Two weeks ago, venerable dating website Lavalife was acquired by First Media Group, the owners of Quest dating hotlines. Being purchased by a dating line might seem a little ironic, because that’s where Lavalife was 23 years ago — back then, Lavalife was Teleclassifiends, the product of five guys from Toronto who were interested in IVR (Interactive Voice Response) technology.
So, it’s forward to the past for the once ubiquitous dating website. And why not? As a web service, Lavalife has struggled to retain relevance. In the Alexa ranking for dating websites, Lavalife doesn’t even make the top 10. Social networking sites like Facebook and classifieds sites like Craigslist have cut into Lavalife’s market. Lavalife was once quite pioneering, but maybe being purchased by a traditional phone personals company is the best thing for it. First Media Group has no plans to scrap Lavalife’s web services, I’m sure, but their expertise with phone personals will be a boon to Lavalife considering how their own phone personals service is so important for them.
Lavalife’s reliance on phone technology actually may have driven off other potential buyers. Markus Frind, CEO of PlentyofFish.com had looked into acquiring Lavalife, but told Techvibes in an email that he was turned off by the reliance on phone personals. “Not much to say really. We looked at acquiring them but the majority of the business is in chat lines/phone which we have absolutely no experience in,” he said.
Not much to say, indeed.
It’s a shame to see a company, once so innovative, fall by the wayside in the Internet dating world. Since going online in 1997, Lavalife has launched an online magazine, offered specialized services for baby boomers, ran contests, all kinds of forward-thinking initiatives — but now they’re just working the phones.
First Media Group has work to do with the Lavalife brand, but maybe they can turn it back into an industry leader. They already have tons of users and the Lavalife name is well-known, so they’re not exactly working with nothing. However, they do have plenty of ground to make up and stiff competition along the way. Stay tuned and keep watching — this town loves a comeback.