As Dating Pool Shrinks, Love Matches Grow

Meet the company behind dating web sites like JDate and ChristianMingle.

ByABC News
June 14, 2010, 10:17 AM

June 18, 2010 — -- It's the kind of story that millions of desperate singles are desperate to believe: Boy meets girl online, boy and girl find love, boy and girl get married.

People really do meet online and sometimes it really does work. But one network of dating sites seems to have found a special formula for getting couples to click.

In the massive world of web-based matchmaking, Spark Networks is finding success by creating a narrower and shallower dating pool. It is creating sites for everybody from Greek singles to Catholic singles to Asian singles to deaf singles, even single Latter-Day Saints.

Spark boasts 32 dating sites in all. Adam Berger, CEO of the Spark Networks, calls it "niche" dating.

"Niche dating makes people instantly feel comfortable," said Berger. "Imagine yourself walking into a party with 10,000 people. Great, you might be able to find the five people that you're really excited about, gravitate to, but that can be a little intimidating to people. What you call a niche dating site, we call a tight-knit community. People instantly feel comfortable and know they're among people who are just like themselves in many different ways."

What about the critics who say it's hard to find a genuinely nice partner in the ocean of anonymous online daters?

"I understand where they're coming from, but clearly we are evidence that you can meet a nice person online," said Berger. "We have lots and lots of success stories across all of our sites, and we have generational success stories. [There's one] group of people whose brother and sister met, and then another couple met and then another couple met. ... Sixty-three people a day find their soulmate on JDate."

JDate, which caters to Jewish singles, is Spark Networks' most successful and popular web site. It claims 750,000 active users. And it has won over the "faithful."

"I have learned that it is a miracle of the Jewish world," said Rabbi David Kirshner. "It is a modern-day miracle ... through the vehicle of technology and communication, to connect all these different souls that would otherwise never meet. You know, in the old days they used to have these matchmakers, the kind that are personified in "Fiddler on the Roof," Yenta, who was putting together the people of the community. And this is doing it electronically, their beliefs, the backgrounds, their passions, and then connecting them one to the other. And to find so many people in so many different worlds, able to connect this way, it's great. My grandmother used to say, she used to say there's a lid for every jar, and JDate makes that happen."

Spark Networks: 'The Tides Have Changed'

But can you really meet someone on the computer? Is that the right way to do it?

"I think the tides have changed, because a lot of Jewish grandmothers are calling me up and sending me e-mails, believe it or not, or seeing me outside of services saying, 'You have to get my grandson on JDate,'" said Kirshner.

Why would a Jewish grandmother support this kind of technology? Kirshner says it's simple.

"I started keeping track, and more than 70 percent of the weddings I do are couples that have met on JDate," he said. "And that's why it's a miracle, because it works."

Kirshner is such a believer he now offers free JDate subscriptions to congregants. It's isn't just about romance.