Love and cash in the air for web dating sites

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DATINGDIRECT, the UK’s biggest online dating company, is expecting to see its profits more than triple this year as more people seek love online.

The firm expects up to 9,000 new clients a day to sign up on and around Valentine’s Day on Tuesday, the time when online dating sites see the highest daily increase in membership numbers.

Online dating sites in the UK experienced a 7 per cent rise in the number of visitors they attracted last year, slightly ahead of the 6 per cent rise in visitors for the internet as a whole.

About five million people used online dating sites such as Match.com, Loopylove.com, Gaydar.com and Yahoo!Personals in January, the peak month for dating sites, according to ComScore, the online research firm. This is about a third of the estimated number of single people in the UK.

The market is estimated to be worth about £60 million, with revenues gained from subscription fees.

Darren Richards, chief executive and co-founder of Dating Direct, said that the site’s membership had increased by 100 per cent a year for the past two years and that the signs were that there would be similar growth this year.

DatingDirect, which is privately owned by Mr Richards and his business partner, is considering a flotation, but not within the next 12 to 18 months.

Sales in the year to the end of last December were £10 million, a 67 per cent rise on a year before. In the same period profits rose to £1.5 million from breaking even a year before. In the year to December 2006, Dating Direct expects to make profits of £5 million.

Mr Richards said: “The UK market has seen a massive growth spurt in the last two or three years. Old-fashioned dating agencies used to have quite a stigma attached to them but the internet has changed all that.”

DatingDirect says that it gets 40 per cent of its new members as a result of recommendations from a friend or relative.

Mary Balfour, owner of four dating agencies, including Drawing Down the Moon and Only Lunch, said: “These days, unlike times gone by, there aren’t opportunities to meet single people. In the old days women also had to enter a relationship for economic survival. Now we go into relationships because of the emotional connection. We are much fussier.”

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