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Match.com Launches Free Dating Site (DowntoEarth.com)

January 4th, 2009 · 14 Comments

We have been following this rumor now for about 6 months that Match.com was going to be launching a free dating service and we had one of their developers asking our members on Meeta.com how they found our site and other questions. Markus of Plenty of Fish announced the news yesterday with a blog post titled, Its official Match.com Abandons Paid Dating on his Paradigm Shift dating blog. I wouldn’t take it that far but the headline got me to read the post.

It was interesting to read other people’s reaction to the site launch. Match.com like other large businesses is just fighting for market share. That is all it boils down to. They aren’t afraid of free dating models as they know the quality is the concern and that people will usually start off on a free site then migrate to a membership based service and pay for 3-4 months. They are just trying to position themselves to capture more of these types of referral leads. Sites like PlentyofFish.com, OKCupid.com and Mingle2.com (formerly Justsayhi.com) think that they are competing with the big boys when they should be doing partnerships with them. If you watch how the free sites in the adult industry work with the premium pay sites then it would all make sense instead of using Google AdSense as your revenue stream. Businesses that rely on Google are getting lower valuations because you are relying on the big boys buying advertising on Google’s content or site targeted network. I am an online media buyer and I usually don’t buy on Google’s content network due to fraud and low quality traffic from domain parkers.

I wouldn’t be surprised if this site doesn’t take off unless they are going to pour some serious marketing dollars into it. Dustin at DateHookup.com spent a lot of money and time to get his traffic and SEO going. I think he was like 3 years invested when he started hitting critical mass. I don’t think Match has that much patience for this project to go gold. My prediction for 2009 isn’t that the free dating sites will be fighting the pay sites but that we are going to see some acquisition activity on the free dating sites by the big boys. I would like to see Markus get acquired but I don’t think he has a good grasp of what his site is actually worth as he keeps comparing it to Facebook and other social network acquisitions. Trust me POF is far, far away from anything related to FB. Trust me, I am grossly addicted to Facebook and can’t even stand being on the POF homepage but I love what Markus has done for the industry.

If you want to check out Match.com’s new free dating service it is called DowntoEarth.com.

The site is visually appealing and I love that they are focused on the US and Canada to stay away from scammers in Africa and Eastern Europe. Hopefully they have some good IP address detection and proxy server blocking software built into the site.

-Brian R.

Tags: Dating Industry News

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Markus // Jan 4, 2009 at 5:06 PM

    Come on Plentyoffish isn’t that bad…

    The industry is a 0 sum game… Free sites take away from paid sites period. Industry traffic has been 1.25% of online traffic for the past few years, yet in the past 2 years POF and singlesnet have gone from nowhere to 40% of US dating traffic. Match.com has lost a lot of US subscribers year over year and so has American singles and yahoo personals and all the others. Those users aren’t going to ever pay again… As for revenues, non dating ads pay more than dating ads… So long term free sites won’t be advertising paid dating sites anyways.

  • 2 admin // Jan 4, 2009 at 7:32 PM

    You and I both know that pay dating site users churn out after about 3.5 months and most of them don’t become paying users again but that is the natural cycle of the biz. If Match.com has been losing subscribers year over year (not confirmed though) then it is more likely caused by eHarmony’s growth and them taking deals like the AOL Personals from them. Singlesnet is a pay service and they have done some shady practices with lead-gen companies this past year on Google and through email to get to where they are now. Read up on all of the consumer complaints on them and you’ll be surprised that they are still in business. Your traffic and growth is real and you have been fulfilling a niche for new users coming onto the online dating scene where they can test drive internet dating and figure out whether they are interested in paying for a premium service. Your CPC ads in Google, great PR, and SEO have brought you passed critical mass to where you can float on word of mouth the same way Jdate has for years now. Free dating and Plenty of Fish go hand in hand. I personally think you are in a great position this year to make a lot more noise. If I were you I would be having some strategic conversations with some of the big boys in doing a partnership with one of them. Yahoo Personals ran free for years and so did Excite’s Classifieds 2000 long before POF came along the scene and the best partnerships and advertisers were the pay sites. I wouldn’t rely on non-dating ads for future revenue as that side of the industry is in a slump at least for the next 8 months.

