Thursday, February 16, 2012

Cupid on mark thanks to latest mobile apps

Cupid on mark thanks to latest mobile apps
By Brendan Lynch | Tuesday, February 14, 2012 | boston herald | Technology Coverage

If you’re still looking for a valentine, there are apps for that.

The $2 billion online dating industry is even hitting the bar scene as more and more younger users turn to mobile apps to connect with other singles.

“I was sitting at a bar next to two guys checking online dating sites on their phones,” Boston dating and relationship consultant Sara Sharnoff told the Herald. “There’s absolutely a shift, especially in Boston, where you have a lot of young people.”

Sharnoff said online dating is by far the biggest part of her business — helping people choose a site, write a profile and manage the process., a free, New York-based dating website that skews young and casual, launched its mobile app last year with a feature called Locals.

“It uses location to tell you who is close by and set you up,” said CEO Sam Yagan. “But it’s not just an app that alerts you when hot girls are around.”

Half of OKCupid’s users log in through the mobile app and about two-thirds of them use Locals, Yagan said. The app also has a feature called Broadcast, which Yagan described as “Twitter for dating.”

“You can say, ‘I’m going to watch the Celtics [team stats] game tonight wherever, and I’d love to have some company,’ ” he said. “It’s almost not even a date. It’s just, ‘Hey, let’s just hang out.’ ”

Industry research group IBISWorld estimates the U.S. online dating market at $1.9 billion, with more than 14,000 businesses generating $374 million in profit. InterActiveCorp, which owns giants and OKCupid, commands a 25.7 percent market share, while eHarmony users make up 15.6 percent of online daters.

Fast-rising mobile dating already comprises 15.8 percent of the total market.

“The online dating world is rapidly realizing that mobile is going to be a ‘first screen’ for them,” said Adam Towvim, vice president of Cambridge-based mobile ad firm Jumptap, who is speaking at iDate 2012, an industry conference in California in June.

Arvind Mishra, senior director of worldwide product management at eHarmony, said about 30 percent of new users are signing up through the mobile app.

Mishra said eHarmony’s users tend to value privacy, so the company focuses its design on conveying a methodical approach to online matchmaking rather than a casual experience.

“We are thinking about location and we probably will do it at some point in the future, but we need to do it in a way that makes sense for our users,” he said.

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