At the Berkeley Heights GreenFest this past week, a senior citizen approached the table for The Alternative Press and asked about us. After telling her that we are New Jersey's all-online daily local newspaper, she said, "I'll never go on the internet." "You've never been on the internet?" I asked. "No, and I will never go on it," she replied.
I kept thinking about what she said throughout the weekend. Ten years ago, most people in the United States had never been on the Internet. It's difficult to remember what life was like back then. No online social networking; news that would be old before you received it; and no e-mail. No e-mail!
At a recent meeting of the Summit AARP, I asked the approximately 100 people in attendance how many of them were on the Internet. Contrary to popular belief, nearly 90 people raised their hands. While most people think that few senior citizens are on the Internet, the truth is that a majority is on it and the minority is diminishing by the day.
Online shopping, online news, and online advertising are increasing in market share and in most cases, now eclipse shopping in stores, reading the hard copy newspaper, and advertising in print. This trend will continue and, if anything, will increase in the next three to five years. It is my belief that most newspapers will be all-online within five years or out of business, and a majority of them will be online or out of business within two years. This trend will accelerate the move of online advertising. It would not be surprising that, again, two years from now, a major portion of all advertising will be online. By that time, 75% of shopping will similarly be done through this medium.
The truth is that the Internet represents not only the future, but the present, and it will become an ever-more important part of our lives over the next decade. One can envision purchasing all products online and merely going to a store to preview the item or to pick it up. At the same time, the majority of Americans will watch television on their computers and most companies will hold teleconferences over the Internet. In fact, the technology already exists and phones are being marketed to provide video streaming of phone calls from and between cell phones and residential landlines.
Yes, the Internet can be a scary place where some evil people have done evil things. But the overwhelming majority of websites on the Internet are wonderful sources of news, information, entertainment, and good in the world.
Columns like this one might help to ease the fears of those who are not yet on the Internet and enable them to see a whole new world of possibilities. Particularly for senior citizens, the Internet offers a host of information, news, and activities that could occupy their time. The shame of it is that this column will never reach its intended audience…it is only available online.