Life Without Landlines, Waxing Webcams, Etc.

In olden days, you knew a family was on the cutting edge of technology when you saw a telephone line going into its house. Soon, such a phone wire may be the hallmark of a technological fuddy-duddy. A survey by Harris Interactive finds that 9 percent of adults in the U.S. have abandoned their landline phone service altogether and now use wireless phones exclusively. Another 5 percent said they’re “seriously considering” such a step, and 47 percent are “somewhat” considering it. Still, an obdurate 39 percent said they’ll “never switch.” Among the chief reasons these people cite for their landline loyalty: they “like the ‘safety’ of a traditional phone” (cited by 26 percent of these refuseniks), they “need a line for Internet access” (20 percent) and they find the “pricing not attractive enough” (12 percent). Just 2 percent said it’s because they “don’t trust wireless providers.” Of course, “never” is a long time. Are there factors that might lead some of these people to go wireless-only at some point? Without making any promises, 34 percent said a “reduced pricing plan” would affect their thinking, while 30 percent said “coverage improvement plan for my area” would make a difference and 24 percent said a “money-back guarantee” could sway them.

When an august institution like The New York Times adds a regular column on poker to its fit-to-print coverage, you might suppose Americans have made their peace with gambling once and for all. That’s not quite the case, though, to judge by the results of a recent Maritz Poll on casinos. The 37 percent of respondents who look favorably on legalized gambling were nearly matched by the 35 percent who regard it unfavorably. (The rest were neutral.) Even among those in the pro-gambling camp, more than half said “there should be limits on cities developing casinos anytime they want.” Similarly, while 42 percent of all respondents think building a casino is “an excellent way to boost the local economy,” half of this group said there should be restrictions on where casinos are built.

Those who lambaste marketers for ignoring older consumers often make the same point: People in their 50s and 60s tend to have more money than younger folks. True enough. But the oldsters have something else the young ones tend not to have: lots of medical bills to eat away at their disposable income. In a survey of 50-70-year-olds by the Commonwealth Fund, 35 percent said they are having trouble paying medical bills or are paying off medical debt accrued over the past three years. Though the problem is most acute among people without insurance, it also afflicts 33 percent of those who are insured.

We’ll take the most charitable view and classify this under Divine Providence: Rife with exhibitionists, modern society also has lots of voyeurs. A recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds that 16 percent of wired adults have gone online to view another person or place via a webcam. “And on any given day, about 2 million Internet users are checking out remote places or people by using webcams.” The report says the growth of broadband access portends further growth in the webcam audience, given that 19 percent of people with broadband at home have viewed webcam material, vs. 13 percent of those who make do with dial-up service. Moreover, the report points to the increasing numbers of practical (and respectable) uses for webcams, allowing a viewer to see anything from traffic hotspots to the progress of construction on a new home.

If Milwaukee doesn’t become famous as a hotbed of wine connoisseurship, it won’t be for lack of trying by WineSpeak. The company vows to bring the world of wine to the “front door” of people in that part of Wisconsin. Besides the corkscrew shown here, ads for WineSpeak illustrate its mission by showing a bottle-shaped keyhole and a Welcome mat marked with grape-stained footprints. Agency for the effort is Nelson Schmidt of Milwaukee.