Dating Sites Decline Despite Approaching Valentine’s Day

It’s two months into 2006, and online dating sites are already seeing a lag in paying users. “Online Dating in 2006: Pricing Strategies to Drive Subscriber Growth” from JupierResearch finds revenue growth is driven by higher monthly fees instead of new membership.

Just five percent of Internet users pay for online dating subscriptions, down from six percent last year. “The number of paid subscribers is stagnating,” said JupiterResearch analyst Nate Elliott.

More Internet users visit dating sites than join, and only one-third of those who go to dating sites sign up for membership. This is the first time the research organization has seen a fall in conversion rates since it began tracking the space in 2003.

“Sites are working hard to broaden their total audience,” said Elliott. “If they get offline figures like Dr. Phil involved, more visitors will come to their sites [and convert].”

Discounting strategies and promotions can work with elements like Dr. Phil, according to Elliott. “Our research shows there is an opportunity for dating sites to use targeted discounting strategies to convert more of their visitors into paid customers,” he said.

Though online social networking communities potentially pose a safe alternative to dating sites, the report doesn’t see a significant threat. Fourteen percent of non-subscribing online daters use social networking sites for online dating.

The most popular relationship sites on the Web, according to a survey conducted by GMI Poll, include Yahoo (19 percent); Match.com (14 percent); and eHarmony.com (5 percent). Online dating sites are successful for 42 percent of those surveyed. The sites’ dating category is used for more than dating: 30 percent use the sites to find friends and meet people; 17 percent use their subscriptions for dating.

JupiterResearch conducted a survey of 2,369 Internet users. The firm uses data research tools such as consumer surveys, systematic polling of leading industry executives, comScore Media Metrix measurement data, and forecast models.

GMI Poll conducts global online surveys in real time, with statistically accurate results. The survey was conducted with 17,502 online consumers across 18 countries.

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