One of OkCupid’s founders Christian Rudder uses marketing jujitsu against subscription-based online dating competitors and in his blog OkTrends and explains why the practice of paying for dates on sites like Match.com and eHarmony is fundamentally broken, and broken in ways that most people don’t realize.
For one thing, he says that their business model exacerbates a problem found on every dating site: women get too many messages from bad matches, and men get far too few replies. Basically, because the likelihood of reply to each message starts so low (because there are so many active, but also inactive ‘registered’ users, the average man is driven to expand his search to women he’s less suited for and to put less thought (and emotional investment) into each message. Therefore, each new batch of messages he sends brings fewer replies. So he expands his criteria, cuts, pastes, and resends. In no time, the average woman on the same site has been bombarded with impersonal messages from a random cross-section of men. Then she stops checking her email.
For another thing, pay sites do everything they can to beef up their membership and boast large, impressive numbers to the press (after all, there’s a solid rationale to wanting your dating site to seem gigantic – when people look for love, they want as many options as possible) and have a unique incentive to profit from their customers’ disappointment.
Christian is the first to admit that as a founder of OkCupid he is, of course, motivated to point out their competitors’ flaws, and to take what he has to say on this matter with a grain of salt. That said, he does make a compelling argument, just by doing some simple calculations, that pay dating is a bad idea; using data from Match and eHarmony’s own public statements to make his point.
You can check out Christian’s April 7, 2010 blog entry here.
OkTrends is the official blog of OkCupid and is used as an outlet to explore the data side of the online dating world.
OkCupid is a free site and has 1.2M active members. The blog began in July of ’09 and has been featured by NPR, the New York Times, and CNN, among others.
Online personals are also free, and the subject of my book: FREE LOVE – True Stories of Love and Lust on the Internet by Thomas Kelleher.