Millions of Members: Medal of Honor or Badge of Shame?

Some dating sites wear the words “millions of members” like a feather in one’s cap.

Are these words a medal of honor or a badge of shame?

Let’s compare advertising claims and web stats to answer this question.

Advertising Claims vs. Web Statistics

Here’s a quote from an actual site (name removed):

“…is one of the top online dating sites in North America, boasting millions of members.”

How does the subjective claim “millions of members” translate into objective, third-party web stats?

Compete triangulates multiple data sources, including ISP, Panel & Toolbar to estimate U.S. traffic. It is a free service that provides traffic information such as unique visitors per month. The chart and traffic data were provided by Compete.com but the comments scribbled on top are ours:

Millions of Members Translated into Web Stats

For this dating site, the claim “millions of members” translated into about:

  • 200,000 U.S. people/month in August, 2007
  • 20,000 U.S. people/month from November (2007) to August, 2008

Now, let’s be clear. We are not here to debunk advertising claims. Our long-term goal is to help consumers make informed dating site decisions. Our immediate goal is to answer one simple question:

Are the words “millions of members” a medal of honor or badge of shame?

The “s” in “millions” tells us that the site has at least 2,000,000 members. Even though they may have 10 million members or more, for arguments sake let’s assume the minimum 2 million members.

If the site gets about 200,000 U.S. people/month (as it did in August of last year), we know that the highest number of active members it could possibly have is about 200,000 people in the United States. Keep in mind that “unique visitors” includes casual, one-time visitors so the number of active members would probably be much less.

Even based on generous estimates, one may say that:

  • there are roughly 200,000 active members out of a 2,000,000 member database
  • of all the member profiles you browse, only 1 in 10 will be active members in the U.S.

If the traffic is about 20,000 people/month (as it was this year), the number of active members drops to less than 1 out of every 100 profiles in the database. Finding a date would be a case of needle and haystack.

A Feather in One’s Cap

We all know the rhyme:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
Riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his cap,
And called it macaroni.

It is the best-known use of the phrase “feather in one’s cap” but what does it really mean?

Gary Martin, author of the Meanings and Origins section of The Phrase Finder, offers this possible explanation (paraphrased):

  • it originated during the War of Independence
  • it was used by British forces to mock revolutionary militia
  • in 18th century slang, a “doodle” was a simpleton and a “macaroni” was a fop or dandy
  • the Yankees thought a feather in one’s cap made them look fashionable
  • the British forces thought it made them look stupid

A feather in one’s cap is usually a medal of honor but, in this case, it was a badge of shame.

Millions of Members: Medal of Honor or Badge of Shame?

For dating sites, the claim “millions of members” is:

  • a medal of honor if the site gets visited by millions of people every month
  • a badge of shame if the site’s monthly traffic is only a fraction of its membership

After all, do you really want to sift through hundreds of member profiles if the majority are inactive?

So the next time a dating site claims it has “millions of members,” check our Dating Site Web Statistics page to see if that feather in the site’s cap is a medal of honor… or a badge of shame.

Related Page:
Dating Site Web Statistics (http://www.giveyourhandabreak.com/web-stats/)

Sources:
Web Stats by Compete Site Analytics (http://siteanalytics.compete.com/)
Phrase Origins by The Phrase Finder (http://www.phrases.org.uk/)

Internal Resources:
Articles on Dating Sites & Online Dating (http://www.giveyourhandabreak.com/category/articles/)

External Resources:
A Feather in One’s Cap (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/feather-in-ones-cap.html)
Meanings and Origins of Phrases (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/index.html)
Profile of Gary Martin (http://www.phrases.org.uk/gary-martin.html)
Compete Metric Descriptions – Unique Visitors (http://www.compete.com/help/q5)

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