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Socializing Surfers Shop for Friends, Dates

  |  November 26, 2003   |  Comments

Those connecting to the Web are often making love connections as well, and free site Friendster is reaping the popularity of its paid counterparts.

While online personals, dating and socializing sites have become among the biggest paid content generators on the Net – ringing up nearly $215 million during the first half of 2003 alone with expectations from Jupiter Research (a unit of this site's corporate parent) that the market will reach $642 million in 2008 – the popularity of such sites has apparently trickled down to it free counterpart, Friendster.

Nielsen//NetRatings identified the online friend and dating community as one of the most popular social networks on the Web, attracting 927,000 visitors from home and work in October 2003 – up from 532,000 in June 2003.

Lauren Taub, Internet analyst at Nielsen//NetRatings, assesses the site's popularity: "Friendster's growth is impressive, but it is too early to tell if its early success is explained by unique functionality or the fact that it is currently a free service."

Even though traffic to Yahoo Personals far exceeded that to Friendster, the time spent at each site was dramatically different. In October 2003, users spent an average of 1 hour, 51 minutes visiting Friendster, while Yahoo Personals users averaged 35 minutes, and second-highest traffic-generator Match.com users averaged 55 minutes per session.

Traffic to Online Personals Sites, October 2003
June 2003 Oct 2003 Oct 2003
Time Per Person
(hh:mm:ss)
Yahoo Personals 4,110,000 4,923,000 0:35:07
Match 4,327,000 3,916,000 0:55:40
AmericanSingles 3,950,000 3,725,000 0:17:54
MSN Dating & Personals 3,381,000 1,946,000 0:01:46
Netscape Love & Personals 1,221,000 1,470,000 0:04:29
*Please note that Friendster is categorized as a member community
and is not in the personals sub category
Source: Nielsen//NetRatings

Dating Sites by Market Share,
October 2003
Yahoo Personals 18.23%
Match.com 12.48%
Friendster 8.46%
American Singles 7.64%
Black Planet - Love 4.23%
eHarmony 3.93%
Meet me at... Hot or Not? 2.05%
Date.com 1.88%
Lavalife 1.83%
iMatchup 1.69%
Source: Hitwise

Hitwise's measurements of sites related to dating or relationships, including online advice columns and Internet personals services, indicate that the gender ratio was nearly balanced – 48 percent female compared to 52 percent male – with the overwhelming majority containing their surf-dating to home (71.5 percent).

Age of Visitors to Dating Sites,
October 2003
18-24 12.80%
25-34 22.29%
35-44 27.64%
45-54 21.28%
55+ 16.00%
Source: Hitwise

Jupiter Research examined online dating activities by gender, and found men to be more involved in the process.

Online Dating Activities by Gender
Men Women
Browsed profiles 29% 13%
Posted a profile 18% 8%
Responded to a profile 13% 5%
Paid to access site 8% 2%
Source: Jupiter Research/Ipsos-Insight Consumer Survey

Other friendly facts found among Nielsen//NetRatings' analysis of the online dating community:

  • 84 percent of visitors to dating services are online five or more times a week
  • 37 percent have been online for seven or more years
  • Divorcees are more than three times as likely to use a dating site than the average Internet user and singles are more than twice as likely to do the same
  • Divorcees make up only 8 percent of the 18+ Internet audience, yet they represent 27 percent of those using an online dating site recently
  • Of those acknowledging they accessed an online dating service yesterday, 11 percent were married individuals
  • Those using an online dating site access the Internet to send online invitations, search for homes and apartments, download MP3s, look for restaurants and participate in fantasy sports leagues

"Users of online dating services take full advantage of all the resources the Web offers," said Taub. "These individuals are online all the time, using the Web in every way imaginable, especially to organize events through e-vites and read restaurants reviews."

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