    -Brian R.

  • 3 European Dating Community // Jan 16, 2009 at 11:37 AM

    Paid dating sites have finally realized that free online dating is working and is the way to go. I believe social networking sites have paved the way for free sites.

    EuropeanKiss.org is a totally free online dating community for single europeans in europe, canada and usa, which is secure, safe and fun with much more features than any dating site, paid or free.

    We have introduced a community moderated system where upon registration, you must complete your profile and upload at least 1 photo and then wait for approval by users of the community, during which time you won’t be able to use the site. This is another security layer we have put into place which prevents incomplete profiles and spammers. We have setup a required number of votes and percentage to approve or reject profiles.

    We also check IP address’s against a blacklist for spammers and have put into place the ability to report profile, messages and photo abuse.

    Another feature we have introduced is “Certify that this user is Genuine”

    If you have met a site member or you are sure for his/her existence and profile/photos, you can certify that this user is genuine. The number of users required to certify a user is set by the site administrator. After the required users have certified a user is genuine, a green check appears next to the user in every search result.

    We have found many free dating sites are full of spammers and are poorly designed and want to change the way free dating sites are perceived.

  • 4 Sally // Jan 16, 2009 at 5:23 PM

    I don’t understand why match think their new rating system will creat trust with its members. Surely any decent scammer will just create a number of profiles and rate themselves very highly. To my mind that could backfire long term.

  • 5 Sally // Jan 16, 2009 at 5:25 PM

    Sorry just to add a thumbs up for Markus. POF has done a lot to make the dating industry stop and think imo and when I think of POF I think of social networking rather than dating.

  • 6 beentheredonethat // Feb 5, 2009 at 3:41 PM

    I am so happy that I found POF! I only wish I could find more like it. I used to be on E-harmony. I stayed on for a year but didn’t have a connection with any of my “matches.” Personally, I felt it was a scam bc like another blogger wrote, people fill out their own profile questionnaire and overrate themselves in most categories, so it’s no different than meeting someone on POF or any other site. I mean, those people weren’t any more of a match for me than what I would meet elsewhere. I don’t know why people pay for this type of service still, but they say there’s one born every minute so I guess that has something to do with it?

  • 7 KT // Feb 6, 2009 at 7:37 PM

    I think that it is likely that in many respects POF is worth more than Face Book. I haven’t done much research on Face Book but I am sure it spends gobs of money on advertisement, partnerships, employees, facilities and overhead. I remember when MySpace was the king, ABC started talking about Face Book. I am sure they paid a pretty penny (or a chunk of themselves) for that kind of promotion. So you see there is nothing extraordinary about Face Book. It is just a big company that made good moves and had good executives and grew big. There are many others like it.

    Plenty of Fish, on the other hand is a freak of nature. Who could have thought that a one person operation could compete with the big boys (I know he has hired a couple of people now but still). So there is something extra-ordinary about what Marcus has done. He should be regarded as a pioneer and in my opinion the tone of your comments when comparing Plenty of Fish and Face Book is unfair and in a way inappropriate.

    Also, I in my admittedly non-expert opinion I don’t see a natural progression from free sites to paid sites. Sure the folks who use the free sites are exposed to ads from paid sites and may fall for some of the trickery and join them to expand the possibilities but I don’t believe the majority would regard it as an upgrade path.

    Another non-expert opinion of mine is that in time free sites will eat paid sites’ lunches. Though it would probably be many years (or decades) before nearly all will be forced to be free except those who provide specialized and tangible services.

