Selective Singles Turn to Niche Web Sites to Find Love and Companionship

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New breed of thematic online dating services for single men and women pose advantages over generic, broad-appeal sites.

The interest in our niche site has dramatically increased as people recognize the inherent advantages of thematic dating sites, over broad-appeal sites,” says Chris Mattioli, president of Fitness Singles, an online dating service that only welcomes single women and men who prioritize health and fitness.

A recent report by JupiterResearch concludes that visits to online singles sites and personal ads declined by 33% over the year leading up to February 2005. This dissatisfaction could reflect a backlash against sites that appeal to the lowest common denominator in order to attract the greatest number of subscribers.

For example, typing "singles" into Google yields over 17 million results. But while broad-appeal services appear to lose favor, niche sites that target compatible mates with bull's-eye accuracy seem set to replace them in popularity. So much so that niche-dating directories are now popping up on the Web, adding momentum to the move from "broad" to "specific" by Internet savvy single men and women.

This migration appears to be driven by the recognition that the chance of finding the ideal match at a mass-appeal dating site is one in a million, literally. In contrast, niche sites offer the piece of mind of knowing that all potential matches shares a common bond, whether it be a given vocation, hobby, education-level or lifestyle.

"The interest in our niche site has dramatically increased as people recognize the inherent advantages of thematic dating sites, over broad-appeal sites,” says Chris Mattioli, president of Fitness Singles, an online dating service that only welcomes single women and men who prioritize health and fitness. "As soon as people hear the name, they immediately recognize that our focus is on physically-active single women and men. There is no mistaking that our members and visitors hope to increases their odds of meeting that one individual with the same active outlook on life as they have."

Fitness Singles, for one, carries niche matching one step further by allowing a choice of 79 different active lifestyle categories such as hiking, biking, running, surfing, yoga, and almost every other sport imaginable. The presumption is that narrowing the field increases the odds of finding the perfect match. It seems to work.

Researchers Jeff Gavin and Adrian Scott -- both professors at the University of Bath -- conducted a recent study of 229 single men and women between the ages of 18 and 65 who used a dating site, and found that about 94% of the respondents saw their online partner for a second time after the initial meeting. "This study shows that online dating can work for many people, leading to a successful meeting for almost everyone we surveyed," said Dr. Gavin. Could niche matching increase this percentage even higher?

“I've checked out a few of the other [online dating service] sites, and have met some people…but it's tough to find someone who is as into fitness as I am,” says Scott Thomas of St. Louis, who turned to Fitness Singles to find a mate. “I wanted to find someone who is active and will remain so after we get serious.”

It appears that as long as niche sites continue to offer carefully-focused online dating -- along with features like password-protected photo galleries, anonymous private mailboxes, and instant messaging, among others -- that next year's study by JupiterResearch will tap niche dating sites as the medium to bring relationship-seeking singles back to the Internet in increasing numbers.

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