© 2018 Sandy Hubbard

Believe it or not, 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.

These folks interact with 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). Years ago my folks had a satellite disk nailed to the end of their dock that accessed a few hours of service a day. These days, if we sit in the chair by the front window, we get spotty service from her internet provider. My phones — Sprint and T-Mobile — pull in no signal. Zero bars. Nada.

In the winter it’s worse for some reason. On snowy mornings, you have to 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 off-the-grid places. You see it everywhere… local and neighborhood newspapers, direct mail with carrier route saturation, printed shoppers filled with advertisements, retail coupon books, tourism magazines, thriving book stores, new libraries (with fireplaces!), lively store windows, card and gift shops (with clever custom screen printed and letterpressed items), and chic grocery stores featuring specialty foods and local items, beautifully packaged or wrapped in eye-catching graphics.

Where’s the opportunity for the printing industry?

We have to get past this image of the “average” American consumer, sitting in their modern living room, swimming in a sea of electronic signals, and partaking in 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.  

We have to envision that a certain percentage of printed items will rate high enough to be carried back to their off-the-grid homes, to be interacted with further, and to hold a prominent place in their daily media interactions.

Beyond those who cannot access the grid, there are also opportunities to create print for people who are simply willing and eager to get free of their devices.

These are folks who are tired of being tracked, broadcasted to, relentlessly notified, and distracted by the persistent blue glare of the screen.

In my own life, I am trying to get off the grid more often and surround myself with high quality print. In fact…

  • 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 that require a trek to town for internet. 
  • 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 and interests of these off-grid 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!



Sales and marketing printspiration for business success delivered 1x a month!

Print Media Centr

You have Successfully Subscribed!