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The Business of Love

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Many of us grew up knowing there were 64 colors to choose from in the Crayola crayon box. Now our digital playing field in the United States includes over 1500 online dating sites with a variety of flavors, serving over 25 million singles every month.

"Worldwide, over 122 million people monthly log into dating sites with 14 million people using mobile dating services," said Mark Brooks, publisher of Online Personals Watch. The business of love and these statistics from Comscore were discussed in detail at the Internet Dating Conference recently held in Beverly Hills. iDate was attended by online dating executives from around the world, where we learned that both chocolate and love are recession-proof. According to Jupiter Research, online dating is now a $1.2 billion dollar industry.

The myriad of presenters ranged from Australian-based lesbian dating site Pink Sofa, where Liz James, founder and CEO, discussed the unique issues of her members who dislike the "L" word, to speed dating, dating with disabilities, hookups and online dating safety. At the end of the digital day, the majority of the event focused on mobile, mobile, and yes, still more mobile.

Location based or not, everyone needs a mobile dating strategy. "We're seeing 2.5 times more activity on mobile than on the web because it's easy to wink and flirt on the go" said Robinne Burrell, Director of Mobile Products at Match.com. Match reports nearly 32% percent of their active subscribers are mobile daters, with 56 percent of singles aged 25-54 going mobile.

Where years ago, online daters had very few choices and joined dating sites in secrecy, now the average online dater is a member of two sites. Still, some are determined to find love at any cost. Take 40-year old Chas McFeely, who's offering a $10,000 reward to the person who finds him his wife. As a busy 70-hour-a-week workaholic in San Francisco, McFeely used the web to create hookchasup.com. Why $10,000? "Because it's worth it," said McFeely. He added, "If you meet the woman you're going to marry, it's nothing." In order to handle the thousands of emails, the husband-to-be hired an assistant from Craigslist to manage the overwhelming response. Over 150,000 visitors from 173 countries in the world visited his site, which resulted in a dizzy spell of serial dating for 6 weeks. He's still single and looking.

At the end of the iDate conference, organizer Marc Lesnick told me that he feels the industry is flourishing based on the comments from the happy attendees at the Los Angeles event.

Julie Spira is an online dating and netiquette expert, bestselling author, and dating advice columnist. Visit her at CyberDatingExpert.com and RulesofNetiquette.com.