Spark Networks

Zoosk Breaks Up With 1/3 Of Staff In Tough Times

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A year after laying off 15% of its staff, Zoosk is ending things with another 40 employees. The break up will see the San Francisco-based dating platform part ways with 1/3 of the company.

Despite $61 million in funding, Zoosk has hit hard times. The old-school web dating app first hit it big building extensions for MySpace, Facebook, Hi5, and Bebo. Two years after launch, it reached 40 million registered users and 12 million active users. Bessemer Venture Partners, ATA, Crosslink, and more offered millions in funding. Other money came from selling subscriptions for premium features, like additional ways to contact dates.

Despite its early success, Zoosk has struggled in recent years. The company has found it difficult to adapt to the changing, increasingly mobile-focused times. Apps like Tinder, Hinge and Coffee Meets Bagel now dominate the market, edging out older dating services that haven't evolved to incorporate modern technology.

Zoosk has felt the sting severely. The company was forced to abandon its plans for an initial public offering in 2014, after filing for a $100 million IPO. At the same time, its founders stepped down and former CFO Kelly Steckelberg became CEO. The management shuffle was followed by a layoff of 15% of the company in January 2015.

Circumstances have failed to improve, leading Zoosk to its latest decision to let go another 40 team members. Steckelberg gave TechCrunch this statement:

“This reduction will increase operating efficiencies and streamline responsibilities as we prepare to bring several innovative product announcements to market in 2016. Our optimism for these developments that we expect to positively impact our growth does not diminish the reality of today’s news felt by our staff. We are committed to treating the impacted colleagues with respect and support during this transition.”

Zoosk is not the only one suffering in the current climate. As funding becomes harder to find, a number of startups are having to part ways with staff to stay in business. The online dating market is particularly difficult to compete in, as there are so many options for consumers.

Britanny Carter, an analyst for the research firm IBISWorld, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about the issue. “In terms of revenue, the online-dating industry has matured," she said, "but there are too many players and not a lot are generating sufficient revenue for these sites.”

Unless Zoosk has a major overhaul in store – something that can drag the dated service back into relevance – it may be doomed. It's best hope now could be a buyout from a bigger dating company. For more about this service you can read our review of Zoosk.

Zoosk Unveils The '7-Step Guide To Landing A Date'

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It's the busiest time of year for online dating. The stretch between Christmas and Valentine's Day is peak season for tech savvy singles. Some are scoring big while others are striking out.

With any luck, you're in the first category. Your date card is so full it's practically become a full-time job. Things are looking up for 2016.

Or maybe not. Maybe you're in the second category, sending message after message into the ether and getting nothing back. That's no way to begin a new year. Fortunately, the folks at Zoosk have compiled some simple suggestions for changing your luck in their "7-Step Guide to Landing a Date."

Here are the highlights:

  1. Suggest a date activity if you're really into the person. A recent survey of 3000 Zoosk members revealed that suggesting a movie date increases the response rate to your messages by 91 percent. Other compelling keywords include the beach (59 percent) and a park (39 percent).
  2. Send messages in the morning if you're a man and in the evening if you're a woman. Men increase their chance of a response by 10 percent if they send messages between 9 am and 10 am. Women, on the other hand, are nocturnal creatures. Their messages are best sent between 10 pm and 11 pm.
  3. Reply within 24 hours. The internet isn't exactly known for its patience. Of those surveyed by Zoosk, 94 percent said they expect a response within 24 hours. Playing too hard to get can easily backfire when more options are only a swipe away.
  4. Highlight your individuality. What makes you unique? Your special characteristics are what separate you from the vast sea of singles online. Embrace your glasses, flaunt your tattoos. Just stay away from overtly sexual messages, which Zooskers give a digital thumbs down.
  5. Watch the character count. Men aren't picky when it comes to message length, but women expect more effort. Forty percent of the female users Zoosk surveyed said they prefer messages that are longer than the 140 characters of a tweet.
  6. Expect to send multiple messages. Establishing rapport online takes more than a single sitting. Around half of singles polled said they exchange five messages before meeting a new suitor in person.

What's step 7, you ask? Start adding dates to your calendar.

Follow Zook's seven rules and you'll set yourself for a 2016 that's brimming with romantic possibilities.

Google Reveals 2015's Top-Searched Dating Apps And Sites

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2015 was the biggest year yet for online dating. Ten years ago, digital dating was still viewed with skepticism. Today, a majority of Americans believe it's a good way to meet people and 5% of Americans in committed relationships say they met their significant other online.

Now that singles have fallen head over heels for online dating, services have exploded. From the basics like Match and eHarmony, to youth-centric options like OkCupid and Tinder, to hyper-specific sites for bacon lovers and beard aficionados, there's something for everyone. So which dating services are a cut above the rest?

