Love Is Still in the Air

Valentine’s Day may have come and gone, but love is still in the air. Just when I thought I’d heard everything about our wacky online world… this came in. Are you sitting down? Leading dating site Match.com has partnered with none other than a telecom company.

I’ll give you one guess which it is. Yes, it’s AT&T Wireless. As of last week, matchmaking became mobile. Match.com and AT&T Wireless launched a new product called Match Mobile. The product provides dating and matching for AT&T customers via their wireless phones.

“The popularity of wireless phones with young adults will expand the reach of our network while providing a matching tool that is convenient and fun to use in their daily lives,” said Tim Sullivan, president, Match.com, a unit of USA Interactive and the number one online dating site in the United States.

Here’s what it will offer:

  • Members will be able to search by location.

  • Matches will initially be made with Zip Code as a primary criterion, but eventually location-based technology will enable people to be matched more closely.
  • The search engine will never reveal actual physical locations but simply allow users to chat only with matches within a specified radius.

Whether you agree or disagree with this type of service, it’s certainly a great example of personalization. It also puts together two very hot trends.

Visits to online personal sites grew 31 percent — 26.6 million visitors — last year in the U.S., according to comScore Networks. Many Web sites have launched personals within the past couple of years. Here’s how comScore says they stack up:

  • Match.com: 5.7 million users

  • Yahoo Personals: 4 million users
  • One2Onematch.com: 3.5 million users
  • TerraLycos’s Matchmaker.com: 3.2 million users

Meanwhile, wireless has been picking up steam. A while back, I wrote a column about mobile commerce (m-commerce), and Accenture predicts it will be a $20 billion market in the U.S. by 2005. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous. Approximately 150 mobile phones are currently in the U.S. today, and seemingly just about everyone is carrying around some sort of mobile device.

Connectivity is top of mind to media folks like me. We look at the opportunity with wide eyes for several reasons:

  • Mobility. We want to advertise to those on the go.

  • Personalization. Why not have the ability to customize messages?
  • Community. Once telecom companies figure out the best way to link up users, the market will have true community-based communication (similar to that of instant messaging).
  • Content. Although there isn’t room for lengthy text, there is a tremendous opportunity for direct and to-the-point messages, offers, and the like.
  • Technology. Mobile devices possess the ultimate cool factor. As technology advances, opportunities will arise to create more online synergies. Many features are being added, including push-to-talk, digital photo capture and display, and ring tones.

Like any other form of advertising there are things to watch out for:

  • Spam. Differentiating spam on mobile devices is hard.

  • Privacy. It is the number one concern of mobile users.
  • Churn. Telecom companies are constantly jumping through hoops to retain customers. Many providers rate cut plans severely to encourage users to switch.

Many advertisers are said to be asking for cell phone information via online registration on Web sites. Man, does this open up a whole can of worms. As I take my marketer hat off and put my consumer hat on, let me say there is no way I’d give up my number. Would you?

It’ll be fun to watch the world go wireless. Love seemingly has beaten the CPG companies to it. Go figure.

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