Mon, Jul 21, 2003 - Page 7 News List

`I like movies' doesn't cut it for Internet dating

AFP , NEW YORK

Single female, 35, attractive, likes movies, music. Would like to meet sincere, kind, good-looking man for long-term relationship.

The message is sweet, short, simple, and, according to an emerging breed of online dating consultants, totally useless.

"I mean, `I like movies' is classic. You might as well say `I like breathing' for all the information it imparts or interest it arouses," said David Evans, founder of the Web-based firm ProfileDoctor.

Online dating is booming in the US and Evans, 34, is one of a number of young dot-com pioneers who see a potential gold mine in the niche market of providing profile makeovers for unimaginative lonely hearts.

According to the Web tracking service comScore Media Matrix, more than 45 million Americans logged on to Internet dating sites in the month of May, and subscriber spending on those sites is running at around US$100 million a quarter, compared with US$10 million two years ago.

Given such enormous volume, the ability to put together a profile that stands out from the crowd is a rare and powerful commodity.

For US$35, visitors to Evans's site, www.profiledoctor.com, can submit an existing profile, which is analyzed and returned with feedback and suggestions on how it can be improved.

A Los Angeles-based firm's site, www.e-cyrano.com, offers a choice of packages, ranging from a US$40 "bronze" service that provides basic profile editing to a US$200 "platinum" option where a personal consultant writes a profile from scratch and follows up with a 30-minute phone consultation.

"Success at Internet dating is not defined by ending up with a wedding ring," said e-Cyrano founder Evan Katz. "It's about consistently meeting decent, quality people, and that's what we can help with."

Both Evans and Katz say the most common problem with the profiles they see is a reliance on bland, generic statements of the "I like music" variety.

To one male customer who had written that he wanted to meet a "sexy" woman, Evans offered the following advice: "What is `sexy' to you? High-heeled boots, tattoos and an attitude? Laura Ashley, prairie-dress girl, Web mistress geek?

"Give them something to go on; otherwise, they will pass by you and go on to the next guy."

At the same time, the consultants warn against a tendency to exaggerate or even lie -- a common complaint among online daters.

"It sounds obvious, but honesty is important," Katz said. "Saying you are six-foot-one, when in fact you're five-foot-eight may help you get a date, but guess what -- she is going to find out in the end."

Too much honesty, however, can also be a turnoff.

"Don't say that the main thing you learned from your last relationship was not to go out with an alcoholic who beat you. It's way too much information," Katz said.

Both consultants voiced amazement at the fact that common sense is often the first thing to get discarded when people dive into the Internet dating pool.

A particular problem area is the accompanying photograph, which all too often has the subject totally obscured in a hat and sunglasses, or even hugging an old boyfriend or girlfriend.

"And you would be stunned at how many men go for the arms akimbo, drink in one hand, I'm-totally-drunk look," Evans said.

"Then you have the women whose photos are nothing but cleavage. And that's fine, so long as you realize that 80 percent of your respondents will be nappy-wearing perverts who live in their mothers' basements."

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