Six million Britons sign up for singles bars in cyberspace

Up to three-quarters of single people could soon be finding new partners online – and many could form long-lasting relationships

By Steve Bloomfield

Online dating, once seen as a last resort for the desperate, has become mainstream, with new research suggesting as many as six million Britons are signed up to internet agencies.

To underline the internet’s emergence as a legitimate way of meeting a partner, a second academic study suggests relationships borne out of online dating are now likely to be as long lasting as those of couples who meet in more traditional ways.

There are now 150 online dating agencies in the UK alone, up 20 per cent in just 12 months, according to a report by Hitwise, the body that analyses levels of internet usage. It found that online agencies are growing at a rate of 30 a year, with people in London and the South-east making up a third of all UK users. Fifteen per cent are based in the Midlands and 11 per cent in the North-west.

People aged between 25 and 34 make up the largest group of users at 29 per cent, with 35- to 44-year-olds representing 26 per cent of the market. A significant number of online daters – 18.5 per cent – are aged 18 to 24, while one in 10 is aged over 55.

The 30-somethings tend to have been dating for more than a decade and are tired of looking for new people at work or in bars and clubs.

Academic research led by Richard Scase, professor of organisational behaviour at Kent University, shows dramatic year-on-year increases in the number of people turning to the internet to find new partners.

“Two-thirds to three-quarters of single men and women will be members soon,” Professor Scase said. “There are about six million using these services now and by 2005 there will be seven million.”

The three biggest online dating agencies,, Udate and, all claim to have more than a million active members each.

Samantha Bedford, managing director of Udate, said: “There is this big pool of people to choose from online, instead of having to just settle for that new guy in your department. You don’t have to trawl the bars and you don’t have to go through the embarrassment of being turned down.”

Online dating is partly fuelled by the rise in the number of single people. There are currently around 11 million singletons under 55 in the UK; that figure is expected to rise to 16 million by 2010.

The boom has led to services springing up to cater for those who don’t like the idea of a mass-market agency. Last week saw the launch of, a group dating website that matches circles of single women with a similar group of men in an attempt to remove the potential for awkwardness on a normal one-to-one date.

The more confident single person can always join Gorgeous Networks – or they can at least try. Classing itself as an exclusive club, Gorgeous Networks asks prospective members to place a picture and profile of themselves on the site. Current members are then given the opportunity to decide whether they should be allowed to join.

Researchers at Bath University claim that couples whose eyes meet over a crowded chatroom will stay together for an average of seven months. The Bath report’s co-author, Dr Jeff Gavin, said: “It’s clearly now an everyday activity, and our research shows that the relationships it produces are no better or worse than traditional relationships.”

Source: The Independent Online


Key Findings of 2004 Online Dating Survey

The purpose of this survey is to understand and establish trends driving the growing Online Dating market in South Africa. This survey will allow us to discern the habits of Online Dating users as well as evaluate the different business models within this industry.

We also contrast the South African market and American markets to determine similarities and differences.

Dating is a universal phenomenon it appeals to a very broad spectrum of society and people. Irrespective of age, race, and gender, all people are interested in it at some point during their lives.

The Online Dating websites included in this survey are Couples, Dateline SA, DatingBuzz, Galaxy Singles, Love Finda, Love Mail, MyDate, MSN Match and The Positive Connection.

They Key Findings

Where do they live?

Not surprisingly most of the people who do Online Dating are in Gauteng (44%), followed by the Western Cape (19.5%), North West Province (14.6%) and KwaZulu-Natal (10.5%). A small percentage (1.25%) of the respondents was from foreign countries; although the survey was primarily aimed at South Africans. The leading cities include Johannesburg (328), Cape Town (226), Rustenberg (169) and then Durban (103).

What about Age vs. Gender?

The age profile for Online Dating is very interesting. One would almost assume more men then women do Online Dating and that is the case except that in the age group “50 or more” there is more women (6%) then men (4.9%) doing Online Dating. A telling statistic that substantiates this trend is the fact that 13.6% of all women were divorced vs. 8.9% men, which can be interpreted as women finding it more difficult to get back into a committed relationship then their male counterparts. The dominating age groups are “25-32” which is still considered young adult. The hectic pace of modern life and demands from work, social life and other commitments are making it more difficult for this group to find a suitable match and they, subsequently, will end up getting married later in life. The next two age groups “33-39” and “40-49” are almost equal and we see this as a fact that people who do online dating are serious about finding a partner. The younger age groups are, as Dr Andrew Thatcher described, “people that are doing it purely out of fun”. They are mostly students, and are experimenting with online dating more as a novelty. People in this age group would not succumb to the same pressures as the older groups e.g. they would go out more to parties, clubs, etc and therefore meeting a reasonable amount of people vs. the older, above 33 generation, who has to cope with possibly raising children, work pressures and more.

What about Ethnicity / Race?

