THE NATIONAL -- Jan 22 -- When Saïd Amin started IranianPersonals.com there were few niche sites. Today, sites similar to his make up almost half the market, and they are growing. Mark Brooks, editor of www.onlinepersonalswatch.com, said there are about 14,000 such sites currently online and nearly 43% are niche. This is up from 34% in 2006. Religious and cultural niche sites are particularly popular. At 500,000 members, ArabLounge has become a leading singles site for Arabs in North America and Mr Amin said he expects to expand. Why the popularity of internet dating? For many men, Mr Brooks said, the internet offers a new solution to that old fear: face-to-face rejection. But he also believes the way people meet online is healthier. Then there is travel. Because niche sites tend to have fewer members, Mr Brooks said travel will often be a reality for those serious about meeting someone. "Probably with niche dating, if the person lives way out in the boonies then they're going to have to travel, there're just no two ways about it. One of the key questions for people who use these sites is, 'Am I prepared to travel?' " Mr Brooks said. It was a question Mr Amin had to answer: "Yes."
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