I've long harbored a perverse and persistent fondness for the Spring St. Network.
In my previous incarnation as Miss Internet Slut (consecutive wins, 2002-04), it served me well and often, with a much higher hit-to-miss ratio than the Lowest Common Denominator Sites (Yahoo!, Match, Matchmaker, Tickle, etc.). With their unusual approach to hottie harvesting, pulling from a network of at least marginally esoteric literary, humor and porn sites, Spring Street tended to draw a slightly more interesting, hipper and, most importantly, funnier crowd than Acme Date, Inc.
The other feature that made The Onion personals (my portal of choice) far more attractive was its pay structure. Unlike the all-U-can-eat subscription sites, The Onion offered packets of credits: buy more, save more, but basically, you could email whomever you wanted for a buck. And that one buck paid for all subsequent exchanges with this person. And, the best part, the other person did not even have to spend dime one to communicate back with you.*
I couldn't figure out how their business model could possibly be viable; apparently, it wasn't. I logged on recently** and, to my surprise, saw a whole new UI...and the pay structure it was designed to justify. Gone is the user-friendly buck-a-throw set-up; in its place is a byzantize structure of monthly and annual plans (with add-ons!) called "silver" and "gold" memberships, which offer increasing levels of hoo-hah for increasing amounts of money.
Worst of all is what they've done to the "free" members, which is basically to ghettoize them. From their site:
Standard-level (i.e. non-paying) members are limited in their ability to initiate contact, read full profiles, or view full-size pictures. Get even more interest by allowing standard members to view your profile and send you emails. Without this option, Standard members are limited in their ability to view your profile or contact you.
The cost for this interest-increasing option for lucky, lucky Silver and Gold members? An additional $19.95, per month.
I've marveled over the miracle of meeting someone as exquisite and perfect-for-me as The BF over something as random as the Internet. But I'm starting to realize it wasn't entirely random. Spring St. Network had created, however briefly, a user-friendly venue where like-minded souls could gather...in a way. It was like a really great bar where the drinks didn't cost too much and the lively, eclectic crowd all but guaranteed that if you didn't meet and/or go home with Mr. Right or Ms. Right Now, you'd at least have a good time and some lively conversation. In other words, like eHarmony, Spring St. had a strong brand personality (only one that didn't exclude atheists, homosexuals and other communists); now I fear that it will become just another megalopolic magnet for mediocrity, if it hasn't already, and there will be no island upon which the misfit toys can find one another.
Marketing opportunity, anyone?
*Well, the second-best part. The first best was that, like any pay structure, it kept the total freaks and internet date spammers away. Oh, and for the record, I emailed The BF, so technically, I bought the first round.
**I know, I know, I told you it was perverse. The looking was more of a "holy CRAP, thank CHRIST I'm not there anymore", schadenfreude-tinged form of entertainment*** than anything else, and I pulled my profile within something like two weeks after meeting The BF.
***Okay. It's relationship porn. Why don't you just throw a saddle on my back and ride, muthas?