Looks like hotornot just became the second largest free dating site over night by converting to free.
Here are some of the compete.com statistics. This is USA only traffic.
Sitename, Unique Visitors, Visits, Attention (visits*session time)
Plentyoffish 1,247,723 13,056,184 0.094987%
Hotornot.com 734,944 4,255,446 0.015883%
okcupid.com 509,888 1,354,140 0.008969%
The stats here show okcupid has virtually no traction, or their unique visitor number is mostly made of myspace kids taking the random tests. The repeat visitor ratio is virtually non existant.
Hotornot is in a very strong position, lots of uniques, good visitor to unique ratio. Hotornot owns a niche and there are currently no real competitors. If they move outside of the niche then they could have a lot of problems.
People are dramtically over estimating the size of the dating industry, sure comscore says “20 million uniques” visit dating sites each month, but the vast majority of those are users being redirected to sites like true.com via affiliates, popups etc. Then you get sites like eharmony saying they sign up 10-15k a day in the US. But only 10-20% of those people end up paying. If you take out the duplicates the number of real people actively (2 or more logins/month) using dating sites in the USA drops to between 2 and 3 million/month.
As a free site all your money is made via advertising. No matter whose numbers you use there are about 2 to 3 billion pageviews a month in the US from dating sites. If you are lucky you can get 50 cents a CPM from ALL those pageviews. Myspace monitizes at 5 cents for the bulk, 50 cents is a lot and hard to get as an average when you have hundreds of millions of pageviews. So assuming you can take 100% of the industry and at least 80% of those page views are monitizable you end up with a market size of $12 million a year in the US. If free dating mirrors social networking then 1 player will control 80% of the market and the other players will fight over the remaining $2.4 million in yearly revenues. This of course assumes that all paid dating sites convert to free, or free dating sites cause the number of people using dating sites to double.