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Get Hooked up With the Big Business of Online Dating

A Look at a $1.3 Billion Market

By Published on .

SAN FRANCISCO (AdAge.com) -- Internet wisdom shows that the number of people scrambling for romance via online dating starts growing in November and peaks at Valentine's Day.

"People realize sitting around the Thanksgiving table with their family and think, 'Hey, I don't have my other half' or 'My sister's married and I'm not,' so it's a cyclical event," said Mark Brooks, dating industry consultant at OnlinePersonalsWatch.com.

It's clearly big business: In the U.S. alone, internet dating is a $1.3 billion market, and dating site Plenty of Fish alone had 122 million visits in January, according to Experian.

The sector has also seen some matchmaking of its own: Just a few weeks ago, Match.com owners IAC purchased dating site OKCupid. Mr. Brooks said that Match.com has been acting like the Google of the dating world and gobbling up smaller dating sites at a quick pace.

Here's a handy cheat sheet for the major dating sites
Start Date 2000 1995 2004 2003 2007
January Visits** 14,953,566 65,376,465 12,453,382 122,361,901 30,757,070
Breakdown 60% female, 40% male 56% male, 44% female 55% male; 45% female 49% male, 51% female 54% male, 46% female***
Number of Users 33 million registered since 2000 1.8 million paid subscribers; 20 million members registered (non-paying) 1.3 million 11 million members 60 million registered
Money Comes from memberships. Can't do anything without subscription
COST: One-month subscription $60; discounts for longer subscriptions.
Subscription rates range from $34.99 for a one month subscription, $19.99 per month for three months, or $16.99 per month for six months. 95% comes from ads; 5% from subscription (membership costs $10 month) Derived from advertising, tiny percentage from "serious member" badges
COST: $6 month for a badge that says "serious member" to indicate serious daters, but no extra service.
Subscriptions cost $25 for one month, $60 for six months.
The Pitch Not internet dating. Claims to help people get serious relationships, and is heavy on the questionnaire -- but after that, they do the matching for you. It's the most popular site. Thousands of questions, personality profiles and quizzes to help matches. It has a coolness factor; free dating is completely possible without subscription. Free. It seems to have the most members and visits; matches based on users' searching behavior on the site, not what they say they want in their profile. Log in with Facebook Connect and use on Facebook. Users can use virtual currency to buy virtual gifts.
Accepts Advertising Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
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