Julie Ferman

Online Dating Putting You Off? Try a Matchmaker
by Michelle Fischler, NY Times
Michelle Fischler September 30, 2007

Online Dating Putting You Off? Try a Matchmaker


FOR more than three years, Jennifer Silver, 33, a freelance marketing consultant in Manhattan, trolled online dating sites looking for love. She tried Match.com and JDate.

“I had the worst experiences,” Ms. Silver said. When one potential date didn’t bear the slightest resemblance to his photo, she walked right past him, thinking he had stood her up. “People were very dishonest,” Ms. Silver said. She hired a traditional matchmaker instead.

One might think that in an age of unparalleled access to potential dates through the Internet, matchmakers would be scraping for business. Instead, their business is on an upswing, according to John LaRosa, the author of a report by the Marketdata Enterprises, a research firm. Matchmakers now number more than 1,600 in the United States, up from 1,300 in 2004. He also notes that “matchmaking overall has lost its social stigma for many people.”

Some of the success of these headhunters for the heart can be attributed to a reaction to the well-publicized pitfalls of online dating. Matchmakers have also helped themselves by adapting some of the same technologies that their online competitors use.

“People are getting a bit burnt out” by the lack of privacy and abundance of misinformation found on dating sites, said Lisa Clampitt, the executive director of the Matchmaking

Institute, a school in Manhattan.

“You could be successful online, but it’s random,” Ms. Clampitt said, describing situations in which daters send e-mail messages to 20 potential mates at a time or profess to be 5-foot-7 when 5-foot-2 is more like it.

Matchmakers prescreen potential matches, focusing on long-term compatibility rather than “short-term chemistry,” Ms. Clampitt said.

While online sites allow unlimited fantasizing, matchmakers encourage clients to take their heads out of the clouds. “Sometimes we will get a guy who is a good-looking man, but no Brad Pitt, and he wants a thin model,” said Shoshanna Rikon, the owner of Shoshanna’s Matches, a Yenta-style matchmaking service in Manhattan that includes an in-person interview and a Web presence, and charges about $1,500 for eight dates. “We try to be more realistic with who we set him up with."

Another sign of the rise of the go-between: 80 matchmakers gathered on Friday in Weehawken, N.J., for a two-day conference that the Matchmaking Institute, which organized it, bills as the first of its kind here. Its keynote speaker, Mark Brooks of Online Personals Watch, told participants that matchmakers offer “a chance to connect” and “a chance to authenticate” prospects in ways the Web sites can’t. He pointed out that the problem for matchmakers has always been casting a wide enough net; for online sites the problem has been narrowing the pool. He advised both to find common ground.

Among the other presenters was Julie Ferman, who owns Julie Ferman in Los Angeles. In an interview before the conference she said that when Internet dating took off a decade ago, it seemed like “personal matchmaking would be a dinosaur.” Instead, she said, the “big chasm” between their businesses has narrowed as matchmakers have begun using a more hybrid approach.

Julie Ferman teams up with Internet dating sites to give parties. When the singles show up, Ms. Ferman meets them, takes their photographs, gets their contact information and adds them to her database of 12,000 names. Clients typically sign up through her Web site or send her an e-mail message; she follows up with an interview.

“I will only refer them once I have met them personally,” Ms. Ferman said.

A 2006 survey undertaken by the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that while 52 percent of the 16 million people who have used online dating sites had mostly positive experiences, 29 percent report mostly negative experiences. Mo

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