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Email is not a perfect match for dating sites

Mitchell Hartman Nov 9, 2015
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The Match Group — which includes under its brand umbrella the online dating sites and apps Match.com, Tinder, and OkCupid — is going public.

The subsidiary of IAC/InterActive Corp., controlled by Barry Diller, announced it plans to sell 33.3 million shares of Match Group to investors at $12 to $14 per share. The company could raise $500 million or more through the IPO, which would value Match’s equity at more than $3 billion. It will trade on Nasdaq with the ticker MTCH.

Meanwhile, in its SEC filing in October about the planned IPO under the heading ‘Risk Factors,’ the company wrote this: “Communicating with our users via email is critical to our success, and any erosion in our ability to communicate in this fashion that is not sufficiently replaced by other means could adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations. As consumer habits evolve in the era of smart phones and messaging/social networking apps, usage of email, particularly among our younger users, has declined.”

The online dating market is potentially lucrative. Aaron Smith, a researcher on internet behavior at the Pew Research Center, said participation in online dating sites doubled from 2009 to 2013, according to a recent Pew report

“About one out of five people in their mid-20s to mid-40s say they use online dating,” Smith said, including nearly 40 percent of people who described themselves as currently single and looking.

But Match Group’s SEC disclosure shows that the company’s dependence on email marketing to current and potential customers could pose a risk. The dating sites depend heavily on email to tell users about potential dates and mates, and also to market money-making features and upgrades.

“The younger generation has moved off of email in the same way they’ve moved off of phone calls,” said media consultant Jack Myers, author of “Hooked Up: A New Generation’s Surprising Take on Sex, Politics and Saving the World.” “They text, use Instagram, Snapchat. Their social-media use has shifted completely, and it’s unlikely it’ll ever go back.”

Bill Carter at youth-marketing firm Fuse said that to be successful with younger customers, online dating sites will have to reach out to customers where they conduct their social life online. And that’s most likely to be a messaging platform or app.

For instance, Carter said, a site could use geolocation and send a direct message to a customer, saying: “Right now, you have three people who have looked at your profile within five miles of you. Click on one of their profiles and connect.”

Carter said young people want marketing communication that’s specific and useful to them — whatever the social-media platform. He said brands will have to use many of them simultaneously — including Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter, traditional email and others — to reach them.

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