Christian Mingle

Online Dating Company Spark Networks Is For Sale

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Online dating is about to get a major shakeup. And when I say major, I really mean major. Spark Networks, which owns popular dating sites like JDate and Christian Mingle, has put itself up for sale and has at least one prospective suitor.

The big news comes on the heels of the company unexpectedly postponing its annual shareholder meeting in June, two days before it was scheduled. The move allowed Spark Networks to put its focus on the potential deal and to sidestep a board battle with its largest shareholder, Osmium. Things have been tense lately with Osmium, a San Francisco hedge fund that has been pushing for board seats over concerns that Spark has been neglecting to allocate sufficient funds for JDate while over-spending on Christian Mingle.

Spark has spent $120 million in direct marketing on Christian Mingle since 2011, which has helped grow Christian Mingle’s subscribers by almost 700 percent since 2010. Revenue is also up, from $45 million in 2008 to $70 million in 2013, but along with those efforts came dramatically increased costs as a percentage of revenue.

Meanwhile JDate, the most famous and lucrative site in the Spark Networks arsenal, looks to be going through a rough patch. According to Osmium, the Jewish dating site posted revenue of $6.1 million in the first quarter – its lowest level since 2006. Jewish subscribers have also declined to  2006 levels.

All of this is coming at the same time as big-time changes for the Spark Networks board. When the delayed annual shareholder meeting finally took place, four of the company’s six sitting directors were nixed, including Chairman and CEO Greg Liberman. The shareholders instead picked four directors nominated by – surprise! – Osmium. One of the two Spark directors who was re-elected, Thomas Stockham, resigned not long afterwards.

“The new board is eager to work alongside Spark employees with a renewed sense of urgency, accountability and focus, in order to drive increased shareholder value,” said Osmium’s founder and new Spark director John Lewis to the New York Post.

As for what’s happening with the sale of Spark Networks, everyone involved is remaining tight-lipped for now. The name of the prospective buyer has yet to be revealed, but the New York Post notes that “the world of online dating companies is small and currently dominated by Barry Diller’s IAC, which owns popular dating sites Match.com, OKCupid and Tinder.”

How Do I Choose an Online Dating Site?

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Many singles have tried at least one online dating site. Some have found success right away while others get frustrated and wonder why they decided to try online dating in the first place. Unfortunately, many people don’t know all of the options available, or one dating site might work better for them than another.

There is a lot of competition among online dating sites, but most people flock to the few they know, like Match.com. But it’s important to first ask yourself before you sign up: what do I want out of my dating experience?

People date for different reasons, and the same goes for online dating. Not every member is interested in finding a long-term relationship. So it’s good to ask yourself if you just want to date and have fun, or if you’re looking to meet someone special and settle down. Your intention is an important part of your dating experience.

Next, you have to know yourself. Are you very shy? Are you more at ease on a date where you’re doing something together rather than sitting across the table from each other? Or are you really confident and slightly intimidating? Do you know what you want and you’re not afraid to say it?

People date differently – some go into it like a job interview, asking questions and checking boxes off of their “must-haves” list. People place importance on different things – like religious beliefs, career, location, or even how close you are with your family. Others are a little less choosy, and go from date to date unsure of what they want but recognizing that they aren’t meeting the “right one.”

This is why it’s important to ask yourself these questions. From there, you can try a few different dating sites to see what’s right for you.

If you’re looking for a serious relationship, then eHarmony or Chemistry are your best bet. They have a significant number of members to choose from, and you have to go through a pretty rigorous and time-consuming sign-up process before you can search through matches. So from the start, people on the site are a little more serious than your average online dater. But I would also suggest Christian Mingle or a niche dating site if you have particular beliefs that are most important to you when looking for a partner. Again: know yourself and what you want.

If you’re looking to dip your toe back in the dating pool after a long absence, but aren’t sure if you want a long-term relationship, then sites like Match and OkCupid are a little less intense than the relationship-focused sites. They also have a large subscriber base and so you can meet a variety of people. Keep your options open if you’re unsure. Date outside of your “type.”

I suggest trying two or three sites and seeing which format you like best. Most sites offer a free trial period so you can at least set up a profile and check matches. It’s worth the time to really look and see what’s right for you.

Spark Networks Releases Fourth Quarter 2014 Financials

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Spark Networks, Inc., the company behind many special-interest online personal sites including JDate.com, BlackSingles.com, and ChristianMingle.com, has reported financial results for the fourth quarter and full year ending on December 31, 2013.