A sad state of affairs is that the ethnicity or race profile of the online dating users in South Africa is diametrically opposite to population of the country. About 78% are Caucasian/white, followed by 11.4% African/black, 5.6% Coloured and 3.7% of Indian decent. This is not an issue that can be addressed over night, but it is related to the imbalances caused by the history of South Africa. The systematic exclusion of non-white races has led to the digital divide we have today. Other factors such as cultural prejudices also play a small role in the big discrepancy between the ethnic race groups that do online dating in South Africa.

What about Relationships?

Although most of the people that do online dating are single (45%), perhaps a not to shocking figure is that the amount of divorcees are the second largest group (22.5%), followed by people actually dating (16.6%) and married (7.4%). Now it is even more interesting that there are 3.7 times more married men then women that are doing online dating. Either these men are blatantly cheating or they are extremely bored in their current relationships. We previously mentioned 1.5 times more women (13.6%) then men (8.9%) are divorced. This has contributed to older women considering online dating as a viable alternative to the usual club/bar scene.


Online Dating is a serious business for South Africans

Almost a quarter million South Africans have used online dating services – and those who engage in it take it very seriously. This is one of the key findings in The NETucation Report: Online Dating in South Africa 2004. According to the survey conducted in June 2004 by NETucation, an independent Internet Marketing company, 67% of people using online dating services in South Africa take them seriously enough to pay for the privilege.

People pay real money for the privilege of connecting with other prospective mates via online dating,” says Ramon Thomas, Managing Director of NETucation. “The market is worth approximately R20 million in 2004 and there are currently between 200,000 and 250,000 people who have tried online dating in South Africa.” This is still only 7.5% of the total population of Internet users and is substantially less then the 1 million online banking users reported earlier this year by World Wide Worx.

However, the findings suggest that online taking may well be one of the four big applications of the Internet, after e-mail, banking, and news.

And there is a strong indication that this market is set to challenge the big three for leadership. There are 11 substantial online dating website operating in South Africa with three launched in the last year. The most popular online dating service chosen by the respondents is DatingBuzz (63.5%), followed by MSN Match (9.7%), part of the international network, and Galaxy Singles (5.6%).

About 10% of users become paying subscribers who shell out from R30 to R130 a month for the privilege of connecting with like-minded individuals.

There are several factors that are bringing online dating into the mainstream, such as people getting married at an older age, a high divorce rate, disillusionment with the bar and club scene, and people being busier then ever before.

According to Dr Andrew Thatcher, a psychologist in the School of Human and Community Development at the University of the Witwatersrand, “Online dating allows you to meet people in a safe environment; you cannot catch STD’s or HIV/AIDS through sending a message.

Says Thomas: “The leading age group is the 25 to 32 year old category, who still considers themselves young adults by modern standards. Perhaps surprisingly, about 54.5% of people are looking for companionship and friendship, not sex.”

The biggest alternatives to online dating are SMS dating and speed dating.

NETucation also conducted a website analysis of 9 participating online dating companies, using the Webagility web analysis tool from World Wide Worx. The three best-performing websites all achieved a score of 70% or more, namely DatingBuzz (70%), LoveFinda (71%) and LoveMail (71%).

“There is still much that can be done to improve the online dating experience for the average South African hoping to meet someone on the Internet,” suggests Thomas. “More marketing will certainly help to remove the stigma that people used to associate with dating via the Internet. It is clear from our survey that the average online dater is not a nerd or a lonely person. Instead, they are between 24 and 32 years old, single, having a tertiary qualification, working in IT or Finance and earning more then R10, 000 per month.”

For the most current research on Online Dating in South Africa go here.


Yes, its time to move on and keep growing

Dan Sullivan, an expert on Entrepreneurship advocates that people in the 21 Century will be forced to become multidimensional people. This essentially means that to be successfully people have to continue growing. I’ve just realized that even in relationships we must continue to grow or else it will end, one way or another; from our own choosing or not.

If couples do not continue to grow together they are doomed. Essentially we’re talking about a love that’s build on a passionate friendship. Talking from experience my failed relationships have been those who started out because of a physical attraction. Currently I’m in a relationship that has evolved from a passionate friendship. The person is very very dear to me and I would love her like a friend for the rest of my life. It just so happens we also share some physical attraction and that has turned our friendship into something more. However, I’m not concerned about one day when the physical attraction fades because the friendship will always be there.


My first blog post

This is my first attempt at regular blogging. I began blogging on and eventually moved to my own domain, and after several hosting companies have now settled on Hostgator.

The best movies out this week is obviously the swash buckling Pirates Of The Caribbean with Johnny Depp, one of the most versatile actors in Hollywood. If you still haven’t seen Jim Carrey’s latest farce, Bruce Almighty, do yourself a favour and go and see the greatest comedic actor of the last 10 years!

The book I am currently reading is The Art of Seduction by Robert Greene.

After a brilliant tour of South Africa I was fortunate enough to watch the brilliance of Mick Hucknall and Simply Red perform their greatest hits at The Dome in Northgate, Johannesburg. I can only recommend The Very Best of Simply Red double album and their latest Home.

This blog is primarily be about personal development and dating tips.