Hey there, it’s Barbie. A sorority sister of mine from college recently contacted me (I plead the 5th as to how long ago I was in college!) with an idea about starting an online dating business. She is a serial entrepreneur, and several of her small businesses have done quite well. She is pretty much vanilla, but she is intrigued and is always asking details about the parties thrown by our “lifestyle” club. I’ve told her to find a date and come to one to see for herself, but she replied not in a million years. She’s been toying with the idea of starting an online dating business, and wants to find a focused niche to serve as opposed to competing with the general audience massive sites which now dominate this market. She’s asking me if there is any need for a “dating” site which hooks up open minded sex-positive couples, and I indicated that many already exist. Some of these niche sites appear to be quite sleazy, while others seem to be on the up and up.
This led us to have a more detailed conversation about the economics of an online dating business. How do they make money? Claire (my friend) indicated that maybe Tom (my husband) and I would like to invest in a new online dating business geared towards like-minded couples, and knowing Tom I knew I better have the cold hard numbers in hand before I even broached the subject. It seems that an online dating business can make money either through membership fees or advertising (or both). Membership fees are a difficult route seeing that everyone assumes everything on the Internet is free. Some sites address this by providing a free membership, but you must pay in order to contact someone. Other sites rely upon advertising and utilize the online dating business the same way as any other traffic source. Creating such a site does not appear to be overly expensive, but an effective marketing campaign can cost quite a bit. I’m still working through the numbers with Claire and am not ready to approach Tom yet with this idea, but when I do I’ll be sure to post his response.