Facebook May Strike Out in the Dating Game



FB 1.25%

touches seems to catch fire in social media. In the case of dating, however, it could get burned.

Shares of leading online matchmaker

Match Group

MTCH -0.94%

fell 22% last May when Facebook announced it was getting into dating. Since then, the stock has more than doubled as users continue to swipe right on Match’s portfolio despite Facebook Dating’s launch in select markets. Last week, Facebook Dating launched in the U.S., sending Match’s stock down a cumulative 13% over the past five trading sessions. Given myriad privacy scandals over the past 18 months at Facebook, investors should be prepared for Match shares to recover—and then some—yet again.

Addressing investors at

Deutsche Bank

’s annual technology conference in Las Vegas on Tuesday, Match’s chief financial officer, Gary Swidler, presented new data showing Match platforms have continued to grow as Facebook Dating ramped up. In Canada, year-over-year average subscriber growth for Tinder, Match.com, OkCupid and PlentyofFish improved slightly from October 2018 to July 2019, despite Facebook Dating launching there in November. In a basket of several other countries, Tinder’s year-over-year growth rate in average subscribers nearly doubled to 50% year-over-year, though Facebook Dating launched in many places over the same period.

Facebook says its Dating platform is meant to be about “meaningful relationships.” As such, it isn’t surprising that Tinder, often focused on more casual connections and a younger demographic, has continued to gain momentum. In the second quarter, Match said Tinder added more than half a million subscribers—the second highest sequential increase in quarterly subscribers in the app’s history. At the same time, Match also said it saw more mature apps like OkCupid grow internationally while global downloads for “relationship app” Hinge grew more than 200% year-over-year in the second quarter.

Match doesn’t break out subscribers but said in the second quarter that it had roughly the same number across its platforms in North America as it had internationally.


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On the social-media side, Facebook’s products such Stories and Watch have quickly surpassed growth from incumbent competitors in the U.S. such as Snapchat, leveraging its established user base. Dating could be different. Facebook says it built Dating to be safe, working with experts to build protection from the start. That might be too little, too late to grow in a category Match calls “deeply personal.” Match said in May that 75% of new users chose to sign up via SMS rather than use Facebook after it offered the option to avoid Facebook. On Tuesday, Mr. Swidler said that number is now “probably closer to 90%.”

Although today newer apps like Tinder drive the company’s share performance, its legacy apps like Match.com have been making love connections for more than 20 years. That history is likely to engender long-term trust with Match’s users—an opportunity younger Facebook already may have squandered.

Write to Laura Forman at [email protected]

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