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When we have a match who we think is going to be good for you, we basically organize a time and place for two of you to meet and you are each responsible for bringing two friends along."Daniel Katz, 23, of New York City, isn't an online dater, yet says he has been on three Groupers."I'm looking to meet new people.If I met a girlfriend, I definitely wouldn't complain," says Katz, an account executive.
The Our Time community, which includes Our Time.com, Seniors and Senior People Meet.com, has 4 million members, according to parent company People Media.
How About We charges .99 a month, though costs dip for a longer commitment.
Most online sites are free to create a profile but charge to communicate. Grouper, for example, costs a person for each group date, which includes its services and the first drink.
So the organization is launching its own dating enterprise, in partnership with an up-and-coming site called How About We.com, which solicits ideas for interesting dates, then connects potential partners who like the suggestions and want to go out.
Its traffic jumped 221% in the past year, according to Com Score."The core idea was to build an offline dating site that made it easy for people to say what they want to do for a date, connect and get offline," says Brian Schechter, 33, co-founder and co-CEO of How About We, which launched two years ago.
What's somewhat ironic is that young singles who are so digitally immersed are at the forefront of this move to meet face-to-face."People of my generation, in our 20s, think a one-on-one date — especially a blind date — can be a lot of pressure. By early next year, it aims for 10 more cities in the USA and Canada and will add London."I cringe a little when people describe it as online dating," Waxman says. The typical experience for a Grouper member is to spend about five minutes on our website and about two hours at a bar with your friends."Online dating industry consultant Mark Brooks, who has worked for many such sites, including POF (Plentyoffish), says the AARP move into dating seems smart."Seniors is a very good niche," he says.
We've found most of our relationships — whether romantic relationships or just friends — happen a little more organically. "Most dating sites skew toward guys, with more guys than women. Being a 75-year-old single man is the equivalent of being a 21-year-old hottie."That's good news for AARP member Judith Schwartz, 65, of Clermont, Fla., an IT consultant and adjunct professor of computer science who began online dating after her husband died in 2008."The younger men were primarily interested in sex and the older men were primarily interested in having somebody take care of them," she says.
By the end of this year, officials say the site will have hosted nearly 2,000 events with 150,000 singles. Plentyof Fish, a free online site, also hosts face-to-face events."I think what people have reached is a saturation point of wanting to do everything digitally," says Andrew Connell, president of Dinner Date, that launched in January.
"A lot of people were saying 'it just feels like work.' "Dinner Date currently operates just in San Diego.
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A study earlier this year in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest finds "no compelling evidence" to support the online sites' claims that their algorithms work better than other ways of pairing people."What's been amazing for us is that the industry in 2012 — be it or site after site after site — they're emphasizing meeting face-to-face as a chemistry check," says the study's lead author, social psychologist Eli Finkel of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill.