Turow describes this as part of a larger cultural movement of social fractionalization in which the nation as a whole became more ideologically fragmented, claiming, “As U. society became more divided, it needed more outlets to reflect those divisions.People no longer wanted to be treated in ‘batches,’ as mass markets” (, p. In today’s digital environment, where people have grown accustomed to being greeted by name when they visit their favorite websites and receiving customized content that reflects their individual preferences, the pressure to personalize seems to have reached even loftier heights.In order to achieve this kind of niche targeting, online dating companies must engage in a process of audience construction, deciding whom they wish to target and how to do so most effectively.
Communication scholar Traci Anderson once described it as “something of a ‘talk show phenomena’” about which “attitudes overall are not favorable” (, p. Nevertheless, these negative perceptions seem to be changing, as Jordan Fulghum, cofounder of the online speed-dating service Wink Vid, states, The stigma that’s been around for the last decade is really starting to be erased because people’s lives are moving online, and they’re seeing the real benefits of social networks and of these technologies that enable you to meet people.
While commercialized methods of dating and matchmaking did exist prior to the rise of online dating , they have never operated on such a grand scale.
To date, online dating research has focused primarily on mainstream dating sites (see [3,4] for examples), leaving niche services largely overlooked.
This project hones in on one niche dating market in particular—the increasingly popular “older adult” market—in an effort to more closely examine the process of audience construction and niche targeting in the online dating industry.
Even mainstream dating services that aim for broader audiences, such as e Harmony and Match.com, now feature specialized sections for various subgroups of users based on race, religion, and other distinctive qualities. Brooks explains this trend as an appeal to users’ desires for targeted services, stating, “It’s the same reason why Procter & Gamble makes so many detergents.
Mark Brooks, dating industry consultant and editor of Online Personals Watch.com, estimates that about 44 percent of all dating sites in the U. We are all drawn to things that cater to our very specific desires” .
From a user’s perspective, there are a number of added conveniences associated with the rise of the niche online dating market.
First, previous research shows that people strongly prefer romantic partners who are similar to themselves [14,15] and that online daters are no exception .
They also highlight some of the unique aspects of online media that facilitate this practice.
Implications for both online daters and site producers are discussed. From Veggie for vegetarians to Date for redheads, online dating companies are setting their sights on increasingly specific segments of the population with niche websites that profess to facilitate romantic connections based on shared user characteristics.
She describes the media audience as “an imaginary entity, an abstraction constructed from the vantage point of institutions, in the interest of institutions” (, p. In other words, media audiences are not naturally occurring collectives.