Across America, millions of people use dial-up connections to web portals as they surfed the information superhighway.
It sounds like a scene from the 1990s, except that all of these things are still happening: Yahoo is still one of the most-visited properties on the web (No. 5, according to the web-traffic monitoring site Alexa), and millions of Americans still have dial-up internet connections through AOL.
The only thing that’s really changed is that these once-great internet giants are now both the property of Verizon. And while it may seem easy to mock Verizon for paying more for Yahoo than Disney did for the rights to Star Wars, the telecom company has actually carved out quite a large niche of internet users that may well prove to be rather profitable.
AOL’s core audience, according to its advertising kit, is people over the age of 50. The marketing material also makes mention of mothers, the affluent, men, and rather contrarily, millennials. But the bulk of AOL’s audience is made up of the Baby Boomer generation, many of whom came online during the era when AOL was in its heyday, and computers around the country frequently rang out with cries of, “You’ve got mail.”
Similarly, Yahoo lists its core audience as individuals earning more than $75,000, households with children, and people over the age of 35. While that’s younger than AOL’s audience, it shows that in marrying up two internet relics, Verizon pretty much has the eyeballs of older internet users locked up.
According to the US Census Bureau, there are about 40 million Americans over the age of 65, and more than 81 million between the ages of 45 and 64. Together, that’s about 40% of the US population.
Millennials are the current largest generation of Americans. It remains to be seen whether they’ll become Yahoo and AOL readers as they age, or whether, as the older generations expire, so too will the former giants of the web that Verizon now owns. But in the meantime, Verizon has found a large, connected audience of consumers and readers that see millions of advertisements a day. This makes for a decent business—assuming it can find profitability in those websites after all the fat has been cut from Yahoo.
So as the current trend of ’90s nostalgia fashion carries on, it leads one to wonder, what else can Verizon acquire? It seems Lycos, one of the other original internet portals, is still up and running. Napster, the original music pirating website, is also making a comeback. Or perhaps Verizon could jump on the still-existent pager market to round out its nostalgia trip.