In 2005, a new niche dating site sprung up. Founded by Jerry Miller, an agricultural marketing specialist, Farmersonly.com grew from 2,000 to 2 million members in the first five years. Farmers Only joined the ranks of other niche dating sites like: Seekingarrangement.com, which links sugar daddies or mommas with sugar babies; theatlasphere.com, for lovers of Ayn Rand’s works; and cupidtino.com, for people who love Apple products.
These niche dating sites are examples of thin or narrow markets, where the number of buyers and sellers are limited. While there are some incongruities between dating and other markets, mainly that the dater is simultaneously a “seller” and “buyer,” the concept still applies. Economists commonly extol the benefits of thick markets, which have many buyers and sellers, and lead to greater efficiency and better matches under certain conditions. Many of economists’ studies have focused on the labor market.
For example, let’s say you were laid off from a job as a hotel manager, with a Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Hospitality Management. If you wanted to find a new job, would you rather search in Forks, WA or Seattle? In 2010, 3,532 people lived in Forks, and 608,660 people lived in Seattle. Economists would recommend you to seek a job in Seattle, as it is a thicker market that would provide more possibilities.
Where does this leave niche dating sites? As a narrow market, they have a disadvantage in the number of possible matches. This simplistic view does, however, neglect to take search costs into account. Search costs are the costs in lost time, opportunity, or monetary cost incurred by a searcher. So, time spent going on dates or looking for new dates are search costs for the dater. In this context, all of online dating has lowered search costs for daters, by eliminating the need to go out to meet people. Niche sites may have an additional advantage in lowering search costs, because they allow daters to see how people feel about a characteristic or issue important to the dater.
For example, maybe you are a vegetarian who doesn’t want to deal with dating a meat-eater. By going to Veggiedate.org, a vegetarian only site, you can remove all the meat-eaters, and align yourself with people who meet your key criteria. Sometimes these niche sites may serve as a proxy for other, more nebulous characteristics or traits. A vegetarian may assume that they and other vegetarians share additional traits, like empathy for animals or a desire to raise possible children as vegetarians.
Bringing it full circle, it could be that Farmers Only serves as a proxy for desirable qualities associated with the North American agriculturalist, which happen to be desirable on the dating market as well. Or maybe their meteoric rise in sign-ups is solely the result of their catchy jingle? You decide!