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Swipe Right: How Marketers Changed Online Dating

Hal Conick

Online dating is used by approximately 48 million Americans. What role has marketing played in getting millions of people to forget the stigma and find their soulmate online?

Online dating isn’t perfect. No website has found the magic method of creating a love connection. Just ask Mark Brooks, who has worked in and around the industry for two decades. “This is a total virgin science,” Brooks quips with a restrained laugh from his deck in Malta. 

Brooks runs Courtland Brooks, an agency that provides strategy, marketing, business development, and media relations for companies in the online dating world. He’s worked with websites like PlentyofFish.com and Cupid.comand has seen the industry through multiple eras, from the early days of online personals to companies scrambling for mobile relevance.  

Competition has grown along with the size of the industry. Reports say there are anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 online dating platforms worldwide, all with their own unique claim or angle to attract users. Pew Research Center reports that while few users were online dating in 2005, 15% of all Americans have used online dating sites or apps at some point as of 2015. This equates to roughly 48 million people. Pew also recently reported that the share of 18-to-24-year-olds who use these platforms has nearly tripled from 10% in 2013 to 27% today. Even the boomers are getting in on the action, with online dating user share doubling from 6% in 2013 to 12% today. 

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Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at hconick@ama.org or on Twitter at @HalConick.