Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Dying Middleman

I'm a big fan of Bill Simmons, a.k.a. The Sports Guy. Although his writing usually focuses on sports, it's his ability to connect sports with wider culture that I most enjoy. Recently Simmons spoke with Mark Cuban about a wide range of topics including media and the economy. Cuban is an ├╝ber-entrepreneur who owns the Dallas Mavericks, HDNet, and a bunch of other ventures - his blog is also quite insightful and worth a read.

In particular, the two spoke about how new media (Twitter, etc.) has basically destroyed the need for newspapers to serve as the middleman between athletes and the wider public. Athletes and other celebrities can now directly speak with their fans. This got me thinking about what other traditional middlemen might be cut out by Twitter, Facebook, etc.:
  • The Health Middleman. Doctors, nurses, psychologists and other health professionals have traditionally served as the middleman between a wide array of health knowledge and the general public. This gatekeeper role is no longer necessary, although we'll still probably need health professionals for hands-on tasks.
  • The Education Middleman. Schools and colleges are quickly losing their competitive advantage over the Internet.
  • The Real Estate Middleman. Brokers will become an endangered species.
  • The Consultant Middleman. Data collection has become much easier. The analysis and recommendations have to shine for Management Consultants to survive.
  • The Public Relations, Marketing, Advertising Middlemen. If a company can directly speak with its customers, then why bother with a message middleman.

I'm sure there are many more industries that could see their value-proposition greatly diminished or even completely destroyed. The trick will be to ride the wave and adapt instead of fighting the losing battle - like many newspapers have attempted to do.

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