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Dating apps go cheap and premium in effort to court Gen Z

The icon for the Tinder dating app appears on a device
Match Group has seen “significant demand” for its new weekly subscriptions — the number of U.K.-based Gen Z women switching to a paid Tinder plan has jumped 73% since the April launch.
(Patrick Sison / Associated Press)
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Dating apps are embracing AI and expanding their subscription plans, hoping new premium and discount tiers will court more paying users — particularly Gen Z — as growth slows.

Match Group has seen “significant demand” for its new weekly subscriptions — the number of U.K.-based Gen Z women switching to a paid Tinder plan has jumped 73% since the April launch, and the boost to Hinge was similar. Match is also exploring a $500-a-month version, due to launch in the fall. Bumble, which already has a weekly offering, will start testing a premium tier later this year, alongside a cheaper option specifically aimed at Gen Z. Grindr said its new weekly option is also driving monetization, and it’s looking at cheaper options and a premium tier.

The premium offerings are targeted at people who want a more curated, matchmaking style experience. “They feel that the relative value of $40 or $50 a month for their special someone feels exceptionally low,” Bumble Chief Executive Whitney Wolfe Herd said on a recent earnings call. The cheaper options are explicitly targeted at Gen Z. “If you think about Gen Z, not everyone has disposable income,” Herd said.

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Match, the largest dating-app maker, is struggling with a decline in paying users — growth abruptly stalled at the end of 2021 and users have now fallen for three straight quarters. Bumble’s paying users continue to grow.

The dating companies are also looking to generative artificial intelligence to entice users with new features. Bumble sees it as a way to “curate match recommendations,” Match hopes it can help “eliminate awkwardness,” and Grindr sees “new use cases for engagement.”

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They’re also tinkering with the apps themselves — Grindr, now facing competition from Match’s new Archer app for gay, bisexual or queer men, plans to build out more adult features in its new web-browser version. Archer is currently offered only in New York City, with plans to expand nationwide by the end of the year.

The focus on Gen Z isn’t without its downsides. Match said weekly subscriptions make it hard to forecast subscriber numbers: “It’s newer. It’s harder to manage,” Chief Financial Officer Gary Swidler said on a recent earnings call.

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