For a long time, dating sites and social networks have been two very different beasts, rarely co-mingling as users maintained two entirely separate online identities. But that’s starting to change. Zoosk, a social dating site, has largely passed under our radar until now, but it’s posting some serious stats: the service sees an average of 12 million unique users a month, and has a member base totaling over 40 million. Based on last month’s performance, the company says it has a $30 million run rate, and expects to close out this year with $18-$20 million in revenue.
Zoosk launched back in 2007, and has been showing some strong growth recently, particularly on social networks. Zoosk co-founders Alex Mehr and Shayan Zadeh say that the site differentiates itself from other dating sites like Match.com by tapping into your social graph. The site has a strong presence across social networks including Facebok, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, and Friendster, and users can also sign in through the site’s web portal at Zoosk.com. And if that’s not enough, you can reach Zoosk through a desktop AIR client and a mobile app. To help build your Zoosk profile, you can import information from whichever social network you’re using Zoosk on. You can also tie it together with services like Last.fm and Netflix, to give potential matches an idea of your music and movie taste.
The site itself has a friendly and not-overly-serious atmosphere. Mehr and Zadeh say that part of the site’s success has stemmed from the fact that many of its users are in the 25-35 year old demographic, with many members who aren’t neccesarily looking for a long-term serious relationship, which stands in contrast with more serious dating sites like eHarmony. In other words, a successful match on Zoosk may well result in a return visit from the user — a successful match on eHarmony might lead to that user getting hitched.
To generate revenue, Zoosk offers a premium subscription model for $25 a month (you pay less if you buy multiple months of a time), or you can purchase features using the site’s virtual currency. Dubbed “Zoosk coins”, these can be used to either buy Facebook-like virtual gifts, or to buy premium features a la carte, like the ability to see if someone has read a message you’ve sent them. While much of the site’s traffic comes from the social networks, the site’s homepage tends to monetize more effectively, with around 50% of revenue coming from each. The site also earns money through advertising.