Hot but Virtuous Is an Unlikely Match for an Online Dating Service

The women who appear in Web ads for the dating site True.com almost certainly do not need to look online for a date.The buxom and often barely dressed models, posing next to slogans like “It’s nice to be naughty,” are plastered across the Internet these days, and are hard to avoid on the social networking site MySpace.

Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?
Ready for Lasting Love?

In part because of its provocative ads, True.com, based in Irving, Tex., has seemingly come out of nowhere to become one of the most visited sites in the $700 million-a-year online dating industry, attracting 3.8 million people last month.

True’s rise has been controversial. The company has riled competitors like Match.com and Yahoo Personals, which say that True’s lowbrow advertisements clash with its high-minded lobbying and legal efforts. True, which conducts criminal background checks on its subscribers, is the primary force behind a two-year-old campaign to get state legislatures to require that social Web sites prominently disclose whether or not they perform such checks.

I’m not sure I can say anything about True that hasn’t been said before. Unlike sites like eHarmony and Match, it’s apparent that True doesn’t care one bit about the well-being of its members. True has proven, time and again, its willingness to take the low road in its cynical advertising by assuming the worst of people. Cheesy sex-oriented ads? Check. Warnings about felons that lurk on dating sites? Check. And what you’re left with is a site with really no identity apart from being the scourge of the dating industry. If you’re gonna be a sex site, be AdultFriendFinder or SexSearch. If you’re gonna be a clean site for relationship oriented people, be eHarmony or PerfectMatch. But with True’s pure mission statement and its sexed-up advertising, what consumers are left with is positively nothing. It seems that True found out what many have discovered before – that pandering to the lowest common denominator is a much better moneymaker than providing safety. Too bad.

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