There are so many people looking for love -- or love advice -- on the Internet, a cynic might wonder why they haven't all found dates already.
Recent research shows that electronic personals are the fastest-growing category of paid Internet content. They generated $87 million in subscription revenue in the third quarter of last year, up more than 300 percent from 2001, according to the Online Publishers Association.
About 26 million people visited matchmaking sites in December -- including nearly 8 million from work -- according to ComScore Media Metrix. The top sites, in order of traffic, were Match.com, Yahoo Personals, One2OneMatch.com, Matchmaker.com and American Singles.
For varying subscription fees, these sites match people based on their answers on questionnaires. Most also let subscribers post video and audio messages.
Dating advice sites are starting to pop up, too. For fees ranging from $15 to $50, the new "relationship tester" created by California psychiatrist Robert Gould for iVillage.com (www.masteringrelationships.com/ivillage) gives advice based on how people answer questions about their relationships.
Another new offering, the elaborate LoveTactics.com, charges $99 for advice on winning someone's heart (answer: mostly by playing hard to get). If you're already attached and just want help with Valentine's Day, the Internet has flower-ordering services (www.1800flowers.com and www.ftd.com are two) and gift guides (among others, check out www.redenvelope.com.).
For a fake personal touch, you can even hire online scribes to create a romantic poem or record a digital tune for your sweetheart. Rockville housewife Linda Kay Fellman writes romantic ditties (users.erols.com/lfellman), as does Linda Ellis of Atlanta (www.lindaslyrics.com). But don't wait to get your order for a "personalized" poem in; closing dates for Valentine's Day delivery from those sites are as soon as tomorrow.
Flash from PGATour.com
When TV and radio give out, golf fans can turn to the Web -- and their wallet. The PGA Tour's new TourCast service offers detailed views and statistics of every shot and player in the tour for $9.95 a month. A free version only covers three holes per tournament.
TourCast won't officially launch until the Nissan Open in Los Angeles in two weeks, but it's already available at the PGA Tour Web site (today's coverage features the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach tournament).
The new Internet tracking system runs off information gathered and entered into handheld computers by volunteers at every hole, along with data from laser devices positioned through each course. The data is then poured into Macromedia Flash animations, which run on Windows, Mac OS, Linux and other systems.
Bigger Brain for Ask Jeeves
Ask Jeeves, the search engine with the friendly butler mascot, has expanded its index to include 500 million Web pages and says it's gearing up to index more than 1 billion Web pages this spring.
The company's Teoma search technology analyzes "communities" or "clusters" of related topics to deduce the content of Web pages.
The company also has added new search options at a preview site (http://s.teoma.com/AdvancedSearch) to focus queries on a particular Web site, continent, date or language.
E-mail Leslie Walker at email@example.com.