking up what all the hype and press was about during that time. Well, the industry is no longer novel and so its not surprising that the searches and the curiosity signups are down. Meanwhile, social networks have just begun their big curiosity stage (with lots of press). And that too will pass. Eventually, users will get a stronger sense of when each of the two tools are most suitable and I think at that time there will actually be a bounce-back in online dating. The need it fills is too strong and as with most strong needs, a direct solution is much more desirable than a more time-consuming and less direct one. I see a bright future where the two co-exist and even compliment each other. 🙂

  13. Steve Poland Says:

    Markus — what about this idea for taking PlentyOfFish to the next level?

  14. Mayo Says:

    Steve, why didn’t you develop a prototype??

  15. Mike Says:

    Steve: Have you looked at POF lately?

    Its hard enough to get women to put more then: “I’m just looking… fjalfjdskfj sdalfjsldjf sldkfjlk” (garbage to meet the minimum character limit) as their description, do you really think adding a 500 question “personality” test is going to be THAT useful? Anyone with enough time to fill those out is probably someone I’m NOT interested in.

    Not only that but you can argue that having the same likes/dislikes does not make a good relationship. The best/longest relationships I’ve had have been with people the LEAST similar to myself. Of course I could use a personality test to find those people, but that most likely has negative connotations associated with it and I would be less likely to get a response when we have a 2% “personality match”.

    Personality tests are a good idea in theory, but I think they fall flat on their face in reality. Dating sites need a way to get peoples REAL personalities to show. The only way to do that is to get them to WRITE about themselves. The only way that will happen is if they KNOW people actually read what they write, and respond to it.

    Which is another common “profile description” I see on POF. “I’d write more, but no one reads it anyways, so just ask me anything you want”.

    Which is true, the majority of guys DON’T read profiles, its more efficient to send out a cut’n’paste email that triggers a response first. Once you know the other person is actually “alive” and has at least some interest in you, then you can bother to read their profile and actually start something real.

    This of course leads to women getting bombarded with lame emails, not having enough time to sift through them all, getting frustrated and leaving. Then the whole cycle repeats itself.

    In my opinion there is a very easy way to short circuit the downward spiral. Something that is both fun for all those involved, takes almost no time at all and improves the quality of the site in general. Not only that but its almost impossible to “cheat” like you can with personality tests.

    I’d say more but I’ll eventually get around to making this site, unless someone beats me to it.

    This all comes back to Markus’s stats, that dating sites lose 30%(?) of their members each month. Well according to POF’s “delete my account” page, only 64% of those have actually found someone. So that means 36% are leaving for other reasons, probably because they are unsatisfied with their experience… Make a better dating site, less people will leave unsatisfied.

    Social network sites probably don’t show many people actually deleting their account, because whats the point? They just forget about them and never login again. In reality its the same result.

    Markus, do you have any stats as far as active user base between dating sites and social networking sites? ie: Dating site has 1million members and 75% have logged in within the last 30 days, as compared to a social networking site with 5 million members and 35% active within the last 30 days?

  16. Brian Says:

    This is the worst analysis that I have ever scene done on “Online Dating”. Just because tradeterm searches have went down across the board on Yahoo that doesn’t equate to anything. Have you thought that peoples search habits continue to evolve and users are starting to type in URLs now and not search them as much. You of all people should know also that the volume of tradeterm searches is directly related to PR and offline advertising volume.

    The other issue you have ignored is that most intelligent dating companies have started to protect their tradeterms this past year from leaches like yourself that don’t have a brand of their own and just prey on top tier sites. Simply stated = You don’t have access to all of the data you think you do as you can’t buy the tradeterms to do the research.

    I have been in the dating space for over 12 years buying media and can’t wait to the day that you get dumped in SEO. Invest all that money you are making with Google arbitrage and hire a designer and turn your site into a real website with some 2.0 features instead of the dinosaur feature set you currently have.

    -Brian

  17. phil Says:

    Yeah dating sites are history esp ones that have no 2.0 features, nothing ever lasts forever.

  18. nmw Says:

    Interesting stats.🙂

    Does anyone have a guesstimate on how much traffic comes from direct navigation (aka “type in traffic”)?

    Also, is the number of referrers (in other words: the number of sites, not the amount of traffic) increasing or decreasing? (counting them in order ranked by traffic, say the top 80 or 90 percent)

    Thanks!

  19. Dating Sites in Decline at The Gong Show by Andrew Parker Says:

    […] Wow! Dramatic dating-site search decline reported by Markus Frind (CEO of PlentyofFish.com). I have been tracking domain name searches on yahoo for the big paid dating sites. Domain name searches translates into word of mouth and signal trends in paid membership about 8+ months from now. […]

  20. V7N Search Marketing News » Blog Archive » Daily Search Overview March 09, 2007 Says:

    […] Are dating sites in decline? Interesting snapshot by PlentyOfFish. […]

  21. Manny Says:

    OK, you’ve shown what your competition is at. Where are your results? I’ve only stumbled on this and I don’t work for any dating sites. But based on the comments, your post seems nothing more than trash talk.

    BTW, I checked out your site. OMG, it needs a lot of work. I guess your demographic is the blue collar crowd, so maybe it doesn’t matter!

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  23. Belfast Adult Dating Says:

    most of the sites that are dying of are usually meant to, they open up newer sites and move on let the old ones die

  24. Bp Says:

    quantcast.com DATA shows that match.com has 4.9 mil unique visitors per month.

    plentyoffish.com has only 1.5 mil.

    assuming that 5% of members on match are paid and subscribe on average for 3 months for $34 dollars a month

    that is 26 million US cashflow PER MONTH for match.com
    per year that is over 300 million net profits

    Now your craiglist looking POF site probably at most generates you 2/3 bucks a year per user. 1.5*2*12 = about 36 million dollars a year
    a nice chuck of cash no doubt, but you cannot compare your site
    with match.com

    300 mil > 36 mil

    Think of it this way, the future for PAID dating sites may very well be numbered, but as Evolutionary Darwinism goes, do you think an entity as large as match.com will simply sit there and let you take over ???? They
    [match] have the members, they have the monnies, they have the connections, they have the hardware and infrastructure, they have the experience, they have the reputation…. push comes to shove, they will do an Apollo 13 on you and downsize the company, the employees, become a hybrid paid/free dating site or hell just become free altogether and YES they will make a lot less money but they will survive…

  25. kpli Says:

    very nice post here..i’ve bookmarked this blog for future reference..

    Hey i hope it’s not too late to wish you a Happy New Year

    Enjoy reading this blog …;)

    thanks

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