For pay vs. For free dating sites

The owner of OkCupid – a free dating site – does some number crunching and theorizing to claim that for-pay online dating sites are not worth the money.

He admits that he’s biased, but I don’t think he realizes how biased he is – or, alternatively, he’s a sneaky bastard.

Here’s his article.

I have some experience in online dating, and I tried a free site (PlentyOfFish.com) before trying a pay site – (Match.com). So I have some familiarity with the topic at hand.

My criticisms:

1. He describes this “conspiracy” that the pay sites have to connect you with people who aren’t currently subscribed (so they’ll subscribe). But my experience was exactly the opposite – every profile was clearly marked with ‘active’ or ‘inactive’. In addition, the way I worked with the site – I looked at a bunch of profiles, winked at a few, waited, watched who visited my profile, looked at their info, and interacted with that much smaller set of women who seemed at least mildly interested. There was no “cycle of messaging.”

2. On the other hand, PlentyOfFish.com was, as far as I could tell, an attack zone of guys who just wanted a one-night stand and bombarded women with messages. There were a lot more women on PoF, but they almost never responded.

3. I also wonder about the statistics eHarmony and Match.com give out about marriages. The numbers are low, relative to the overall population, but I wonder if that’s a side effect of the way these sites work – I met Sarah on Match.com, and unsubscribed a month or two later. When we get married, we won’t have been Match.com subscribers for well over a year, perhaps 2 – how will they know?

4. There’s an implicit “men will spend a fixed amount of time on a site every day/week/etc” I think that’s a bad assumption – I can and did vary the number of hours I spent. Also, it’s very much like fishing – a lot of it was waiting for someone who seemed like a good match, rather than forcing myself upon everyone with a pulse.

5. Someone else pointed out in the comments of that article that the amount of time spent looking for “Miss Right” should be considered – if 1.25% of subscribers find their soul-mate on Match.com in 6 months, but it takes the offline 15% 10 years – then you’re better off with Match.

6. Lastly, the willingness to pay for a dating site is itself a signal – “I have enough money that I can afford to do this” for men and “I am serious enough about finding someone that I will pay for it” for women. – There’s no profile picture, no funny intro paragraph that compares to that level of commitment.

I apparently never posted this 🙂

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