The Business of Love vs. The Business of Lust

In an interesting analysis on StartupJournal, sites for finding sex partners are compared to sites for finding dates.


Guess which industry is crushing the other one in growth? The business success of these sites surprises me because I doubt the success rate of participants is that high. I wonder if the business model is built to take advantage of fantasies more than anything else.

Members of adult dating sites say that while many members do find sexual partners, there is often a wide divide between what the sites promise in marketing materials and what they actually deliver. Anastasia Sidorowich, a 45-year-old member of AdultFriendFinder, said young men, in particular, "come in and act like it's a sexual fast-food service … They think they can just walk in, and order up the women of their choice at two or three a.m., and say, 'Can you pick up a pizza and six-pack of beer on the way, too?'"

In general, business success for a service is correlated with the quality of that service. But this is a case where business success may be entirely tied up in the potential for success. It reminds me of a lottery – few people win, but millions play just for the chance. The actual success rates are irrelevant. It raises the question of whether or not this is ethical from a business standpoint. On the one hand, all these sites do is provide a forum for members to express themselves and make their own decisions. On the other, they are preying on a fantasy that many people have and few live out. Is it good business, or the manipulation of our primal urges?

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One of the classic entreprenurial strategies is to take a product that exists and provide it in a more high-quality fashion. It sounds like an opportunity exists for someone to set up a sex hook-up site that screens applicants more thoroughly, and provides a better hookup per membership-fee ratio. The demand is obviously there, and the market is growing quickly. But I think I'll pass on this one. I'm sure Mrs. Businesspundit would prefer that I stick to ventures she can tell her family about.