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Hot or not goes free: They buy into the idea that free dating sites will subsume paid sites. To some extent I agree. Sites like Match hit a ceiling and have to grow by acquisition and international expansion. Free sites are taking away some of the thunder of paid sites- social networking sites, not free dating sites in most cases.

Lavalife is trying something new, moving from credits to $29.99 subscriptions.  Let’s see how they do with that. Anyone want to guess how much market share they are going to loose?

I am tired of hearing that Match is going down because they charge for a decent  service. Free sites will say that until they are blue in the face and it may happen at some point, but that is not for a long time. Nothing but background noise and the only people listening are the ones who read this blog. Most consumers don’t care, they try new sites out all the time. I’m still waiting for a decent percentage of singles saying they are meeting better quality people on dating sites.

90 million singles, only a third of which are online dating at any one time. An untapped market of 60 million people and the answer is free dating sites? I don’t think so. I think it may be the opposite. Higher touch services, higher pricing, safer sites, authentic profiles and a better user experience.

Sam at OkCupid has made millions taking pay services and unleashing free versions. I respect that. The Internet is perfectly suited to making certain businesses more transparent or free, and there are plenty of examples of free being as good as, if not better, than paid.

Problem is, a lot of these rules don’t apply to online dating.

I bet we could bring 10 million more singles online with a few straightforward changes to typical industry practices.  

Most dating site operators don’t understand the difference between authentication and background checks. There is a lot of money to be made when people can authenticate their profile for a few bucks. When they figure that out, more singles will come online.

Dating sites ruined for themselves. They got to greedy, and left the door open for everyone to come in and make a mess of the place. The notion of a dating site having quality singles has gone out the window, the majority of sites are full of stale junk profiles and scammers.

Speaking of junk, when dating sites start showing ads that aren’t from the bottom of the barrel, maybe they won’t have to game search engines and artificially inflate pageviews to justify their existence.

Let’s lower the quality of our profiles, throw in lots of crappy advertising, save money by not hiring any customer service and hope we can flip this sucker before the bottom drops out. Nice business model but not very respectful to their members.

It’s no wonder people malign online dating. The industry doesn’t talk with each other, they won’t open up profiles, security is a pesky problem,  and with all eyes on the bottom line, innovation is all but ignored. I’m not talking about DNA testing for compatibility, I’m talking about basic changes to the way the business operates.

Just like free sites continue to pester us with the demise of paid dating, I will continue to tell the dating industry to wake up, think different and take a few risks. Same goes for the VC and angel investors who avoid the sector like the plague, for good reason most of the time. We need a few more well-funded dating sites. $10-25 million right off the bat. That’s what it takes these days to make serious inroads into the market. Show me a top-10 dating site that hasn’t spent this kind of money to get where it is today (besides Plenty of Fish, but that’s an ad network these days, not a dating site, and it’s an anomaly not likely to be repeated for quite some time.)

There is plenty of room for a new paid dating site to take on refugees from the top 10 sites. It doesn’t have to be a mashup of the latest technology, or bare-breasted advertising, it has to feature an impeccable database full of real people and a way to connect these people online before they meet in a safe, useful manner. Technology and boobs may get them in the door, but quality service is what keeps them coming back. Why is this so difficult to understand?

My girlfriend comes back from a month in Australia tonight. I promise I will be in a better mood tomorrow.

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