Have you ever seen one of those plain, black and white signs advertising an online dating site for a very specific area? Love Buzz used to see one that said "Single? SohoDating.com," and we always wondered if anyone used the site—the signage was so budget looking and we'd never heard of Soho Dating other than on those signs. We saw similar signs around other parts of Manhattan and figured someone was trying to corner the New York dating market. Little did we know, there was something much more widespread going on.
Robert J. Moore, blogger behind RJ Metrics, was flummoxed as well—he saw the signs in his hometown of Glassboro, NJ a city of less than 20,000. Then he saw one in Manhattan, another in Jersey and a year later in a town of less than 7,000 in Jersey. So he decided to investigate.
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Moore's search took him through a customized algorithm, several IP addresses, the WHOIS database. Turns out these localized dating sites exist in all 50 states and in Puerto Rico and are the marketing effort of a multi-billion dollar company. The facts aren't completely clear, but it appears that the sites are connected to "The Right One," a matchmaking service based in Massachusetts that has franchise locations across the country. Each site has a unique url (like Sohodating.com) but all ask the same question to users who sign up. Together Dating Services is The Right One's parents company, and in 2006 it raked in $45 million, charging customers between $3,000 and $15,000 to find their special someone.
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Almost $50 million, made off marketing online dating with lawn signs!? Interesting (and illegal—posting lawn signs is against the law) business model, but are they actually helping anyone find love? Moore's story has become an internet favorite (over 2,000 Diggs and counting), and the comment section has yielded some not-so-happy customers. One commenter even posted a link to a Consumer Affairs bulletin board with complaints about The Right One.
Singles, don’t get sucked in! YourTango reviews online dating sites each week; some of them are even free! Check out our latest reviews: CasualKiss (quirky, Canadian site), Chemistry.com (online matchmaking science), JDate (online dating for Jews that has interfaith appeal) and Yahoo! Personals (where you can break the online dating ice), to name a few.