Online dating booming in Europe
LONDON, England (CNN) -- More Europeans than ever before were going online on Valentine's Day, in an attempt to find romance on the Internet.
Dating sites were reporting great increases in registered members as people become more confident using the Internet.
Analysts say people seeking partners online are willing to pay a subscription fee for quality services -- and ones that charge fees are more likely to survive in the future than free sites.
Daniel Stevens, an analyst at Jupiter Media Metrix, told CNN there had been a healthy growth in online dating due to a booming Internet population.
Online dating might attract more people because users can be anonymous, and members are instantly matched as they sign in, he said.
The global dating site Match.com, which says its services have led to more than 1,400 marriages, 75 children and hundreds of thousands of relationships worldwide, is reporting an increase in registered users all over Europe.
During the last two months of 2001, the number of new registered Match.com members grew by 45 percent in Germany, 39 percent in the Netherlands, 27 percent in Spain, 48 percent in France, 39 percent in Italy, and 26 percent in Denmark, vice-president Joe Cohen said.
In the first month of this year alone there had been an increase of 50 percent new UK members registering their profile with Match.com, bringing the total number of UK members to 100,000, he said.
Match.com and uDate.com, which is another global site also reporting a rise, charge a subscription fee of $24.95 a month for users to receive and answer mail from other members. It is free to place a profile on the site.
Out of its 30,000 UK members only 10 percent are paying members.
The CEO of uDate.com, Mel Morris, said that the site saw a worldwide increase in revenue of 1,200 percent during 2001.
Also smaller UK sites such as Dating.co.uk and Singlesclub.co.uk say the number of people looking for love on their sites has increased 20 and 40 percent respectively since this time last year.
Dating.co.uk, which has a total of about 3,000 registered members, is a free service financed through advertisements and the sale of various goods, whereas Singlesclubs 10,000 members have to pay £15 for three months or £25 for 12 months to answer mail from other users.
Stevens predicts that the number of people who use such services will continue to grow in Europe as the internet population grows.
But he points out that online dating only appeals to a segment of the population, and he doubts whether the UK will ever see membership numbers in the millions.
He predicts there will only be a handful of sites left in a few years.
"Most sites will probably have to charge for their services -- but people who use off-line agencies are used to the costs, and others will realise that they will have to pay for quality services," he said.
Dating.dk, one of the largest dating sites in Denmark, with its 475,000 profiles -- Denmark has a total population of a little more than 5 million people -- is a free site.
However, the marketing director and co-founder Morten Oliver Wagner, said that the site was considering charging its members.
The site, which has experienced a growth of almost 50 percent since this time last year, is financed by advertisements and off-line events, but members are charged a small fee if they wish to create a profile with more advanced features.
The general attitude towards dating on the Internet has changed, Wagner said.
"When Dating.dk started in 1998 it was a taboo in Denmark to meet people online. Now people see it simply as an additional way of meeting others."
Camilla Jensen, a 27-year-old law student, logs on to Dating.dk every day from her home in Copenhagen.
"Dating online is an easy way of meeting people whether you are seeking a long-term partner or just a date.
"It puts you in contact with people who you would have never met otherwise and there is a much greater choice of people than in your everyday life.
"I would still be using the site if I had to pay a reasonable fee," Jensen said.
Singles seek soul mates in cyberspace
January 28, 2002
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