Swipe left: why online dating sites are proving no match for Tinder

  • June 18, 2015
  • Holly Bagge
Swipe left: why online dating sites are proving no match for Tinder

Mobile dating app, Tinder, famous for right vs. left swipes, bad dates, good dates, the odd marriage proposal and sore thumbs has taken the world by storm since it launched three years ago. Data analysis shows former popular US dating sites are on the decline as Tinder’s popularity soars, and it appears we’re seeing a similar trend here in New Zealand. 

The app, described by a Bloomberg Business writer as a “pathologically addictive flirting-dating-hookup app” has revolutionised the online dating scene since its launch in the US market officially in 2012 after a less publicised initial release in 2007.

This graph by 7Park Data shows the percentage of online dating site sessions vs. Tinder’s mobile app sessions, and Tinder has taken over. In just 200 days its sessions skyrocketed while the online sites started plummeting, showing a clear preference for the app.  

Nielsen data on the monthly audience numbers of New Zealand dating sites shows a similar trend, but over a longer period of time. The app launched here in August 2013, and since its release the top three New Zealand dating sites: NZDating, FindSomeone and Zoosk haven’t been doing so well. While there are peaks and troughs of audience hits, ultimately all three of the sites have declined in visitor numbers since Tinder came on the scene about two years ago. FindSomeone experienced a particularly severe drop from June 2014. In recent times its monthly audience has also almost halved since August 2013 while Zoosk’s has dropped to less than half. NZDating visitor numbers have also dwindled but it has managed to maintain more consistency than its counterparts, dropping to no fewer than 56,000 visitor numbers.

And online dating sites aren’t the only industry that’s suffering. According to Stuff the sex industry is also taking a blow, with prostitutes noticing a shortage of clients as mobile dating apps like Tinder have gained popularity.

StopPress has tried to contact Tinder for comparison but is yet to hear back about its New Zealand user numbers. Tinder’s communications director Rosette Pambakian told The Wireless last year more than five percent of New Zealand’s population is using Tinder, which is the fastest growing dating app in the world: “Globally, we’re doing over 800 million profile ratings per day, and making over 10 million new matches per day.”

The Wireless also reported the average user checks the app 11 times a day, for seven minutes at a time.

Almost half of the revenue in dating services is shared among three companies, the Herald reported, referencing IBISWorld. “IAC [InterActiveCorp] is the leader with a 27 percent market share, followed by EHarmony with 14 percent and Zoosk with 5.1 percent. Dating apps attracted $64.8 million in venture capital during 2014, according to CB Insights, and are racing to amass members and edge out competitors.”

"One of the most difficult things in this industry is developing a user base," said Jeremy Edwards, an analyst at IBISWorld. "For the first five to 10 years of developing a lot of companies will focus on marketing efforts and don't really try to turn a profit."

And why is Tinder so successful? Spark Digital thought leader for digital transformation David Reiss has a few ideas. He says one of the key differences between Tinder and the normal dating sites is that it provides instant gratification – and gamification.

“You just sign on with Facebook and don’t need to fill out any lengthy online dating profile,” he says. “The financial banking of IAC means that Tinder didn’t have to monetise the service for the first few years. This meant a great, free user experience (no ads initially) and made it very easy for people to just download and try it out.”

Bloomberg Business says the app was born in a startup lab controlled by IAC Barry Diller’s portfolio of digital companies, which now has a dominant equity stake. “Venture capital firms that would otherwise have bid up funding rounds have approached Tinder and struck out. From an investor’s standpoint, the hottest property in the hookup industry is wearing a chastity belt.”

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