Internet Penetration World Map 2012

What If The Internet Was Broadcast Only?

2 out of 3 people do not have access to the Internet throughout the world. Outernet recently joined the mission to bring the Internet to the 3 billion without it. But there’s a catch, Outernet’s solution, Lighthouse, is broadcast only – the Internet without interactivity. It’s uncertain how much interactivity is restricted, if its just uploading user generated content, or engagement through surveys, forms etc. But what if it’s the latter, what would this mean to us as marketers? What if instead of offering interactivity the Internet just pushed information at you, like the television or the newspaper?

Most Internet users would agree that the magic and the power of the Internet is the interactivity it offers. The ability to connect with friends, family, or form relationships with new and perspective customers. So how would the entering of a population who only had access to one-way communication through the Internet effect the digital marketing world?

Who?

Everyone. Outernet’s mission is to give access to the Internet to those without it, as is “Facebook-backed Internet.org initiative, Google’s balloon-based Project Loon, and satellite internet companies OneWeb and O3b (and maybe soon SpaceX)” according to Wired.

But who are these individuals? People without Internet are typically those living in remote areas, with less economic and educational resources. This is a group that isn’t highly targeted by marketers because they are difficult to reach, but also because they lack the resources to purchase many products.

But, they are also a new audience that has never been reached digitally before, which could make it a huge opportunity for the right research company. The problem is, without Internet interactivity, research would be nearly impossible. Leaving companies blindly targeting this new Internet subgroup without knowledge of how content is resonating.  Companies may know that this group is consuming their content through an uptick in their analytics, but without any data on if they found the provided information valuable.

Broken Relationship

Many tactics marketers use online are used to gather information from their audience – we’ll give you a free whitepaper if you give us your contact information. Marketers look for feedback if our content is valuable throught reviews, blog or social media commentary and sharing, surveys, landing page forms, contact page forms, etc., but whatever it is, it wouldn’t be available through an internet that only offers one-way communication.

Metric Devaluation

One-way Internet would devalue metrics by warping engagement. You had X number of people visit your landing page for your whitepaper, but they left before filling out their information to download the whitepaper. Typically, if you saw this happening at a high rate of loss, you would rework your page to create a higher conversion rate, but with a portion of the world only with access to one-way Internet, you would have no way of knowing if you were losing conversions to lack of interactivity from a one-way Internet or due to the normal factors like the amount of information being asked, the organization of the content, the UX, etc.

One-way Internet would also create an opportunity for a tracking mechanism to be created that separates the one-way from the two-way Internet user and once created, there would be opportunities to create A/B split testing to see how they consume information differently and the possibilities to route one-way Internet users to a website customized for their unique behavioralism.

Adopt to Survive

Digital Marketing is a fast moving space and although one-way Internet seems like a step back and may pose some challenges for Digital Marketers, it would also be a huge step forward in getting the world’s population online, in at least some form, which is a step forward in creating a more inter-connected world. If one-way Internet does come to fruition, Digital Marketers will adapt, as we always do to find a way to reach our audience.

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