We made the drive from Atlanta to Florida and then back to Atlanta this week using I-75.
In south Georgia, several of the exits no longer have operating gas stations or other vendors. Stores closed, weeds growing up around them.
Were these businesses forced out by a down economy? Did they over finance in the boom years? Or were they simply unable to compete with the bigger clusters of competitors that formed around other exits just a few miles down the road?
I also noted empty billboards. Dozens of them. Most displayed phone numbers, and solicitations for new business. Others carried out-of-date ads still on display. Again I ask, how much of this is due to a contracting economy?
I have to wonder how much the billboard biz is being hurt by wireless devices that put the resources of the web within reach of passengers riding in a moving car. Are billboards as effective when travelers use the web to plan their trips in every detail? Is their impact diminished when travelers can instantly go online and seek reviews for motels, restaurants or attractions they see advertised?
Here's an example of how mobile Internet impacted our trip: When we were rolling south on I-75 earlier in the week, a family member suggested we eat at a certain restaurant you usually don't see advertised on billboards. So, we whipped out the iPad, and checked locations on the chain's website. And then pulled up directions to one in a city we were approaching.