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Wait, how much per swipe? Dating apps flirt with premium subscriptions.

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 30, 2023
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Grindr is among the apps that have started offering premium weekly memberships. Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images

Wait, how much per swipe? Dating apps flirt with premium subscriptions.

Meghan McCarty Carino Aug 30, 2023
Heard on:
Grindr is among the apps that have started offering premium weekly memberships. Chris Delmas/AFP via Getty Images
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Some major dating apps are betting you can put a price on true love — and a pretty high one at that.

Tinder, Bumble and other apps are developing new premium subscription services that would, in the case of Tinder, cost up to $500 a month per user. At the same time, many apps are rolling out lower-cost discount options as they attempt to rake in more dollars from subscribers.

This segmentation of the dating business follows a pattern we’ve seen play out across the internet service economy.

Joining a dating app is kinda starting to feel like buying a ticket from a discount airline. You want no frills? Sure. You want extra chatting privileges or unlimited likes? That’ll cost you.

“When you pay, you’re going to do less work and find more dates — that’s what we’re trying to engineer,” said Mark Brooks, who has been a consultant in the dating app world from the beginning.

“Back then, it was all free,” he said. “It was [venture capital]-funded, it was a land grab — an entirely new industry.”

Like ride-hailing or streaming video, dating apps have been chasing user growth. But that strategy is no longer working, according to Tom Grant, the vice president of research at Apptopia.

“When we’re looking at dating apps as a group, they’re not adding new users anymore,” he said. “So if you can’t really add new users, you want to sort of optimize the ones that you’ve had.”

And users of dating apps could be ripe for optimization. “The swipe feature, the gamification, definitely hooks people,” said Kathryn Coduto, a communications professor at Boston University who studies dating app users.

She said users are often overly optimistic about, well, just how long they’ll be users. “And so I think for those people, the initial investment probably feels like, ‘Well, this will pay off — maybe in no time. It’ll be worth it.'”

Many apps, like Grindr, have started offering premium weekly memberships. It’s a lower-cost way to upgrade, said AJ Balance, Grindr’s chief product officer.

“You can try it out, you can experiment, you get access to all of the same features as in our premium extra tier for a week,” he said.

Only about a third of those who use dating apps report paying for them, said Colleen McClain at the Pew Research Center.

“This is relatively more common among older users,” she said. “It’s also more common among people who are earning more money than people who are earning less.”

Paying is also more common, McClain added, among people who say they met their partner on an app.

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