"2013 marked our third consecutive year of growth as we continued to execute our long-term strategic plan," said Greg Liberman, Spark Networks' Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. "And, unlike the previous two years, in addition to delivering 12% revenue growth, we also demonstrated a meaningful 8% improvement in contribution for the year, punctuated by a 16% increase in Q4 contribution."

Highlights of 2013 for Spark Networks include:

  • Total revenue grew Y/Y for 12th consecutive quarter
  • Total contribution grew 16% Y/Y
  • Christian Networks revenue grew Y/Y for 13th consecutive quarter
  • Christian Networks ARPU grew Q/Q for first time since Q1 2013

Revenue in the fourth quarter of 2013 was $17.2 million, an increase of 6% compared to the $16.3 million earned the year before. Full year 2013 revenue was $69.4 million, a 12% increase compared to 2012. The Christian Networks segment was primarily responsible for that growth.

"Our dual engines – the Christian and Jewish Networks segments, anchored by ChristianMingle and JDate – once again drove our performance,” said Liberman. “In 2013, Christian Networks grew 27%, generated more than $40 million in revenue and constituted 58% of the company's revenue base. While impressive in a vacuum, that is even more notable given that Christian Networks generated less than $6 million and comprised just 14% of our revenue when we relaunched the business three years ago.”

Spark Networks clearly has another iconic brand on its hands with ChristianMingle, but it hasn’t all been good news for the company. Wall Street isn’t loving Spark nearly as much as consumers are.

Earlier this month, Spark dropped 19% to $4.66 – earning it the dubious distinction of being Wall Street's fifth-biggest percentage drop - after the company said 2014 could be a tough year for some of its online dating website. Revenue is up, losses are down, but Liberman found that many online dating newbies let their paid subscriptions lapse in the third and fourth quarters.

In the face of stiff competition from IAC/Interactive's Match.com and OkCupid, Spark Networks plans to switch up its strategy in 2014 by reining in advertising and marketing spending. "We're pivoting a little bit here and focusing on profitability,'' said Liberman. Hopefully the new strategy means a little less heartbreak for Spark Networks investors.

ChristianMingle & JDate Release The Second Annual ‘State Of Dating In America’ Report

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If the state of dating in America in 2014 was summed up in one word, it would be "open-minded."

ChristianMingle.com and JDate.com have teamed up for the second year in a row to bring you inside information on what it means to be single and dating in the United States in the 21st century. The second annual State Of Dating In America report explores the ever-evolving public opinion on sex, infidelity, gender roles and other controversial issues. It also delves into the ways mobile technology is affecting and changing societal norms of courtship and relationships.

"In today's modern world there are so many factors contributing to blurred lines and mixed messages when it comes to dating and relationships," says Rachel Sussman, a Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who partnered with ChristianMingle and JDate to analyze the findings of their study. "I see clients every day who are struggling with how to navigate muddled waters in a new or long-term relationship, and this study by ChristianMingle and JDate confirms these issues exist across the country."

The big news coming out of those muddled waters this year is that singles are becoming more and more open-minded when it comes to gender roles, dating expectations and infidelity. Singles have accepted that infidelity isn't always a black and white issue. Shades of gray are an inevitable part of being in a relationship:

  • 86% of men and 92% of women consider having sex repeatedly with another person to be cheating.
  • 82% of women and 56% of men believed sexting or online flirting is infidelity back in 2013. But this year the number of women who believe that flirtatious messages count as stepping out dropped significantly to 86%, while the number for men dropped slightly to 51%.
  • In 2014, 90% of women agree that passionately kissing someone else is cheating. In 2013, that number was 100%. Men's opinions reflected women's shifting views: 86% considered passionate kissing cheating in 2013, compared to 75% in 2014.
  • Cheating isn't always a dealbreaker. Nearly a quarter of singles say they would consider marrying someone who is unfaithful to them while dating.

Attitudes toward gender roles are also evolving in major ways. Fewer men believe that they should be the primary breadwinner in a relationship, and fewer men believe it's their duty to pick up the tab on a date. We are, apparently, increasingly confused about whether or not we're actually on a date or just hanging out with someone casually, but we're also increasingly open to the idea of dating online.

