We were contacted today by the founder of the soon to launch social network for gay men BigJock.com. It lead us to take a look around the gay male online social networking space and write the following overview of some of the current market leaders.
Niche social networks are likely a viable business because they allow specialized functionality and a subjective community feel as opposed to general interest sites that defer to either the lowest common denominator or the 15-25 year old demographic. Many people want to participate in social networks, but many people prefer networks set up for people they can relate to. That makes sense to me. From the proudly professional to the happily hedonistic, there may be something on this list for everyone – or at least everyone who’s a gay man.
As you can see by the following short profiles, these sites targeting a demographic with two traits in common (gay men) are all very different. Just as there’s a wide diversity of gay men in the world, there may well be ample room for a variety of gay male social networking sites – presuming they are able to build sufficient critical mass for monetization and financial viability.
I won’t pretend to speak for gay men and I’m sure there are some sites I’m missing, but these appear to be the most talked about gay male social networking sites online. You can take or leave my reviews of them. Maybe they’ll be a look inside a niche market for some of our readers and maybe they’ll be links of love for others. I tried to note the ones where the guys were particularly hot.
Jake calls itself the world’s largest gay professional community. It’s very British. The company reports almost 30,000 members sending two million messages to each other over the past year and attending exclusive real world events together. Unlike others that discourage independent commercial activity, this site encourages users to advertise their own businesses and directly monetize their involvement with the site.
There’s a professional but stylish look and feel to Jake. Users are encouraged to use their real names and free accounts offer only two photos – one for yourself and one for your company’s logo for example.
Paid accounts are £10 per month. Paid members can access the dating section of the site, get more storage in their internal mailboxes, get priority invitations to real world events and bring guests, gain access to “business briefings” and a number of other things.
ManJam is probably the most widely discussed of all of these social networking sites. It calls itself “a unique social network” but in fact it’s just one of many similarly branded copycat sites from JuxMedia Ltd. ManJam offers listings for rooms and houses for rent or to live in rent-free. There are listings from all around the world. There are job and business listings, many of which are in the Middle East. There are personal profile listings with text and video comments enabled for members. Free membership gets users access to rental listing details, IM, video and audio messaging. There is also a mobile component to ManJam. Profiles on this site support transgendered identities.
Premium members get entries in any of the categories moved up to the top of their respective listings. Paid accounts are $20 per month, $42 per quarter or $90 per year. This site looks solid enough and usability is decent, though I did get one 404. It doesn’t have the upper class affects of Jake.com but ManJam is hardly for low baggers either. If hot unclothed chests are what you are looking for then ManJam may be where you want to go.
Lovetastic is explicitely not for men looking to hook up with hunks of burning love. “Finally, gay personals that treat you like a person,” the site says. Lovetastic says its goal is to bring together husbands. It used to be called Scene404 and the old landing page is pretty cute, in a dorky kind of way.
Free account holders can post profiles, browse the site and receive messages. Paid accounts, starting at $6 per month, enable users to send messages and chat.
Lovetastic’s interface is the cleanest, simplest and easiest on the eyes of any of these sites. In some ways it’s got more class than any of them. There are randomly generated interview questions for profiles and nude or shirtless pictures are prohibited. The site is ad free. If this is the site for you, you’ll likely know as soon as you visit it.
Connexion is LGBT online networking with a .org suffix. In addition to dating and events organizing the site focuses on low level political activity and news. There’s an RSS feed for news from the site. The site is a little awkward but not highly sexualized. Transgendered identity is supported on this site but not gender queer identities outside of those based on the Male/Female binary.
There aren’t paid memberships available for this nonprofit site but there are a handful of very unobtrusive ads. If you’re looking for news and political discussion in your LGBT social networking check out Connexion.
OutEverywhere is a paid service for men and women in select countries around the world. It is very text intensive, site navigation is unbearable. This site has an emphasis on promoting real world events and venues. I couldn’t handle looking at it very much but there is a tag cloud if you scroll way down on the front page! Memberships are £19.95 for 6 months with a 28 free trial period.
DList looks like it was designed by someone from Gawker – in fact I’m sure it was. It’s a pretty straightforward social networking site with a good feature set. User blogs, topical site blogs to read, a music player on profile pages. It’s ad supported without premium accounts.
Without seeing more of what the community is like on DList, I imagine this site will be succeed if it can keep its costs down. It’s got all the basics taken care of and is attractive.
The site that inspired this post, BigJock, will launch its full featured version on early next month. The version that’s already up looks very nice though. It will include all the basics plus a Hot or Not picture rating component. The site will be free and ad supported. You can sign up now for an account and enter to win an iPod. BigJock has a long way to go before it can compete with the heavyweights above, but anything is possible and there are clearly niche approaches underway throughout the gay male social networking market. And that monkey logo is not to be missed.