Jewish

Jdate, ChristianMingle, And Bumble Announce Expansions Abroad

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Singles in Europe and New Zealand just got a leg up in the romance game. Jdate, ChristianMingle, and Bumble - three of the biggest names in online dating - recently announced plans to expand their services abroad.

Spark Networks, parent company of Jdate and ChristianMingle, recently extended their services, languages, and local market support throughout Europe. Jdate is now available in German and Spanish, as well as English, Hebrew, and French. ChristianMingle is now available in French, Spanish, and German in addition to English. Both platforms will roll out Polish and Russian language support in the next few months.

Spark Networks attributes the expansions to user demand and says they are part of a broader initiative to further enable the global Jewish and Christian communities to try connect, communicate and find partners in their native language.

The US Dating Awards Honor The Best Of The Dating Industry In 2016

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US Dating Awards

Astute readers will note that there are still several months of 2016 left, nevertheless, the US Dating Awards have announced this year’s big winners.

Established in 2014 in the UK, the Dating Awards recognize both newcomers and established names in the field. This year marked the first US Awards show in New York City, where journalists, websites, events companies, and bloggers came together to celebrate 2016’s best achievements in Dating Technology, Marketing, Media, Customer Service, Expertise and Entrepreneurship.

The judging panel consisted of a variety of dating experts and industry professionals. Caroline Brealey, founding matchmaker of London dating agency Mutual Attraction, served as head judge. She was joined by Charly Lester, Founder and CEO of the UK Dating Awards, and Charreah Jackson, international coach and the Lifestyle and Relationships Editor for ESSENCE magazine, amongst others.

JDate And ChristianMingle Are Getting Major Makeovers

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Christian Mingle

Usually makeovers come with the New Year and the soon-to-be-forgotten resolutions, but Spark Networks is starting early. The company has given its two most recognized brands, JDate and ChristianMingle, a head-to-toe refresh for the end of 2015.

Both brands have been redesigned inside and out. In addition to sleek new appearances, the sites have been updated with improved back-end platforms, new mobile-optimized features and easier-to-use functionality.

This is all part of Spark Networks' year-long strategic vision for boosting profits and subscriber engagement. Despite its strong legacy in the online dating business, Spark Networks had stalled while the rest of the industry modernized. With the relaunch of its two core brands, the company hopes to reposition itself once again as a leader in the niche dating world.

JDate

JDate is the first of the two legacy brands to debut the results of its makeover. Some of the updates and new product offerings include:

  • A cleaner, more streamlined user experience that simplifies interactions
  • A new “daily matches” feature that presents a curated collection of matches tailored to each member
  • An improved user experience for iPad/tablet users
  • An expanded mobile presence and improved mobile capabilities
  • A redesigned inbox to make interactions between users even easier

ChristianMingle has not yet debuted its renovation, but look for it in the coming weeks. Not only will it incorporate many of the features from the new JDate platform, it will also reposition the site as a more open, contemporary and diverse community based on the Christian faith and values.

After a year of ups and downs, this could be the breakthrough Spark Networks has been looking for. The company revealed a drop in year-on-year revenue and a net income loss of $822,000 for the quarter when it shared its Q3 2015 financial results. On the plus side, subscriber growth was on the uptick for the first time since Q1 2013 and Spark's mobile presence has expanded significantly this year.

“At the beginning of this year we set an aggressive plan to rebuild our two key brands – JDate and ChristianMingle – to become relevant again to our customers and drive fundamental change in business performance,” said Michael Egan, Chief Executive Officer of Spark Networks.

“It has been an exciting and successful year with tremendous growth and development momentum. The changes and upgrades we are debuting today are the first step to strengthening our portfolio to become more nimble and innovative, as we build valuable products and services for our members.”

For more information on these 2 dating services you can read our reviews of JDate and Christian Mingle.

JDate and JSwipe and their Hot and Cold Relationship

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There’s no doubt about it: JDate is a big name in the world of online dating, and when it wants something, it will go to great lengths to get it. And recently, its parent company Spark Networks decided that it wanted popular dating app JSwipe, owned by Smooch Labs. The two companies struck a deal in late October, and now JSwipe is one of the dating properties of Spark Networks, along with dating sites Christian Mingle and Black Singles in addition to JDate.

JSwipe, which launched in April of 2014, has grown rapidly, with over 450,000 downloads worldwide and over 40 million messages between users. The dating app was definitely posing some competition to JDate, and attracting a younger user base who prefer apps to the traditional dating websites. This made the company an attractive target for Spark Networks, JDate’s owner.

In fact, JSwipe and JDate have had a tumultuous dating history, so to speak. Earlier this year, Forbes broke the story that JDate was suing JSwipe for copyright infringement because JSwipe was using the trademark “J” in the name of their app. In the lawsuit, JDate also claimed it owned the patent on software that “confidentially determines matches and notifies users of mutual matches in feelings and interests,” which would ultimately interfere with all dating apps using this technology (in other words, all dating apps).

JSwipe at first fought back, going to the press with the story of the lawsuit and calling out JDate for trying to shut the app down. JSwipe also started an IndieGoGo fundraising campaign to help them fight the lawsuit against JDate, assumingly because they didn’t have the funds to fight on their own. As it turns out, either the company ran out of money, or JDate put forth a really compelling offer, which Spark Networks said they would reveal later in the company’s 4th quarter financial statements.

