© 2018 Sandy Hubbard

There are people in the U.S. and the world who don’t have regular or continuous access to the internet. In these places, the people have a much closer relationship to print, printed media and mail.

They use print in the way we did 20 or 30 years ago.

I’m not talking about poverty or living off the grid, although there are a percentage who can’t afford internet or don’t live near it. I’m just talking about towns where it is a royal pain to get an internet signal.

Welcome to the internet-free zone.

My mom lives where there’s no cable (too far from road) or satellite (below the angle required). My folks had a satellite disk nailed to the end of their dock that got them a few hours of service a day. These days, if we sit in the chair by the window, we get spotty service from her internet provider. My phones — Sprint and T-Mobile — pull in no signal. Zero bars.

On snowy mornings, you get in the car and drive up to where the pavement starts, 10 minutes away.

You and all your neighbors park on the side of the road, checking email and downloading what you need for the day. The kids sit in their cars and trucks before school, listening to YouTube and chatting on social media, even though they’re all just feet away from each other. 

To get my work done while visiting, I use public libraries (one hour of internet per card), coffee shops (one hour per purchase with an access code printed on your receipt), and university guest wi-fi.

This is not the edge of the world.

My mom lives in a well-to-do tourist town with excellent schools and shopping, within 30 minutes of a thriving city.

How does this happen?

If you read the recent articles below, you can see where internet gaps continue to exist in the United States … and where the opportunities for print are large.

What It’s Like to Live in America Without Broadband Internet: In every single state, a portion of the population doesn’t have access to broadband, and some have no access to the internet at all.

Why 11% of Americans don’t use the internet.

Print is huge in these places: newspapers, direct mail, printed shoppers, retail coupon books, tourism magazines, book stores, new libraries (with fireplaces!), lively store windows, card and gift shops (lots of custom screenprinting and letterpress-printed items), and chic grocery stores featuring specialty foods and local items, cleverly packaged or wrapped.

What’s the message for the printing industry?

We have to get past this image of the “average” American consumer, sitting in their modern living room, surrounded by electronic signals and relentless social media. We have to think about how a certain sector of America shops, views, learns, and interacts with our brands.

To serve this sector means we can’t take anything for granted.

These are not unsophisticated buyers. They’re just not on the grid. Big difference.

It means print has to be more interesting than what they see online. It has to more colorful, fun, compelling, personal, relevant, responsive, memorable, activating…more everything.

We have to think about how this sector interacts with retail print, packaging, signage, vehicles, direct mail, circulars, and the printed items that go home with them after they interact with us.  

Finally, beyond those who can’t access the internet regularly, there are many people who are willing and eager to get off the grid.

  • I just returned from an 18 day road trip that was largely internet free.
  • Our family camps in our VW van and visits river canyons, mountain tops, the desert, and remote ocean beaches.
  • Many of my friends have moved outside the city to raise animals, spread out, and gain some peace and quiet.
  • My in-laws, who are of the luxury demographic, travel many times a year to remote lands and don’t bother with internet.

Things are changing.

How will you and your print customers meet the needs of these demographics?

It’s something to think about when you get away from it all at your next company retreat!

Do you have ideas about how print can serve those who live and work off the grid? Do have an experience of living without regular or reliable internet? Please leave a comment below.

Read more from Sandy here. 


Sandy Hubbard is a Marketing Strategist who helps printers take their businesses to the next level. She builds customized print marketing programs that help your company grow. Her philosophy is that any program needs to be sustainable over the long haul, with clear and calm guidance, reliable support, affordable tools, your own team of trained employees…and NO stress!

Find @sandyhubbard on Twitter every Wednesday at 4 PM ET, co-hosting #PrintChat with host Deborah Corn of @PrintMediaCentr — Everyone is invited to this lively online discussion for printers and those who love print!

 

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