There are about 4,500 online dating companies, according to a report by the market research company IBISWorld, but the majority are tiny. The largest player in the field is the Match Group, with 51 dating sites; over the last few years alone it acquired such high-profile companies as Tinder and Plenty of Fish.
“It’s never been cheaper to start a dating site and never been more expensive to grow one,” said Mark Brooks, a consultant for the internet dating industry who also runs Online Personals Watch. Part of the problem, he said, is that 70 percent of internet dating in the United States is now on mobile.
Dating apps usually start by offering their services completely free to bring in new users. There are then two ways for the services to make money: advertising and turning free users into paying ones.
“It used to be 10 percent of those who registered converted to paid,” Mr. Brooks said. “Now it’s more like 2 to 3 percent.”
Advertising can be tough to get, said Tom Homer, editor of the website Dating Site Reviews, and on a mobile device it does not pay much because there is less real estate available than on regular websites.
Other tensions are pulling at the online dating industry. Do consumers want to find a special someone or just anyone? Internet dating used to mean filling out questionnaires to match interests and culture. With sites like Tinder, Bumble and Hinge, it is all about who is nearby and available.
Some of the difference, of course, is generational. Younger people are more likely to be interested in casual dating and more likely to use mobile devices for dating, the IBISWorld report states.
Alina Tugend, “For Online Dating Sites, a Bumpy Road to Love”, The New York Times (25 December 2016), BU3.