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They put all their money on one variable: looks,” said e Harmony founder Neil Clark Warren, a grandfather of nine who’s been married for 56 years. It’s also become increasingly addictive: The average user checked the app 11 times a day, seven minutes at a time, the firm said in 2013. It is one of several dating sites in Inter Active Corp., the monolithic New York media conglomerate, which also owns Match.com, OKCupid and a heap of shallower dating pools, including Gen XPeople Meet.com, Divorced People and Little People Match alone has more than 2 million daters across North America, a third of whom are over the age of 50.
Tinder, America’s fast-growing online-dating juggernaut, last week unveiled its first big branding partnership aimed at its core audience of millennial fling-seekers: a neon-drenched video-ad campaign hyping Bud Light’s mega-keg party, “Whatever, USA.” Meanwhile, over at Tinder’s less-youthful rival e Harmony, a recent ad saw its 80-year-old founder counseling a single woman besieged by bridesmaid’s invitations to take some time (and, of course, the site’s 200-question compatibility quiz) to find that special someone: “Beth, do you want fast or forever?
” Both companies are dominant forces in America’s $2.2 billion online-dating industry, which in the last few years has quickly become a bedrock of the American love life.
But Tinder, with its youthful grip on mobile dating, is increasingly becoming one of the firm’s hottest commodities: A standalone Tinder would be worth about $1.6 billion, analysts from JMP Securities said last week, who added that Tinder Plus could bring the firm more than $121 million in subscriptions next year.
“Where we’re headed in the overall dating world is a much more visual, faster, ‘gamification’ of dating, versus the profile matching of places like e Harmony,” said Kerry Rice, a senior analyst at Needham & Co.
When Tinder last month rolled out its Tinder Plus upgrade, the service said it would charge singles over the age of 30 twice as much for the premium service, about $20 a month.
But e Harmony has doubled down on its outreach to older, love-serious singles, preaching anew its “29 dimensions of compatibility” that they say have led to more than a million marriages nationwide.
“Maybe it’s a gimmick, but it’s something that’s fun, that’s enjoyable, that doesn’t have that sort of weight that the former profile-focused matching sites had.” Like many Web startups, Tinder (motto: “It’s like real life, but better.”) has struggled to make money off its swelling audience.
Its first big ad campaign, with Bud Light, was perhaps emblematic of what it can offer millennial-aimed companies: It will allow, as Tinder’s vice president of advertising Brian Norgard told Techcrunch, the dating app to “give that data back to our brands in a really valuable way.” But Tinder’s Plus pricing has also led to blowback for what skeptics called the service’s ageist ways: “I’m not desperate enough to keep using Tinder now that I know it considers me a dried up old hag,” wrote Dani Burlison, a 41-year-old single mother, in .
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“The young ‘uns can have it.” The company defended the pricing structure as aimed at accommodating younger “budget-constrained” daters, but analysts have questioned just how many singles will pay up to find an online match.