  • 8 Mike // Feb 21, 2009 at 1:49 AM

    WheelDates.com is an free online dating personals social network website where single motorists who have a passion for cars, trucks and motorcycles can find and meet new people who also love what they own and drive.

    We have taken the automotive motorsports culture and mixed it in with online dating personals
    resulting in a new and convenient place for all Gear Heads and Car Divas.
    We like to help people meet people and we do this by creating a useful , fun and informative place where single automotive enthusiasts can come meet and mingle, flirt, and possibly find love or marriage through our provided services and features.

  • 9 jessica // Feb 26, 2009 at 1:17 AM

    I guess Match.com is obsolescencing themselves before Plentyoffish.com does? >_<

    Check out sweetr.net if your into free 😀

  • 10 Mike // Mar 2, 2009 at 8:05 AM

    Quoting:

    “I would like to see Markus get acquired but I don’t think he has a good grasp of what his site is actually worth as he keeps comparing it to Facebook and other social network acquisitions. Trust me POF is far, far away from anything related to FB.”

    How do you know how much POF is or isn’t worth? And what makes you think Facebook is worth more? Because you like the site better? In fact, Facebook clearly doesn’t know how much it is valued, because it was stated in an article that it was way overvalued for what it has to offer….in fact, it offers no value to its users, other than advertising. POF has a far greater value than facebook since there is a much greater and targeted purpose in the site (to find a date, plain and simple). In my opinion, POF has a far greater potential to make so much more money through paid subscriptions. Do you think Facebook members will ever pay for subscriptions? The reason why they won’t, is because there is no real value in Facebook.

  • 11 admin // Mar 10, 2009 at 10:52 AM

    Do you honestly think that POF is worth more than Facebook? Wow. I am an interactive media buyer and have been for the past 10+ years. Facebook can target users down to all kinds of demographics on a CPM or CPC.

    picture-4

    Markus has probably felt a drop recently in sponsors and advertising CPMs on his site because it is a niche audience and buyers like myself aren’t advertising on these types of sites anymore. We are buying up all kinds of remnant inventory from the portals for cheap that have high quality traffic. Markus recently launched a paid service feature on his site. I wonder if this is in response to Match launching a free service or if he is seeing a drop in revenue but maybe not traffic. There is a site like Facebook in Russia that now charges for the same type of service since they have access to over 20M users. If Facebook figures out a better way to monetize its users with micro payment services then it’ll be lights out. If Markus turned his site into a pay service then people will jump ship over night. I have seen it happen with a German free dating site before that went to a paid model and lost their business in months. My comment was that Markus definitely has a valuable property but that he needs to start comparing it to other dating sites and not a property like Facebook if he wants to get a fair valuation for what his business is worth.

  • 12 judek4sky // Aug 15, 2009 at 4:38 AM

    I am so happy that I found POF! I only wish I could find more like it. I used to be on E-harmony. I stayed on for a year but didn’t have a connection with any of my “matches.” Personally, I felt it was a scam bc like another blogger wrote, people fill out their own profile questionnaire and overrate themselves in most categories, so it’s no different than meeting someone on POF or any other site. I mean, those people weren’t any more of a match for me than what I would meet elsewhere. I don’t know why people pay for this type of service still, but they say there’s one born every minute so I guess that has something to do with it?

  • 13 loginrogerwilco // Sep 14, 2009 at 7:03 PM

    For what it’s worth:” I just became a member of Down to Earth. And you’re right, it looks clean and functional.
    As an old Guy, my only problem is it seems to cater to the younger crowd.

  • 14 Brendan // Nov 7, 2009 at 8:48 AM

    So, I checked out downtoearth.com and now it’s some other crap about finding bars and clubs in the area. No sir, I don’t like it.

    I also seem to be the only person in the world who doesn’t like PlentyOfFish. I just find it a little too unrefined. I like OKCupid, but haven’t had much luck on there – not that I’m blaming the site.

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