When Finding Love Through Online Dating, Pleasure Can Hurt Profits

Online dating may be hugely popular, but the industry has a problem: Happy customers leave and will never pay for the service again. That’s one of the issues explored in the new book Love in the Time of Algorithms, by Dan Slater (a Fast Company contributor). Here, he lays out how subscription dating sites keep love-seekers on an extended, costly mission.

1. Thanks for joining . . .

Now start paying your debt! Sites spend an average of $120 in advertising to net one subscriber. With membership fees anywhere from $20 to $60 a month, the site needs you to stick around a while to recoup that loss.

2. They’re eyeing you . . .

Or are they? Sites send emails saying lots of members are reading your profile. But uh-oh: New users are often told that, even when nobody’s looking.

3. The options are many . . .

But they’re just ghosts. Sites make it difficult to delete profiles so that the potential dating pool for active members looks larger than it really is. The industry calls it "date bait."

4. There are always new users to contact . . .

And they can’t write back. Many "new" profiles are actually from people who are exploring the site but haven’t paid the membership fee. That means they can’t reply to you.

5. You’re outta there . . .

But you’ll be back. On Match.com, 40% of subscribers are returnees. Maybe you’ll go to a free site for a while, but here’s what you’ll see there: lots of ads for the paid sites.

Illustrations by Peter Oumanski

Follow Jason Feifer on Twitter @heyfeifer, and Fast Company @fastcompany.

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