94% of respondents say online dating expands their dating pool. Two out of three singles know people who've met through online dating. And 85% of singles say they believe online dating is completely socially acceptable.

For more information on the dating sites which conducted the survey you can read our Christian Mingle review and our JDate review.

New Study Shows Confusion Among Young Daters About What is a Date

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Do you know when you're on a date and when you're just hanging out? If you're confused about the difference - you're not alone. It's getting harder and harder to tell for a lot of singles.

According to a new study by Christian Mingle and JDate, there is a lot of ambiguity. Their online survey of 2,647 singles of varying ages (18-59) shows that 69% of respondents are confused about whether an outing with someone they're interested in is a date or not.

Maybe the confusion comes in with the definition of a date. According to the data, only 22% agree that "if they ask me out, it's a date," whereas 24% think it's a "planned evening with a group of friends."

So why all the ambiguity? According to the study, technology might have something to do with it. Fifty-seven percent of 18- to 24-year-olds say texting has made it more difficult to determine whether an outing is an actual date. But among older daters, that isn't necessarily true. Only 36% of 35-44 year-olds think that texting has made it more difficult.

The ambiguity isn't gender-specific either - both men and women generally agree. Mostly, opinions vary by age. The younger the dater, the less likely he or she is certain whether or not it's a date.

"In today's modern world there are so many factors contributing to blurred lines and mixed messages when it comes to dating and relationships," says Rachel Sussman, Marriage and Family Therapist and Licensed Clinical Social Worker who analyzed the results of the study. "I see clients every day who are struggling with how to navigate muddled waters in a new or long-term relationship, and this study by ChristianMingle and JDate confirms these issues exist across the country."

Expectations for men to pay on a date seem to be declining, too. Only 69 percent of men say the man should foot the bill for a date (vs. last year's study of 78 percent). This might be part of the dating ambiguity issue, too, because if the outing isn't clearly defined, there's no need to offer to pay as a gesture of affection or chivalry.

While singles might not agree on what constitutes a date, they do overwhelmingly agree (by 85%) that online dating is a socially acceptable way to meet people. Also, two out of three know couples who have met through online dating sites. Ninety-four percent believe that online dating expands their dating pool.

While the definition of a date might be more and more ambiguous, it seems that online dating is gaining more and more acceptance as time goes on. We'll see what the results say next year.

Christian Mingle Dater Gets Catfished

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Christian Mingle, a popular niche dating sites for religiously inclined singles, learned that one of its members was swindled out of a substantial amount of money from another user of the site.

A 66 year-old divorcee from Santa Fe revealed that she had been emailing with a man through the site who wooed her with flowers, text messages and phone calls. Pretending to be a U.K. citizen named David Holmes who was working on a Scottish oil rig, authorities discovered the suitor was actually Nigerian. According to authorities involved with the case, he did not seem to have a noticeable Nigerian accent.

The Santa Fe woman wired money to Holmes in increments at first totaling $300,000. She contacted authorities after she sent her last check for $200,000 to a Turkish bank account. A hold was placed on the check, and soon after a man named Wisdom Onokpite turned up to withdraw the funds. He was arrested, and authorities assumed they had caught the scammer, but it turned out he was only an associate sent to collect the money. The suspect calling himself David Holmes is still at large.

The woman claimed she had given more than half a million dollars to Holmes to invest in a fictitious oil rig. Authorities confirm they were able to get some of the money back, but not all of it.

Deputy District Attorney Cherie Bourland warned that people need to be more careful on international online dating sites, especially older daters who seem to be the target of a majority of fraud cases.

"You get the love drug in you and you end up getting duped," Bourland said.

As for daters on Christian Mingle and other online dating sites, it's good to use caution and common sense when interacting with strangers. Following are some tips to avoid being catfished yourself:

Don't share personal information. Don't give out your last name, home or work address, or any other personal information to someone on an online dating site. Remember that you don't know each other, and the person behind the profile could be lying.

Don't share financial information. This is especially important, because typically online daters who become victims of fraud do this after they have had some communication and built up a sense of trust. But if an online dater asks you for money, remember: always say no, even if your suitor is wooing you with phone calls, flowers, or messages of love. If you haven't met in person, be especially careful of declarations of love.

Meet in a public place. Never meet an online date at your home, always meet in a public place. You don't know this person or his intentions, so don't take unnecessary risks. Also, let a friend know where you are. Be safe and have fun!