Louis Gray has a guest post by Micah Baldwin, Online Transparency Leads to New World of Group Dating, about how dating has been changed by social media.

Connecting the dots between how transparency leads to group dating is proving difficult and I can’t say that I agree with premise that group dating is “clearly the answer to online dating”. It would have made more sense to say “if you’re in your 20’s and don’t do well in one-on-one dating situations.”

I’m all for companies throwing myriad dating concepts against the wall to see what sticks. Group dating is clearly a niche, will be lucrative for a handful of companies. TeamDating, Ignighter ($1.2 million in funding) and Mixtt are mentioned. In the last week I talked to MixandMeet, based in Boston, and yesterday I heard about a new social/team dating sites in Australia.

As transparency becomes a required part of interaction, especially among people under the age of 35, paid dating sites such as Match.com and eHarmony are finding it difficult to hang on to their users, especially those under 35. Jupiter Research indicates that only about 10% of the online population uses paid dating sites, which is a decrease of 6% since 2006. Match.com’s largest growing segment is users over 50, seeing a 300% increase since 2000.

Spark Networks, owner of sites such as JDate.com, has seen annual sales drop to $14mm from $15.8mm a year ago. Free sites such as OkCupid, which appeal to the under 35 crowd, have seen new user signups increase 60 percent since September, from 110,000 per month to 180,000 per month.

Here’s the key takeaway quote:

For the traditional dating sites, it will be imperative for them to allow users to interact outside of their walled gardens in ways that could potentially reduce the amount of time spent on the sites.

Right on. Metrics such as “time spent on site” are for sites like Hulu. Dating sites boast about people spending hours a week on their site, which is the inverse of the needs of their members. The goal of a dating site should strive to have the *lowest* engagement metrics, i.e., I’m on the site, I send a few emails and I’m off.

Interacting outside of walled gardens at it’s simplest is about allowing people to communicate outside of the site itself. I’m not sure what this means to Micah though, and I still don’t understand how transparency leads to group dating though. Hopefully he will read this and clue me in.