Networked Communications (part 4): The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman

Disintermediation (Wikipedia link).

That’s what we’re talking about. When the people and processes and barriers between point A and point B shrink or disappear. Making things faster, cheaper, more direct.

This week, Seth Godin announced that he was “done” with publishing traditional books. This was actually a logical progression – the book industry has been undergoing disintermediation for years, and the fact is, we can now reach audiences without all the overhead (and cost) of the traditional publishing and distribution process.

Digital technology, including social media/networked communications, shrinks the middleman.

Just this past week, Chris Brogan wrote about how he purchased a new car, sight unseen, via the Internet. Traditional local dealers weren’t cutting the mustard.

So, with the cultural and technological advances making various walls crumble, and causing middlemen to disappear, how do we talk to clients and colleagues about social media?

We tie the use of networked communications to this inexorable trend of disintermediation. Digital networked communications are removing (or radically changing) all the traditional methods of distributing information and reaching people. Social media is not a blip on the radar screen. It’s a component of something that is re-shaping culture globally – disintermediation.

The distribution of multi-media messages; the ability to touch customers directly; the bypassing of newspapers and magazines and billboards and TV in order to interact in a non-mediated fashion – this is both the present and the future.

I mean, you don’t write too many letters on paper anymore, putting them in an envelope, using a stamp, and entrusting them to the Post Office for several days in order to communicate – right? Disintermediation is written all over our increasingly digital and networked communications. It’s not a fad. It’s a fact.

[This post is part of a series of posts, each covering a certain aspect of the topic: see part 1, The New Normal; part 2, The New Normal is the Old Normal; part 3, The Microphone is Mine Now; part 4, The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman; part 5, Someone Took Down the Fences, part 6, The New Digital Neighborhood; and the summary post – Social Media: Start Here]


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Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

5 Responses to Networked Communications (part 4): The Incredibly Shrinking Middleman

  1. We’re tearing down the walls or burning down the house. Either way, the middle-man remains on shaky ground. Intermediaries might console themselves in gathering to view Death of a Salesman together.

  2. @Leslie says:

    Nice commentary on the growing direct reach that new media brings, especially at the local level for small to medium business.

  3. janebozarth says:

    Nice, Steve. Those who realize they serve as ‘mediators’ (acting between one thing and another) would be well advised to reskill for the coming changes. Video store clerks and bank tellers have seen demand for their services drastically reduced or eliminated altogether. Coming soon? The realization that training/training departments, particularly in the age of social media, are really just mediators.

  4. Actually, I don’t think all mediators will disappear – some will increase (my business is, in fact, built on playing the role of mediator). It’s just that whole sections of mediation which no longer provide value will shrink away. And Networked Communications will be a part of growing some roles, while removing others.

  5. Pingback: Networked Communications (part 5): Someone Took Down the Fences «

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