How has the coronavirus affected dating apps?

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We’ve gotten a lot of questions about this, so in the spirit of transparency, we decided to share what we’ve seen with The League.

Answered by: Amanda Bradford, founder, and Michael Rapp, Head of Data Science at The League

Quick summary: Overall, we saw a slight decrease in daily usage, hitting some regions harder than others, but nothing huge – and regional decreases correlated very well with google-trends spikes in “coronavirus” searches. People are scared right now and looking for connection & support – we can see that in the data showing up as the increased rate of exchanging phone numbers during the crisis period. Sunday, March 22, was our highest DAVUs (daily active video users) we’ve ever had – we saw a 4X increase in usage.

The details: Overall daily active usage was flat:

We then looked at a de-trended plot of regional DAUs:

You can see there was a dip in DAUs in Seattle around the time the city was hit. Google Trends shows searches for coronavirus peaked last week there:

Compared to DC and New York, where the outbreaks occurred more recently, we saw a dip in DAUs this last Sunday:

Google trends shows the searches for coronavirus in New York and Virginia may have hit their peak:

These are 2-5% dips on a pretty volatile metric, so we might be overfitting but it looks like there might be something there. With more time, we could correlate search interest across regions with changes in DAUs.

We made a quick chart showing the correlation between coronavirus search interest and % change in WAUs over the past week by region:

There is a weak negative relationship. Going from the least to the most interest is associated with a 3% decrease in DAUs.

We also looked to see if the total number of profiles a user viewed (what we call Batches) decreased or increased during coronavirus period. It did appear the higher the Google search interest was for ‘coronavirus’ in a region, the lower the number of weekly Batch checkins there were.

Interestingly enough, though daily usage did not pop, we did see the rate of phone number exchanges increase as the severity of the issue increased. One way of summarizing this could be saying the chance that a match will exchange a phone number increases as the crisis anxiety rises.

We also looked at all phone number exchanges made in a week overall across the weekly users and compared them to our control group when things were more normal. It also increased with the spike in interest and awareness.

Regarding League Live, our video-first speed-dating product, first, usage first went down as news about the virus spread, and then it spiked. We believe the initial dip in League Live attendance is related to users facing severe disruptions to their life that clearly took priority over joining a video party to meet someone new. As time went on and users adjusted to working from home, however, we saw usage bounce back, and actually, double.

In terms of adoption of our other Video features, we also saw a 41% jump in usage for our latest feature – Video-calling a match – and a 200% increase in users choosing to create a video-first profile. What better time to spruce up your profile than in Quarantine?

We also looked at if the crisis affected conversations – and it did! Nearly 60% of long message exchanges held on the app on March 16 mentioned the term.

As one would expect, the cities hardest hit by the virus had the highest % of conversations mentioning “coronavirus”.

Finally, we turn to revenue, which can be both a leading and lagging indicator. As expected, given people cannot physically meet each other to date, we did see a softening in revenue during the most frenzied period of corona virus news and while restrictions were being placed on cities, but it does appear to be climbing back up slowly.

The revenue impact was felt primarily in new business – brand new subscribers not familiar with The League who were most likely hesitant to pay for a dating membership when they weren’t sure if they could even meet a match in person for the next few months.

In response, we have revamped our marketing to call more attention to our Video features and our League Live video speed-dating parties to better showcase the value The League can bring, even during quarantine.

While writing this article, App Annie put out a similar report as did Branch Metrics. In it they reported more or less flat usage across the board among the top dating apps like Tinder, Bumble, and Plenty of Fish (POF), but from others I’ve talked to in the industry, we are all experiencing much higher engagement per user. It appears our trends are likely representative of the dating industry at large.

The Takeaway: Coronavirus has not super-negatively impacted usage of the League (and dating apps in general) just yet, but it has negatively impacted net new subscription revenue as one would probably predict. However, in times of crisis, people are clearly looking for contact and support and are looking to dating apps like The League to provide that, hence the increase in usage of League Live as well as turning to video calls in place of dates. And, it turns out, Coronavirus is not a bad conversation starter…

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