Keep an Eye on Flyover Land

Once upon a time, smart folks in Los Angeles and New York powered up a remarkable new business and communications environment called the Internet.

In Silicon Valley to the West and Silicon Alley to the East, billions of dollars were invested and hundreds of thousands of online businesses were born.

Trouble was, these cities were on opposite sides of the continent. So certain people were faced with the expensive and irritating task of flying across the country on a regular basis.

In the world of these Internet uberfolks, this tiresome stretch of land became known as Flyover Land.

Flyover Land was simply a big slab of the earth’s surface with no apparent function beyond lining the pockets of the airlines.

After all, the real action lay in these two opposing cities.

It was there that the smartest entrepreneurs and the best designers and programmers were to be found.

Best of all, these twin cities also contained the most sophisticated customers. Customers who had been online for a while, knew the drill, and recognized the thrill of a cable connection in the comfort of their own homes.

Inevitably, the city entrepreneurs, designers, and programmers build their businesses to appeal to the audiences they know best: big city folks.

Understandable. Almost inevitable. After all, although rumor had it that there were people who lived in Flyover Land, apparently they all had dial-up connections, slow modems, and probably used AOL.

And where’s the sexiness in that?

Excuse the facetiousness, but I’m sure you get my drift.

There is an inherent danger in being at the center of things when it comes to any Internet-based business.

You begin to make assumptions. Assumptions about people’s access to technology. Assumptions about people’s familiarity with that technology. And assumptions about how other people feel about using that technology.

The more “sophisticated” you become, the greater the danger that you will distance yourself from the experiences of regular people.

The truth of the matter is, most of your customers live in “Flyover Land.”

They are not the exception. They are the rule. But how much do you really know about them?

What is their average modem speed? Do they have Flash? How large are their monitors? Do they really “love” their computers as much as you do?

Are they chomping at the bit for the chance to order pizza through their PDAs?

There’s nothing here that we don’t all know already. We’ve all read the stats. We know that about 92 percent of Internet users in the United States still get access through a modem. We know that the uberfolks who build major sites are not the same kind of people as the regular folks who actually use them.

So how come I get this uneasy feeling that we’re not learning anything?

How come so many sites still look as if they were built to appeal to the rarified, coastal, urban sensibilities of the peers of their creators?

Maybe it’s time we all took a road trip.

Break out the Hondas, get on the road, and discover Flyover Land.

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