Written by Ken Yarmosh, a Read/WriteWeb Guest Blogger
On average, I hear a Match.com commercial on the radio about once a day. In referring to their user base, their catch phrase goes something like, "there are over 15 million reasons to use Match.com." Well, they may want to re-think this selling point because MySpace has over 90 million potential reasons to use their site.
No, MySpace is not an official dating site but it often unofficially acts as one (MySpace does have a craigslist like "Personals" under its Classified section that is quite classless). There are plenty of MySpace relationships - I know because I've seen them firsthand. MySpace has become more than just "a place for friends".
The Five Reasons
There are five reasons why I'd consider MySpace the almost premier dating site. It has nothing to do with Dr. Phil, 29 Dimensions of Compatibility, or doing fun activities together (more on that later)...so, here we go:
1. It's Mega Popular
There are just over 90 million people on MySpace. And it's still growing, supposedly at a rate of 250,000 new users per day. In the world of dating sites, people are currency. You can have a stellar dating platform but without a network of daters behind it, the technical mumbo jumbo doesn't matter. The Field of Dreams mentality does not apply... if you build it, they won't necessarily come.
2. It's Free
The price of dating today is not cheap. No matter what dating site you plan on joining, bring some plastic with you. At prices ranging from $7.99 (MatchActivity) to $59.95 (eHarmony's One Month Plan) per month, you've got to be prepared to invest money just to try and meet that special someone. Although to be fair, MatchActivity actually doesn't charge users for most features on the site - the $7.99 is for its premium membership.
Making any financial investment doesn't add up when MySpacers can browse profiles for free. With what seems like endless connections of the 90 million plus MySpace network, interested daters get more than their money's worth.
3. It's Low Pressure
People who meet in a bar are in a relatively low pressure environment. They might have gone with the hope or intent to meet someone and at the same time, they could easily have as much fun just talking with their friends. That's very different than say a blind date or a night at a speed dating event, where motives are a bit more obvious.
MySpace presents a low pressure bar-like atmosphere. It's not a Match.com I-want-to-date-someone-now place - "it's a place for friends", but it may also double as a way to meet significant others.
4. It's Very Transparent
Someone once told me that they answer the e-mails of those they know first. Those that they know they trust. MySpace has a system of trust built into it. Those on your "Friends" list are associated with you. You know them in some way and have approved them as your "Friend".
Engage.com, which just received $5 million funding, takes advantage of trust in their dating system. "Matchmakers" have to pitch daters to other singles. That sort of trust is implicit in MySpace. If I were to receive a message from a girl I did not know, I would be more likely to respond to her if she was somehow connected to one of my Friends.
Thus, the network of MySpace brings a tremendous amount of transparency with it. Not only can I read a person's profile on MySpace, I can also see all the comments of their Friends. If I really want to learn more about them, chances are they've left comments on the profiles of their Top Friends. In the end I can read what they say about themselves, what others are saying to them, and what they are saying to others. That doesn't occur on normal dating sites.
5. It's Fun
MySpacers spend countless hours browsing through profiles and leaving comments on their Friends' site. Unlike traditional dating sites, MySpace is much more social, much more engaging. Considering the customization and relative freedom available to personalize profiles, it's a more fun way for people to express themselves while connecting with others.
So with all of these points in MySpace's favor, why are they the almost premier dating site? You might not like the answer, but I think that's actually a very valuable title to hold. Making it a true dating site would damage its chemistry. It would make it more like the "speed dating" environment and so just like every other dating site.
Still, MySpace can foster a better dating scene - they just need to be much more subtle and creative in doing so. They can introduce features like those of MatchActivity, which allow users to do "activity based" dating. While MatchActivity suffers from a terribly small number of users (e.g., I can't find anyone within 50 miles of the Washington D.C. area), MySpace could leverage such a tool with its widely dispersed yet huge user base.
Last year, online dating subscription revenues generated $516 million. If they are smart, MySpace will pay much more attention to the dating element of the site. They already have "the data" - now they just need to do something with it.