Where AM I?
We're trying-- we swear we're trying-- to take Zoosk.com seriously, but first we had to do some real reconnaissance to find out what they really are, or rather, what they really offer.
Frankly, even after signing up ourselves, digging through multiple interviews with the founders, searching through user reviews and feedback, and sifting through articles from hi-tech blogs and pieces from entrepreneur start-up sites...we're barely closer to feeling like we see the essence of what Zoosk is offering as a dating site.
Zoosk was launched in December 2007 by founders and friends Alex Mehr and Shayan Zadeh, who are originally from Iran, and met while attending graduate school in the U.S. The two brainiacs accurately predicted the growth of social media apps, and began to develop their own. As one of their dating-related gaming apps on Facebook unexpectedly rocketed, they shifted their focus to integrating the dating world with social media, and Zoosk's dating site was born.
One thing is for certain: Zoosk is certainly making some serious cash and dents in the rankings of the online dating world. Zoosk now has 15 million monthly active users across its own site, mobile and Facebook apps, and according to Zoosk itself, sales revenue surpassed $90 million in 2011. Zoosk also has a presence in 70 countries, and are very active in 25 countries.
Recognizing that despite their growth, Zoosk was not going to be able to compete with the mammoths of the online dating world (eHarmony and Match.com), and a brilliant ad campaign shifted their identity to a more casual and individualized experience, tailored to a younger demographic (21-35).
Their new campaign featured the tag-line, "Online dating YOUR way. Browse, flirt, or find your soulmate".
The Effie-award winning campaign was a wild success, (you probably remember these hysterical videos ) and Zoosk subscriptions shot through the roof.
So.. did this move give Zoosk more substance? An improved interface? Nope.
It did give them the opportunity to embrace the casual dating market, since they were no longer trying to compete with the "find your true love" market. Realizing that the advertising campaign had increased numbers, but probably couldn't sustain their growth, the decision was made to create a new facet to appeal to another demographic.
A Romantic Social Network
Zoosk has now been re-branded as a "Romantic Social Network" instead of just a dating site. Realizing that couples who hook up leave the site, they created features to retain couples who have met on the site, including relationship blogs (like eHarmony, Match, Okcupid) and are also partnering with Groupon-like offers for couples to use at local date spots.
So? Do We Like Zoosk?
Zoosk does offer stories and pics of couples who met on Zoosk, so apparently it does work for some. And it's pretty easy to sign up. You can get points which can offset some additional pay-for-use features with "coins", which you can pay for or earn by logging in and doing a variety of things, or by becoming a subscriber. These additional buy-ins can be fun, but can also feel like you're being nickel-and-dimed too much.
The feedback we've received from readers, as well as our own experience on the site points at similar comments we've heard about eHarmony; the site is clogged with non-active profiles of trial members who apparently abandoned ship.
A one month membership with Zoosk costs $29.95 USD, and comes with the disclaimer: "If you do not cancel your subscription prior to the end of its term, it will automatically renew." A three month subscription costs $19.98 USD a month, billed in one lump sum of $59.95. A six month membership costs $12.49 USD a month, billed all at once for $74.95. Payment is accepted by credit card, check money transfer or PayPal.
To cancel a subscription, you must log into Zoosk, go to the "Settings" tab, and then "Subscription". Pro-rated amounts are not refunded, and the only thing this does is cancel future automatic billing.
Also, beware that if you sign up through the Facebook app, you need to indicate whether you allow Zoosk to post on your page, opting for either 'hidden' or visible posts or notifications. Personally, we abhor the thought of everyone seeing your moves in the dating arena.
Zook's target audience is 21-35, and it seems to attract mainly 20-somethings who are heavy social media users, so perhaps this social media over-sharing seems normal to this demographic.
Dating Guru's Grade: C- (but we LOVE the ad campaign! )