Friday, March 28, 2003

Online dating can help trim the field


Sites reaching out to more specific groups, becoming more interactive and communal

By Shauna Scott Rhone
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Evette Nixon thought it would be a great way to break the ice after moving to Cincinnati. Lauren Towles says boredom and wanting to talk to people her age made her do it.

Thousands of Tristaters are making the move to online sites geared to singles. Instead of mass dating pools on sites such as match.com, kiss.com and matchmaker.com, there now are more specific sites, such as blacksingles.com, thirdageconnections.com for the over-40 crowd, and gay.com.

"I received 70 responses from eligible bachelors in two days" on blacksingles.com, says Nixon, 28, of Westwood. "It's pretty amazing, and inexpensive, unlike the dating services," which can cost more than $100 a month. Blacksingles' basic membership, like many of these sites, is free; enhanced membership, which includes such things as e-mail and chat options, ranges from $9 a month to $90 for a year.

DATING SITES
There are more than 1 million online dating sites. Here are some domains that are dating clearinghouses for the more popular sites:
Singlesites.com
Love-sites.com
Meetsinglesonline.net
Datelists.com
Datingsitesguide.com
Soullovers.com
Friendsearch.com
"I would recommend it," she says. "I'm pretty awkward with confronting a guy for the first time, so this is a great way for me to get out there."

Westwood resident Towles, 21, signed up for both blacksingles.com and blackplanet.com, although no love connections have resulted yet.

"Sometimes I get e-mail about someone who showed interest," says Towles, "but when I go to look at the profiles, they are older men of 35 or so, and I'm barely 21 years old."

Then again, you might need a little help from your friends.

Nina Bierman of Montgomery and George Wells of Blue Ash have known each other since their days at Sycamore High School. Nina, 21, thought George was a cool guy in school.

They now work together as salespeople at Skeffington's Formalwear in Kenwood. She says he's a still a great guy, "very kind and mature for his age," but works in an industry where every woman he meets is already spoken for. Bierman decided to increase his chances of finding his true love by posting his profile on greatboyfriends.com.

"I said I was all for it," says Wells, 20, who's also a model. "If anyone wants to set me up for a date, I'll give it a try."

Greatboyfriends.com, and its sister site, greatgirlfriends.com, both have the same premise: friends, relatives and ex-lovers post a description and answer a survey about their nominee. Interested singles are invited to e-mail the nominator with questions and concerns about their "person of interest."

"(The site) flowed so fast because it was trustworthy," says founder E. Jean Carroll, who also writes an advice column for Elle magazine. "It's women telling the truth about men, giving you a heads-up about a particular guy. It tells facts men need to know about women. If she's materialistic, he needs to know that."

The female site, which launched in November, is doing gangbusters with almost 130,000 members. The men's site, launched earlier this year, boasts only 6,000. Of those, 116 are from Ohio and 16 of those live in and around Cincinnati. Only four are listed from Northern Kentucky and none from Southeastern Indiana.

"Women (readers) have plagued me for years," says Carroll. "They keep saying, `Help me find a man!' I told them how, every way I could think of, and it finally occurred to me. I know a lot of great guys, my friends know a lot of great guys. What would happen if all the great women everywhere could recommend great guys they know?"

After a plug on Oprah, the site took off.

"It's the oldest concept for meeting men. Mothers always say, `You should meet my son.' This is like that."




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