Millions of people still pay for dial-up internet, DVDs

June 11, 2015, 6:00 PM UTC
Early Black Friday Shopping At Major Retail Locations
Shoppers look through a bin of DVD movies at a Best Buy Co. store ahead of Black Friday in Peoria, Illinois, U.S., on Thursday, Nov. 28, 2013. U.S. retailers will kick off holiday shopping earlier than ever this year as stores prepare to sell some discounted items at a loss in a battle for consumers. Photographer: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Photograph by Daniel Acker — Bloomberg via Getty Images

Verizon (VZ) says it bought AOL (AOL) because of the latter’s digital content and ad technology. But nearly a quarter of AOL’s revenue still comes from something more retro: dial-up. Here, a look at some low-tech products that have proved undisruptable in the face of changing technology, whether because they found a niche, they retained devoted customers, or people forgot to cancel their subscriptions.

AOL dial-up

Many of the 2.16 million people who still pay for Internet over their phone lines live in areas without access to high-speed wireless. But considering only about 10% of dial-up subscribers regularly use it, plenty of others just forgot they were paying for subscriptions—which were worth $607 million to AOL last year.

Western Union wire transfers

Western Union (WU) moved $85 billion between individuals last year, for a fee, despite the rise of free mobile banking. The majority of this was international transfers from migrant workers to families back home, often in places without widespread banking or electronic-payment options, where most prefer to pick up cash.

Netflix DVDs

Despite CEO Reed Hastings’s eagerness to kill off the red-envelope business in 2011, it remains a small cash cow for the company. Netflix (NFLX) had 5.77 million DVD-by-mail members at the end of 2014, and though that number falls a bit every year, the service generated $368 million in profits last year.

Matchmaking services

In an era of online dating, love—or at least love for a night—is only a swipe away. But old-school matchmaking (think modern-day yentas) still accounts for 14.2% of the global dating-service industry’s $2.4 billion in revenue, according to IBISWorld.


Encyclopaedia Britannica surrendered to the Internet and stopped printing its compendiums of human knowledge after its 2010 set. But World Book is still standing. Sure, the company makes most of its revenue on digital products, but it continues to sell 10,000 print encyclopedia sets each year.

Traveler’s checks

Once a godsend for cautious vacationers, the traveler’s check now seems quaintly anachronistic compared with, say, an AmEx black card. Nonetheless, American Express (AXP) still prints them and sells billions of dollars’ worth per year. A substantial amount in circulation is yet to be cashed.

A version of this article appears in the June 15, 2015 issue of Fortune magazine with the headline ‘Dial-Up Internet And The Other Businesses Tech Forgot.’

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