Online Dating Effective, Yet Growth Lags

A new UK study offers a rosy outlook for finding a lasting mate via online dating sites, yet doesn’t address the business issues that have cooled growth for U.S. online dating properties.

The study was conducted by Dr. Jeff Gavin and Dr. Adrian Scott, both professors at the University of Bath. They surveyed 229 people between the ages of 18 and 65 who have used a UK dating site. Dr. Gavin will present the full findings of the study at conference in March.

“This study shows that online dating can work for many people, leading to a successful meeting for almost everyone we surveyed,” Dr. Gavin said.

Approximately 94 percent of those surveyed saw their “e-partner” again after meeting for the first time, with the relationship lasting an average of about seven months; 18 percent lasted over a year. The 94 percent success rate refers to respondents’ “most significant online relationship” generated on a dating site, not to all relationships generated through such sites.

Among the online relationships analyzed by the study, 39 percent were ongoing at the time of the survey, and 24 percent had lasted over one year. Roughly eight percent endured over two years.

Other key conclusions:

  • Men were much more likely to be committed to the online relationship than women, and to be more dependent on their “e-partner.”
  • The more the couple engaged in simultaneous instant messaging discussion rather than simply emailing one another, the more emotionally intimate the relationships were in general.
  • Those who exchanged gifts before meeting tended to have more committed, deeper relationships.
  • The more the couple spoke on the phone before meeting, the deeper the relationship.
  • Online daters rarely use Webcams, which allow computer users to see one another, instead preferring the anonymity of messaging and calling before meeting in person.

The study suggests a burgeoning online dating market at a time when American online dating is percolating with a mix of new product launches and negative market predictions. Lycos recently launched a niche dating search engine., meanwhile, unveiled a new marketing effort highlighting success stories from its online dating service.

A recent JupiterResearch, report conveys a less rosy perspective on the industry. It finds 33 percent fewer consumers are browsing online personals today than they did a year ago. The report concludes that the 70+ percent growth in the U.S. online dating industry measured in 2002 and 2003 had given way to 19 percent year-over-year growth in 2004, with only 9 percent growth predicted for 2005.

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