AOL's dirty little business plan: Dial-up for dollars

AOL had its best quarter in 8 years -- on the back of aging subscribers who don't know they can leave the service

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I say squeeze them dry now while there's some juice left. Think of the promotional campaigns AOL could cook up. Like an exchange program: For every six "Free AOL" CDs a subscriber turns in, they get a new set of teeth.

AOL can hire Wilford Brimley as spokesperson. Or Betty White -- she's still smokin' hot for a 91-year-old. They can do joint marketing with AARP and Geritol. Buy a year's subscription at once, and get a free "I've fallen and I can't get up" medical alert bracelet. Buy five years, and get a six-month supply of Viagra and the number of a cardiologist on call 24/7.

Of course, I am stereotyping a bit. It's not just clueless old people who still subscribe to AOL dial-up. There are also hillbillies and the mentally ill. Some parts of the country only recently got phone service, you know. (I know these things because I watch "Justified"). As anyone who's ever read the comments section of any popular site can tell you, the Web does not lack for crazy people. They must be getting online somehow. That many of them turn out to be AOL subscribers would be not at all surprising.

Don't get me wrong. I'm happy for AOL. It's actually hired more journalists over the last few years than any other media company I can think of. Large chunks of that $28-a-month fee are going to my brothers and sisters in arms, so to speak. If AOL diehards have to eat cat food a few days a month to make their Social Security checks last, that's a small price to pay.

I'm also happy I still have AOL to kick around for a few more years. For a snarky blogger they are the gift that keeps on giving, even at 56 kilobits per second.

Do you know anyone who uses still uses AOL dial-up? Share your tales below or email me: cringe@infoworld.com.

This article, "AOL's dirty little business plan: Dial-up for dollars," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Follow the crazy twists and turns of the tech industry with Robert X. Cringely's Notes from the Field blog, and subscribe to Cringely's Notes from the Underground newsletter.

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