OPW INTERVIEW -- Apr 18 -- Nielsen Online, comScore and Hitwise are kind enough to give us the official industry rankings each month. On occasion we interview their analysts. Alex Burmaster is the internet dating and social networking specialist for Nielsen Online. Here's the latest news and analysis from him on the market for dating and SNS. - Mark Brooks
How is the growth of the social networking industry effecting the online dating industry?
Alex Burmaster: The growth of SNing in has certainly impacted the online dating industry in the UK. Networking with friends, and friends of friends, has certainly stolen some of online dating's thunder. The sector has pretty much been declining each month over the last year. In the UK it is actually now at a level that it was back at June 2005.
Interestingly, this is not the case in the US. The personals and SNing sectors actually seem to follow the same pattern of fall/growth.
Have the top 3 dating sites extended their lead over the last couple of years?
Alex Burmaster: No, in contrast, the differences between the leading sites in terms of popularity are closer than they were a year ago – both in the EU and the US.
Do you see the market fragmenting, or consolidating?
Alex Burmaster: This is very difficult to predict and one could argue for a case both ways. Volume is the key to the success of online dating so one would think consolidation is the way to go. However, niche's are on the way back in many sectors – particularly social networking, so perhaps fragmentation will be the name of the game
Who are showing the strongest growth here and in Europe?
Alex Burmaster: Over the last year (Feb 07 – Feb 08) these are the strongest growing personals sites in the US…
…and in Europe
The four sites with no growth figure means they didn't show up amongst the most popular sites in EU in Feb 07 so their growth must have been good!!
How many people visited dating sites in the USA, and the countries that you cover in the EU, last month?
US = 25.8 million
DE = 5.6 million
FR = 4.7 million
UK = 3.6 million
IT = 2.7 million
ES = 2.3 million
For Social Networking Watch?
How are the major social networks in the USA, growing in the International markets?
Who are the standouts?
What social networks are showing the strongest growth potential in the EU and USA?
Alex Burmaster: We think the greatest growth potential will be niche's around a particular area of interest e.g. business (LinkedIn) music (Imeem) travel (WAYN) etc
Are niche networks undermining the larger networks?
Alex Burmaster: We are seeing a plateauing of the larger networks, which is to be expected as they hit critical mass, and we expect the niche's to grow, although they aren't necessarily the cause of the plateauing.
How many people visited social networks in the USA, and the coutries that you cover in the EU, last month?
Member communities category (social networks & blogging)
US = 104 million
UK = 18.9 million
FR = 17.6 million
IT = 15.1 million
DE = 14.6 million
ES = 11.7 million