Business Story Jump-start: 3 Online Dating Trends

by February 7, 2017
young couple sitting across the table from one another

Pew Research Center found that by 2015, 15 percent of Americans had tried online dating. (Couple image via Pixabay user “Pexels,” CCO Public Domain)

As smartphone adoption rises, the mobile online dating business has continued to boom. In fact, IBISWorld reports that its annual revenue sits at $2 billion a year in the United States, with annual growth just shy of 5 percent between 2011 and 2016. In a 2015 survey, Pew Research Center found that 15 percent of Americans had tried online dating.

As Valentine’s Day approaches and Americans search for love, online dating could spark some intriguing business and money stories. Here’s a look at three online dating trends to consider.

Online dating meets online networking

Last year, eHarmony launched a jobs site called Elevated Careers. Similarly, female-friendly dating app Bumble announced plans to launch BumbleBizz, a separate section of the app where women can make professional connections (like the Bumble dating app, the woman must reach out first). BumbleBizz is expected to arrive later this year.

On the surface, these brand extensions might seem to violate the rules around mixing business and pleasure. Still, online dating apps and websites use complex algorithms for matching people and assessing compatibility, so professional networking and job hunting are logical uses of that technology.

Talk to local tech experts or business professors about whether this approach is likely to work, whether they foresee other dating sites following suit and why.

Online dating niches

TV ads for Christian singles and other niches seem to be proliferating, so perhaps exploring niche online dating sites and especially those that are popular in your neck of the woods or based locally could be fodder for a story.

Did you know, for instance, that there are dating sites targeted at Ivy League types, people with Aspberger’s syndrome, people with STDs, even tall people (and admirers)? How do these niche sites attract users and where do they advertise? Several of these niche sites share the same parent company. Many readers may not realize that Match Group now includes OkCupid, Tinder and Match.com in its portfolio.

Ancillary businesses

Online dating itself is a big business, but a cottage industry has sprung up alongside dating sites and apps to help busy daters make a positive first impression. Can you find a local photographer who specializes in online dating profile photos or a dating coach who helps local singles arrange dates with online suitors? Maybe a local business similar to e-Cyrano that will craft your profile for you? Perhaps there’s a local bar that runs promotions such as Tinder Tuesdays to encourage online daters to frequent the venue (or on a darker note, some bars now advertise that you can order an “Angel shot” if you need help extricating yourself from a particularly bad date).

Find out how long these businesses or promotions have been around and whether they’re driving sales. Profiling one or more of these businesses could put a quirky local spin on online dating. If you’re able to get sales numbers or other metrics, so much the better. Be aware that businesses in this space may be skittish about sharing client details, but if you can get one to open up, it could help put a human face on your coverage.