Free Dating Sites Give Paid Sites A Run For Their Money

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This post was written by guest contributor Mark Brooks, an analyst/consultant whose blog Online Personals Watch summarizes the daily internet dating industry news.

Earlier this week InterActive Corporation (IAC), which owns and operates popular paid dating sites Match.com and Chemistry.com, launched a completely free dating site called DownToEarth.com (you can check out an ad for the recently launched site here). The somewhat counterintuitive move is IAC/Match.com’s answer to Plentyoffish.com, a popular free dating site that was long run by one man out of his apartment (he now has an office and a small team).

DowntoEarth.com was started by Jacob Solotaroff who spent a year as the Director of Product Management and Member Integrity at Match. Now he runs the site out of Dallas, where Match is also based. Apparently IAC believes if someone is going to put Match out of business, it might as well be Match.

The most interesting feature on the new site is the RealRatings user ratings system for ranking the accuracy of people’s profiles against real life. Users who post inaccurate photographs and profiles of themselves are ratted out by other users who have been on a date with them. Users can grade the accuracy of profiles on a scale of 1 star to 5 stars once they’ve been on a face to face date. 1 star means “not even close” and 5 stars mean “true to life.” Could this be the end of white lies on dating profiles?

Here’s a look at how some of the free competition DowntoEarth will be facing off with in the USA, UK, Australia and Canada.

The top free dating sites in the USA are currently:

#1 Plentyoffish (#2 overall in the internet dating category in Dec ’09, #2 in May ’09)
#2 Adam4Adam (#5 overall in Dec, #6 in May)
#3 Date Hookup (#6 overall in Dec, #7 in May)
#4 OKCupid (#12 overall in Dec, #14 in May)
#5 Mingle2 (#13 overall in Dec, not in top 100 in May)
#6 MatchDoctor (#32 overall in Dec, #33 in May)
#7 WebDate (#33 overall in Dec, #22 in May)
#8 FriendsReunitedDating.co.uk (#41 in Dec, not in top 100 in May)
#9 Woome (#46 in Dec, #79 in May)
#10 Connecting Singles (#53 in Dec, #55 in May)

And in the UK the top free dating sites are:

#1 Plentyoffish (#1 overall in Dec, #1 in May)
#2 Person (#2 overall in Dec, #13 in May)
#3 FriendsReunitedDating.co.uk (#8 overall in Dec, #12 in May)
#4 Smooch (#9 overall in Dec, #15 in May)
#5 Freedating.co.uk (#14 overall in Dec, #16 in May)
#6 ProfilePic (#27 overall in Dec, #68 in May)
#7 Flirtomatic (#29 overall in Dec, #36 in May)
#8 OKCupid (#31 overall in Dec, #32 in May)
#9 Speeddate (#44 overall in Dec, #71 in May)
#10 Midsummers Eve (#53 overall in Dec, #43 in May)

And in Australia:

#1 Plentyoffish (#4 overall in Dec, #7 in May)
#2 Person (#7 overall in Dec, #6 in May)
#3 Matchfinder.com.au (#22 overall in Dec, #32 in May)
#4 Speeddate (#23 overall in Dec, #38 in May)
#5 OKCupid (#27 overall in Dec, #30 in May)

90% of the top free dating sites in the USA and UK moved up rankings from May to December 2008.

Data: May and December 2008, Hitwise Competitive Intelligence USA, UK and Australia rankings by market share of visits, which is the % of online traffic to the category.

And in Canada:

#1 Plentyoffish (#1 overall in Nov)
#2 Kijiji.ca Personals (#3 overall in Nov)
#3 Speeddate (#8 overall in Nov)

Data: November 2008, comScore Media Metrix Personals category for Canada.

Disclosure: Plentyoffish and Webdate are clients of Courtland Brooks, Mark Brooks consultancy.

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