When someone learns that I own and operate an online dating site, the first question is usually “What’s your niche?”
With so many dating sites popping up that focus on niche groups, I can’t blame them for asking. Every day we see more commercials advertising sites that compartmentalize daters into tidy groups based on age, race, religion, interests, background, and lifestyle. This growing array of options may provide a superficial sense of comfort to some daters — if I can just find a dating site where I belong, surely I will meet someone.
But this nicheification merely serves to mask the real problems with the online dating industry. A quick look around “general purpose” dating sites like Match.com reveals that it’s not hard to find someone of a similar age, background, or interest set, by sorting search results based on profile information. The problem is not that there aren’t enough like-minded individuals on regular dating sites — so why are so many niche sites being created?
In reality, the wave of niche sites is not a sign that niche dating is the way of the future – it is merely a symptom of the growing frustration felt by today’s online daters. However, although nicheification has been the market’s response to this frustration up to this point, the problem has nothing to do with niches or special groups. It has to do with the basic subscription model at the foundation of all paid dating sites.
Sitting across from my mom at lunch the other day, I heard a familiar story of the stress and frustration that comes with online dating. I hear these stories all the time, but it was especially infuriating to hear it from the mouth of someone I care about.
Neumate co-founders Michael Fradkin and Shmuel Gordon.
Frustrated by her experiences on big online dating sites, my mom had signed up for the niche dating site Our Time, which specializes in connecting older online daters. Yet despite moving to this smaller site, she continued to encounter the same problems.
“My last subscription ended five months ago, and I’ve had five messages sitting in my inbox since then, and no way to find out who sent them,” she said.
She had enthusiastically browsed the site on first joining, but allowed her subscription to lapse when she became busy with other aspects of her life. We all have times when we are more actively interested in dating and romance, and times when we need, or want, to focus on other things. For some of us, our level of interest may change from day to day.
But the complexity and variability of a human being’s desire for love is irrelevant to Our Time’s subscription model, and that of many other dating sites. To Our Time, you are either subscribed, or you are not. If you aren’t, every message you receive from another member is used as an opportunity to entice you to subscribe again. Which is exactly what my mom did.
“Every one of the men who sent me messages was both out-of-state and not my type. So here I am with 29 more days of a onemonth subscription, and I don’t feel like logging onto that site ever again.”
My mother’s experience is not unique. This kind of frustration is what has led people to try an increasing number of niche dating sites, that ignore the real problem and reduce real human beings to members of oversimplified demographic groups. In fact, our lives and identities are much more complex and interesting than that.
Ultimately, niche markets and the subscription pay model are part of the same wrongful thinking on the part of the online dating industry. Niche dating sites ask us to sort ourselves neatly into categories, and the subscription model forces us to compartmentalize our romantic lives into 30 day units.
The Neumate Token is our answer to this problem. A Token gives you 24-hour access to Neumate. Buying a $1 Token, my mom could have checked her messages, moved on with her life, and happily come back to the site whenever she felt like pursuing a more active dating life, instead of feeling frustrated with the whole online dating process. Or more likely, the men who contacted her would have gifted a Token with their messages, making it even easier for her to read and respond.
It’s clear that online daters are looking for a better experience, and so far the industry’s answer has been more niches, yet the same problems persist on niche dating sites. It is clear that a more fundamental change is needed, and a new era for online dating is imminent.
Neumate aims to lead the way in this new phase of the industry’s development.