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Editorial: Spark Networks Misses Golden Opportunity with Relationships.com
by Joe Tracy, Publisher of Online Dating Magazine

 

(March 2006) I want to thank Dr. James Houran for his excellent guest editorial last month that did an awesome job of better "defining" online dating. It's one of the best articles/editorials on online dating that I've ever read.

In one of my recent "Inside the Online Dating Industry" columns, I discussed the Five Different Types of Online Dating Services that exist today. One of those is "relationship services". These are services for people who are either marriage-minded or very serious about finding a relationship. There are currently three services that fit into this category - eHarmony.com, Chemistry.com, and the new Matchmaker.

 

Matchmaker wasn't always a relationship service. Prior to last month, it was a regular online dating service like Match.com, Yahoo! Personals, LavaLife, and Date.com.

So what happened to change that? Date.com acquired Matchmaker and decided to turn it into a relationship service to get its feet wet in that marketplace. It was a smart idea and the same idea Match.com had when it opened up Chemistry.com.

This backstory brings us to the topic of this month's editorial about Spark Networks and its Relationships.com service.

Spark Networks (a company which runs several online dating services, but no relationship services) has owned the domain name Relationships.com for awhile. Prior to this month, Relationships.com was a generic online dating service powered by one of Spark Networks' other services, American Singles (see our review of American Singles here).

This month, Spark Networks moved one of its religious online dating services - ChristianMingle - to Relationships.com where the name would also change to Relationships.com (see news story here). The generic online dating service that was powered by American Singles simply ceased to exits.

In this single move, Spark Networks made two vital errors:

1) It completely rebranded its ChristianMingle service, which already had good branding as a Christian dating service. You can read my Inside the Online Dating Industry column about branding here.

2) Spark Networks completely missed the opportunity to enter the relationship services market with a URL that is perfect for a relationship service - Relationships.com! That leaves Spark Networks out of one of this competitive and growing marketplace.

It may surprise readers to know that many online dating services are owned by one company (i.e., Spark Networks runs 26 services, InterActiveCorp runs three services, etc.). And some of these companies are publicly traded, making it important for them to continue growth and strong competition within the industry. Relationship services are now the big growth area as companies seek ways to overcome the continued threat and dominance of eHarmony.com in this category. In this case, Spark Networks completely missed a golden opportunity.

And speaking of golden opportunities, my challenge to the online dating industry (from my January editorial) still stands. We want to see action taken to improve customer service and will prominently feature services that begin to do more to satisfy customers.

Wishing you a rewarding Spring,

Joe Tracy
jtracy@onlinedatingmagazine.com



>
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