The lawsuit has been dropped and Sparks Networks put out a press release, praising the new relationship between JDate and JSwipe. Michael Egan, Chief Executive Officer of Spark Networks, stated in the release, “We’re very excited to welcome the Smooch Labs team into Spark.  They’ve created a fantastic mobile application that helps young Jews meet and form meaningful relationships, and together with JDate, our leading Jewish focused dating platform, Spark is now able to significantly build on its mission to strengthen the Jewish community through dating and marriage.” David Yarus, founder of JSwipe had equally glowing statements about the union.

While JSwipe remains free to download right now, Sparks Networks has promised that new paid premium services will be rolled out in the near future. For more information on JDate you can read our review of JDate.

JDate sues JSwipe over Copyright Infringement

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Late last year, a lawsuit was discreetly filed by Spark’s popular niche dating website JDate against dating app JSwipe. According to Forbes who broke the story, JDate claimed that JSwipe was infringing on the company’s trademark “J” by using it in the name of their app.

JDate isn’t the only Jewish online dating website that caters to the Jewish community and uses the letter “J” in its offerings. There is also JCrush, JWed, JPeopleMeet, Jewish Café, and Jewcier to name a few. In fact, it seems difficult to name a niche dating app catering to the Jewish community without using the letter J. But there is more to the story, which potentially puts all online dating sites and apps in danger of patent infringement.

In the lawsuit, JDate also claims it owns the patent on software that “confidentially determines matches and notifies users of mutual matches in feelings and interests.” JSwipe is similar in its process to Tinder, which also notifies users when matches swipe right on their picture. This is in violation of JDate’s patent.

Why then has JDate not sued other websites or dating apps, since this is such a broad definition of matching that almost every dating app and website uses? Notifying users of potential matches is the bread and butter of online dating. Why not go after an app like Tinder?

The key might lie in the competition JSwipe presents, especially if it is gaining market share in the niche online dating space. According to the Forbes writer who broke the story, JSwipe’s founder David Yarus confidentially confessed the lawsuit to him, though he is forbidden from discussing details. Instead of accepting JDate’s acquisition offer (which he considered too low), he decided to fight the lawsuit rather than sell. (For all you fans of Silicon Valley on HBO, this sounds vaguely similar to Pied Piper’s plight as an up-and-comer in the tech world.)

But JDate might have a case against JSwipe. According to Forbe’s research into intellectual property law, the language used in JDate’s patent was registered in 1999, and it is broad – broad enough (as mentioned earlier) to cover most dating websites and apps on the market today – so they could essentially claim IP infringement over any other company in the space. According to analysts, this might be a move by JDate to acquire JSwipe for a steal. Chances are if they tried to sue Match or Tinder, those companies' lawyers would be able to fight and win. JSwipe is too small a player.

Using the letter “J” in a dating app or website is apparently less clear-cut in legal terms. JDate would have to find evidence that users confuse Jswipe with JDate, which means asking users to testify that they thought Jswipe was part of JDate, or somehow affiliated, which would be trickier and more time-consuming.

JSwipe is fighting back. They have set up a crowdfunding website and asked for Jewish lawyers to take them on pro bono. 

For more on the Spark Networks dating site, you can read our review of JDate.

Spark Networks Reports Third Quarter 2014 Financial Results

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Spark Networks, owner of many special-interest online personals sites including ChristianMingle.com, JDate.com, and BlackSingles.com, has reported financial results for the third quarter ending on September 30, 2014.

It was a time of major transitions for the company. The majority of the Board was removed in July. The new Board was primarily focused on right-sizing the corporate cost structure and improving marketing efficiency, two goals which were, according to Executive Chairman Michael McConnell, largely accomplished. “Improved marketing efficiency at ChristianMingle drove subscriber acquisition costs ('SAC') in September that were less than subscriber lifetime value ('LTV') for the first time since January 2012,” he reports.

On the numbers front, Spark Networks presents the following highlights:

  • Contribution of $9.0 million, highest since Q1 2009
  • Adjusted EBITDA of $2.5 million, highest since Q1 2010
  • Average paying subscribers of 257,679, a sequential decline of 6%
  • Revenue of $15.0 million, a decrease of 14% compared to the year-ago period and a 5% decrease compared to the prior quarter

As you can see, it's a mixed bag. The drop in revenue was primarily driven by a 14% decrease in average paying subscribers, reflecting a year-over-year 15% and 9% decline in average paying subscribers for the Christian and Jewish Networks segments, respectively.

On the up side, direct marketing expenses in the third quarter of 2014 were down 52% compared to the year-ago period and 24% compared to the prior quarter. Contribution in the third quarter of 2014 was $9.0 million, an increase of 90% compared to the year-ago period and a 14% increase compared to the prior quarter. In both cases, Christian Networks was the primary driver (improved marketing efficiency and a better mix within the paying subscriber base, to be more specific).

Looking forward, McConnell says the company's primary objective is to improve product functions and features across all platforms. A JDate iPhone app was recently approved and a ChristianMingle app should be on its way soon. Spark Networks is also looking to leverage its presence in Israel and outsource some other development activities in order to speed up product development.

"In summary,” says McConnell, “much has been accomplished in the last several months, but much work remains. The team has embraced our future with a sense of urgency and focus. We look forward to driving changes that create a terrific experience for our customers and support the core communities we serve."