Handsome mobile dating provider seeks consumers for long-term relationship...
Not so many years ago, if you happened to mention that you were using the Internet to find a potential soulmate, people tended to look at you askance. As if, you were, well, a bit odd, maybe even slightly socially undesirable, and yet somewhat pitiable: as if – having exhausted traditional (ie normal) channels (clubs, bars, parties, church congregations, blind dates set up by your mates) - you were now engaged in a last, desperate online throw of the dice to find Miss Right. Or maybe that was just when I said it.
Well, to those of you who were casting the funny looks: times have changed. Indeed, many of you have yourselves ditched the pubs and clubs for match.com, Dating Direct or Plenty of Fish. So there. But enough of name calling: another dating trend, which naturally enough has had its own naysayers, is coming up on the rails.
While mobile dating services started off as online’s poor relation, they very soon gained critical mass in Japan (via i-mode) and India (via SMS). Elsewhere, they have quietly started to gain traction, growth facilitated by greater end-user usage of Internet via the mobile and the attendant surge in mobile social networking.
As in social networking – indeed, as in just about any mobile content service – you have two distinct phases. Phase One involves a number of mobile-oriented service providers scrabbling to achieve a critical mass of subscribers within a fairly small and diminishing window of opportunity; in Phase Two, the big brands in the online space in a given sector wake up to the fact that there’s money in mobile and launch their own mobile service. In mobile dating, it is fair to say we are well into Phase Two – Match.com has more that 5 million mobile users in the US alone - although the legwork done in Phase One means that a number of the start-ups are now pretty well established, not least Flirtomatic and the 3G Dating Agency in the UK, and MeetMoi in the US. By mid 2009 Flirtomatic had more than 1.2 million UK subscribers, and has since launched in Germany and the US; it also pioneered the facility whereby would-be suitors (does that sound terribly old-fashioned?) could send the object of their attention physical gifts as well as virtual items.
Furthermore, we’re also seeing an increasing blurring of the boundaries between social networking and dating: the location-based social networking provider Loopt has recently launched an upgraded version of its eponymous app which not only shows you which other members of the community are in your vicinity, but also what they’re looking for, be it friendship or, ahem, a little more than friendship.
Mobile dating is increasingly big business: globally, consumers spent nearly $1 billion on these services last year, and – as with online dating – the market has emerged relatively unscathed from the recession. It is also attracting substantial attention from advertisers, drawn by the user demographics, by the high response rates, and the instant measurement afforded by mobile.
Thus, as fewer and fewer members of the public now look askance at mobile daters, a similar trend is observable amongst mobile service providers. Fortunately, and unlike ringtones, true love shows no sign of going out of fashion. For the mobile providers, the key is to ensure that it’s easy to access via a small screen.