Bustle teamed up with Google to reveal the top-searched dating apps and sites in 2015. The list is surprisingly diverse:

  1. Plenty Of Fish: Plenty of Fish sounds like a throwback to an earlier era of online dating, but the site is alive and well as we start 2016. Its inexpensive options draw 50,000 new members every day and even hooked The Match Group, which acquired POF in July 2015. See our full review of Plenty of Fish.
  2. Tinder: It's no surprise that Tinder nearly took the top spot. The time-killing app made “swipe” an important part of everyone's vocabulary and totally changed the dating game. See our full review of Tinder.
  3. Match: has been connecting singles since the primitive days of online dating and is still a prime choice. Over the years, the site has perfected its matching technique and remained a favorite for daters all around the world. See our full review of Match.
  4. OkCupid: OkCupid revolutionized the online dating industry as an entirely free service. Today paid options have popped up, but OkCupid remains largely free to use and scores highly for its excellent compatibility algorithm. See our full review of OkCupid.
  5. eHarmony: Though it began as a dating service strictly for Christians, eHarmony has expanded its service to welcome a wider variety of singles. The site has built a reputation as a go-to service for serious relationships. See our full review of eHarmony.
  6. Zoosk: Zoosk quietly continued its quest for world domination in 2015. With service available in 80 countries, 25 different languages, and on your computer, phone, tablet, and Facebook, Zoosk is practically inescapable. See our full review of Zoosk.
  7. Bumble: Bumble got a lot of press last year for its “Feminist Tinder” approach to online dating. The app takes the infamous swiping set-up, but attempts to lower the creep factor by putting female members in charge.
  8. Hinge: Scared of meeting strangers online? Hinge solves the problem by using Facebook to connect users with mutual friends. Members can breathe easy knowing that their dates have been vetted by someone they trust. See our full review of Hinge.
  9. Grouper: It's impossible to take all the awkwardness out of a first date, but Grouper helps lessen it by adding friends to the mix. The app connects groups of friends to take the pressure off.
  10. Farmers Only: Yes, believe it or not, the uber-niche Farmers Only made the cut. Although perhaps it's just from people searching Google to find out if it's actually real.

2015 Dating Sites Reviews Choice Awards - Christian

Christian Mingle
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Christian Mingle is the recipient of the 2015 Editor's Top Pick - Christian Award. This dating service is available via their website and dating apps for both the iPhone and Android devices. From our estimation using a number of online traffic tools we found that it is the leading dating service for Christian singles seeking like minded people.

This dating service has gone through a lot of changes this year. We have seen a number of updates for their dating app which brought in new features like new search criteria, complete layout redesign, and a updated registration process to improve access to the app. With the streamlined user experience which simplifies interactions between members we also saw the new Daily Matches feature which presents to the user when they sign in a collection of matches. Tablet and iPad users were not forgotten as the app layout takes advantage of the larger screen real estate that these devices offer.

Christian Mingle didn't forget about their website either. In December we saw a brand new interface as well which included a lot of new improvements along with a vastly updated layout which makes finding all the different features of this dating service easier. Interaction between members also have improved since now both the website and dating apps now share the same communication platform.

Christian Mingle’s also held onto their high rating at the Better Business Bureau (BBB). They are a BBB Accredited Business and have been a member since 1999 and continue to hold a A- rating. According to the BBB Spark Networks (which owns Christian Mingle) is "commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints".

Read our review of Christian Mingle for more information about this dating service or visit Christian Mingle directly.

This Year's Runner Up for this award is: Christian Cafe

The Right Time To Have The Big Talks In Your Relationship

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If honesty is the best policy, is there an optimal time to divulge your most personal information?

Even at the best of times, “The Talk” can be a touchy subject. Maybe you want to date exclusively. Maybe you have wedding bells on the brain. Maybe you're just ready to disclose a weird hobby or an annoying habit.

Whatever talk you're ready to have, it's a sensitive situation and tricky to get the timing right. To shed some light on the murky topic, online dating site Zoosk polled more than 5,000 users to get their thoughts on having uncomfortable relationship conversations.

The big question on most daters' minds is this: when is it ok to define the relationship as exclusive or nonexclusive? According to Zoosk's survey, almost half of men believe it's important to define the relationship within the first few dates. Only a third of women agreed. Forty-nine percent of female users wanted to wait until after the first few months of dating to discuss exclusivity.

As far bigger commitments go, 56% of men and 54% of women consider six months an appropriate time to talk about marriage. Note: the marriage talk in question isn't about marrying each other or picking out color schemes. This conversation is just about whether you aspire to get married at all.

Zoosk also asked users about disclosures earlier in the dating process. Their research found that response rates to the first online dating message increase if the following words are used: vegan, pets, allergies. On the other hand, response rates decrease with the appearance of these words: vegetarian, virgin, rich.

In that initial communication, more men (32%) than women (28%) say they would disclose if there was something unusual about them sexually. However, the majority of men (52%) and a significant number of women (41%) say they would prefer to remain in the dark about their date's number of past sexual partners.

On or immediately following the first date, 70% of men say they would be upfront if they are seeing other people. Sixty-two percent of women say they would do the same. Past partners, on the other hand, are a subject better saved for later dates. Nearly half of men and women say they do want to discuss former relationships and recent breakups, but only after a few weeks of dating.

For more about this dating service please read our review of Zoosk.

JDate And ChristianMingle Are Getting Major Makeovers

Christian Mingle
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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 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.