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Tales of a Digital Publishing Packrat

From AOL dial-up to always-on-the-grid broadband in 19 years.

I started to do it a dozen times: cancel my AOL account and give up my treasured AOL screen name. Today I finally did it: I canceled my AOL account. The customer service representative noted that I had been a customer for 19 years. AOL was my professional and personal email identity for a number of years. When I switched to an email address with my company’s domain name, I still kept my AOL service to access the Internet when I was traveling. Many years ago I stepped up to a broadband card. I also had a T-Mobile hotspot account for use in airports. I needed multiple ways to get onto the Internet for fear of being disconnected, off the grid, isolated from the world. It does cause me to wonder what the hell I was thinking.

If it sounds like I’ve become less concerned about being connected to the Internet at all times, I’ve misrepresented my current digital status. My iPhone and iPad both keep me connected to the Internet 24/7. I have broadband Wi-Fi at home and at work. And just in case I need a big screen when I’m traveling, I still carry a broadband card for my laptop. As a digital publishing consultant, I think my paranoia about being off the grid is justified. I’m also doing my best to experience the digital world from an audience development perspective. After all, how can I help my clients set their digital publishing strategy if I’m not a consumer myself?

Consumers are telling us loud and clear what they want—are you listening? How much would you pay for that information? Download a copy of our 2018 Mequoda Magazine Consumer Study for FREE instead, to find out how you can improve your digital magazine rapport with subscribers.

Not so special

I suspect that I’m just not that special in my need to be connected. I’m pretty sure most of my clients, who are digital publishers and marketers, are equally obsessed with being on the grid. With that said, I’d be curious to know how many of them, and of you, still have your AOL account or some other means of connecting to the Internet whose time for you has passed.

At one point I thought about putting a Wi-Fi zone on our sailboat so I could be in touch even when I was at sea. Fortunately, I came to my senses and thought better of it. Sometimes a guy just needs to get off the grid. Except for my iPad, of course.

Feel free to share thoughts about your obsession with connectivity.

Posted in Digital Magazine Publishing

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6 thoughts on “Tales of a Digital Publishing Packrat

  1. I kept my AOL account for years, “just in case” my primary email account was off-line, etc. The MIME-encoding problem finally got to me. I don’t miss AOL, but I do worry sometimes about being connected 24×7. Recent studies show that constant multitasking actually diminishes rather than increasing our productivity. Just like other high-performance computers, our minds waste cycles when we are constantly engaged in context switching.

    So while I value my iPad and iPhone and having non-stop access to information, I also have to deliberately set aside uninterrupted time to think.

  2. Susan says:

    confession: i still have my aol account and no intention of cancelling! also have ipad, iphone, wifi at the four most common of my work and home locations. is this the digital equivalent of hoarding? at least i no longer carry ten books with me at all times–just in case…

  3. Retro john says:

    This was a weird post. It started to be incredibly interesting. A nineteen year relationship with AOL. And email can be very intimate. Over 19 years, there have been lots of changes in technology but you stuck with them.

    I expected the second half of the post to discuss why you decided to sever the relationship and abandon that ID. I’ve known people who did it post-divorce or as part of other life- or career-changes. Surely you have some feelings about AOL…

    But instead, the post shifted to a general connectivity discussion.

    BTW, when I first signed up for Compuserve, they assigned me a pair of random words as a password. This word combination lives on as one of my passwords. So does the street address of the house that I lived on, 1961-65.

  4. Jeff says:

    I have to agree with Retro John. This content was kind of disappointing.

  5. Bill says:

    You bet I still have my AOL account, and two active screen names. I’ll probably have it until I die or they go out of business. And why not? It’s perfectly reliable for what I use it for: my personal e-mail. When I set up my gmail account, i let all my clients know about the change. All the business contacts I make now are through gmail. It’s nice to have the two worlds separate.

    I keep my AOL account running for the same reason I had three screen names–one for personal use, one for business, and one for commercial e-mail. (BTW, the best move AOL ever made was to stop charging for their service. I would have dropped them long ago if I had to pay even $5 a month.)

    I know that there are people out there who look down on AOL users as techno-ignoramuses. If you’re one of those people, well, phooey on you. If you’re that much of a snob then I don’t think you have a clue about what the real-world audience is like, and I wouldn’t want you to touch my business.

  6. Don says:

    Perhaps there is some deeper reason why I chose to drop my AOL account now. My screen names are associated with companies I sold in 1993 and 2003. I use a mequoda, mac, and gmail address to keep things compartmentalized. The AOL email addresses in question have not been used for almost a decade and I guess I just felt guilty hoarding them and not using them.

    Thanks for the interesting feedback.


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