Turns out dating websites are pretty easy to game, especially if you know computers. Can dating stocks survive?
Online dating has been a huge growth industry, fueling speculation among investors about whether it will ever become a source of value and profits.
The problem is, online dating is still pretty weird and a little creepy. Why would you want to put the most personal part of your life on the internet where it can be perused by strangers? Then again, wouldn't you have said the same thing about putting your credit card info on the internet before businesses like PayPal (EBAY) existed?
Now it seems like dating sites come in every shape and size. There are those for the chaste and virtuous (ChristianMingle and Kwink), and those for the more, er, explicit (Tinder, Down). There are even websites like Ashley Madison, an online dating site for married people looking to cheat.
Specialization has helped the industry grow more rapidly: there are now about 41,250,000 people in the country who've tried a dating site. But as the online marketplace for date-finding has grown more mainstream, new users are finding ways to game the system.
Chris McKinlay, an applied mathematician who was having a hard time finding suitable dates on OkCupid, a dating site targeted at younger, urban singles, presents an interesting case. A popular article in Wired magazine explains how McKinlay hacked OkCupid's algorithm by writing code to help him sort through women's profiles automatically. After some initial setbacks, McKinlay's hacked profiles started getting over 400 visits per day.
Not all the people gaming dating sites are doing so with that level of ingenuity. As more people flock to popular matchmaking portals, some of them inflate their stats or lie outright. In China and Korea, which have demographic problems stemming from decades of disasterous social planning policies, websites have started adding features that upload things like diplomas and pay-stubs to online profiles to combat profile inflation.
We built a list of some of the publicly traded companies that run dating websites. Many of them, like IAC Interactive (IACI) which runs Match.com and OkCupid, own several brands. Is online dating simply a hyped-up trend or just one more aspect of our lives that's rocketing into cyber space?
Use the list below to begin your analysis and let us know what you think in the comments.
Click on the interactive chart to view data over time.
1.XO Group Inc. (XOXO, Earnings, Analysts, Financials):Provides multiplatform media services to the wedding, newlywed, and pregnancy markets in the United States. Market cap at $305.45M, most recent closing price at $12.26.
Online dating brands include: Greatboyfriends.com
Online dating brands include: Match.com, OkCupid, Chemistry.com
Online dating brands include: JDate.com, ChristianMingle.com
4.Jiayuan.com International Ltd. (DATE, Earnings, Analysts, Financials):Operates an online dating platform in the People's Republic of China. Market cap at $195.14M, most recent closing price at $6.50.
(List compiled by James Dennin. Monthly returns sourced from Zacks Investment Research, all other data sourced from Finviz.)
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