Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating

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.

About Thomas Kelleher

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This entry was posted in FREE LOVE – True Stories of Love and Lust on the Internet, Internet, Online Dating, Technology, Thomas Kelleher and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Why You Should Never Pay For Online Dating

  1. Sean says:

    As a longtime (yep, that pretty much tells you how it’s worked out for me) member of eHarmony I have to agree with pretty much everything written here. I’ve had some wonderful dates–and one pretend, almost marriage–with people I’ve met through eHarmony. But the function of the site itself, the “mechanism” and feel of dating sites, they’ve changed over the years. Back when it was slightly uncool to use them, they seemed…much more efficient and honest. Yes, honest. Maybe it was the people who used them. Tired of the B.S. as it were. People were so exhausted and frustrated by the traditional dating scene that there was a “village” element to online dating. It was like this entire new world and everyone was just blown away by the experience and, often, actually, by the results. Now, single people register for eHarmony (and the like) the minute they have a fight with their boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse. They sign up and then never partake, never answer emails, go off and on over long periods of time, never responding. They are like bored voyeurs. I think it’s time to start over. There’s a goldmine somewhere out there–because the online dating industry needs some new ideas and some new energy.

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  2. My personal take on the same topic: It costs money with no guarantee of anything (except that money flows from the customer to the service provider); in fact, not even a rough, but honest, probability-of-success estimate for a given effort is available. These are situations that I avoid (and recommend others to avoid) as a matter of course, unless I have no realistic choice.

    Disclaimer: I am sceptical to online dating in general, which can affect my opinion. My one experiment so far consisted of registering (at a free site, obviously), filling out a profile, and then lacking the motivation to actually use the site for six months until my profile expired.

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