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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Editorials > Niche Dating Sites

Editorial:
The Allure of Niche Dating Sites

by James Houran, Ph.D.

In this month's editorial, Dr. James Houran tackles the subject of niche dating services and what generates their appeal.

(September 2009) Many reporters have been interviewing me lately about the rise and popularity of niche dating sites. It’s also pretty common that Online Dating Magazine readers ask about the effectiveness of these sites. This high level of interest has motivated me to address the allure of niche dating sites in this month’s column.

 

A niche site is one that caters to a specialized market. With this definition it’s easy to understand that dating sites in general are niche to big social networking sites -- those mega communities like Facebook, MySpace and Linkedin. But dating sites can get even more specific. You see they can cater to either daters who want casual relationships or daters who seek committed relationships. Of course, we can go more niche than that and focus on daters who also have “a thing.”  Most people have “a thing,” though they might not fully realize or understand it. By “thing” I mean a particular need or want in a partner. It could be an attitude, worldview, sexual fetish or recreational activity. Most daters know these as “deal makers” or “deal breakers.” For some individuals, they insist on romancing only people with a specific political ideology; for other singles only a “green lifestyle” or dog or cat person will do. How many nice dating sites are there?  I’ve no firm number, since more pop up all the time. The diversity of niche dating sites is impressive. Just type in some string of adjectives into a search engine, along with the phrase “dating site” and you’ll be surprised at how often you’ll find a dating site that matches your description!  Just for fun, just now I searched for “short bald pet lovers dating site.”  Yahoo returned 201,000 hits.

There are at least five main benefits to niche dating sites:

  1. People with common agenda or motivation. Dating sites in general are about motivated singles looking for some type of romantic relationship. While many people use sites like MySpace and Facebook for prowling, it’s not the same as a community where everyone is there for a common purpose: dating.
  1. People known to fit your “deal makers/ deal breakers” scheme. Niche sites allow people to convey a serious interest or need without having to explain it to others who don’t share it. They also allow people to seek romance with others who already share something important in common; there’s a built-in foundation to grow a friendship and maybe even more.
  1. People like feeling part of a community. Having very strong opinions or keen interests can actually isolate people from the crowd. And we all know what it feels like to be excluded from a group. Thus, niche sites let people feel like big fish in a small pond. Everyone likes to feel part of something, and niche sites fulfill this to an extent.
  1. People like feeling part of the latest trends. Computer savvy individuals are often forward-thinkers who like to stay ahead of the curve and be first adopters of new trends. Niche sites are in many ways like an underground movement. They can feel hip, progressive and anti-establishment. It’s not surprising that many people dig that. At the very least, it can make you feel young and wild to be among the underground.
  1. People do well by casting a wide net and fishing different “crowds.Many people belong to more than one dating site and social networking site. As long as person pays proper attention to their accounts, this can be a wise move as it exposes a single to more different people than one site can alone. Therefore, niche dating sites are arguably most effective if they are used to augment to complement subscriptions to larger, more general dating sites. In this way, a person can be prepared to meet suitable prospects no matter where those prospects happen to be. After all, you never know where that special person is going to show up. All this said, it’s important to reiterate that a person only gets out of a dating site what they put into it. It takes good and recent photographs, a carefully written profile and consistent use to get good results.

The allure of niche sits is not difficult to understand, and many experts believe that niche sites will only gain in number and popularity. I doubt niche sites will ever kill off the large, general sites like Match.com, Yahoo Personals or PlentyofFish.com, because they fill several voids that these other sites can’t.

What niche sites do you like and would recommend? Email me your recommendations and stories today. I want to post follow-up articles about this topic, and your input will make our examination of niche sites much more personal and fun!


References:

1 Fisher, H. (2004). Why we love: The nature and chemistry of romantic love. New York:
Henry Hold and Company.

2 Fisher, H.E., Aron, A., & Brown, L. (2006). Romantic love: A mammalian brain system for mate choice. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, 361, 2173-2186. 

3 Francoeur, R.T. (1991). Becoming a sexual person, (2nd ed). New York: Macmillan
Publishing Company.

4 Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R.L. (1993). Historical and cross-cultural perspectives on passionate love and
sexual desire. Annual Review of Sex Research, 4, 67-98.

5 Lawrence, R.J. (1989). The poisoning of eros: Sexual values in conflict. New York: Augustine Moore
Press.

6 Money, J. (1985). The destroying angel: Sex, fitness & food in the legacy of degeneracy theory, Graham
Crackers, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes & American health history. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Press. 

7 Singer, I. (1987). The nature of love: Vol. 3. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 


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