Double click for fitness


One in four dieters are using online weight loss websites as a diet plan, the highest percentage in six years, according to a recent survey of 16,000 online dieters by Tampa, Fla.-based Marketdata Enterprises Inc.

Those using a brick-and-mortar weight loss center fell 6.8 percentage points during the same six-year period.

In general, more dieters prefer diet plans they can access at home, such as,  with eight out of 10 choosing home/online/by phone in the survey, up 20 percentage points since 2005, the Marketdata study said.

chart of size of weight-loss websites market
After declining in recent years, the market for weight-loss websites is expected to grow

Using an online website also is more efficient and economical for dieters than going to meetings or programs at another location, the study reported.

Even though most weight-loss websites don’t turn a profit, many entrepreneurs are striving to be the next, which rang up $196 million in 2010 from 1 million paid subscribers, the study said. But Weight Watchers’ success was  the exception rather than the norm, the study said.

Advertiser-supported sites

The current trend in weight-loss websites is toward free, advertiser-supported sites rather than paid subscriptions, the study reported.

Websites that provide high-quality content, are user friendly and can generate multiple income streams through ad revenue, email newsletters, user databases and affiliate programs will be profitable and attract investors, the study said.

If a company wants to sell the weight-loss website, certain key factors affect the price: its revenue model, whether the site features custom programming and its audience characteristics, including frequency and time spent on the site, the study said. The website reputation, content quality, operating costs and current profitability also factor in, according to the study.

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To read about two local entrepreneurs launching online weight-loss and fitness businesses, see our related feature under the Special Reports category of SmallBusinessChicago.

— Hallie Busta