The Age of the Dispensable Middleman

The age of the dispensable middleman (Image source: Life's Too Good)

The age of the dispensable middle man (Image source: Life’s Too Good)

Are we living in the age of the dispensable middleman? Has the go-between from manufacturer to consumer been eliminated?

When the internet was in its infancy, to have your own website was expensive and difficult to set up. Yet, here I am in 2014 with Facebook, Twitter, Wix.com, and WordPress. My first web journey was in 1996, the “You’ve Got Mail” era. I could have paid a computer savvy geek to set up a website for me, paid him to do it, and maintain it. But today the consumer can do all of it themselves. Has the internet disposed of the middleman?

First there was a manufacturer, second was the product (based on a demand) third was the consumer (who needed the product)  and last was the middleman. Who is this person? What does he do? And, in this electronic age of online interactions, is the role of the middle man now redundant? Is the middleman dispensable?  There was a time when we needed travel agents, literary agents, real estate agents, you name it. There was an agent/middleman for it! Heck, even the greatest agent of all time, 007, could potentially be made redundant by drones!

 

Is the middle man extinct? (Image Source: Forexmagnates.com)

Is the middleman extinct? (Image Source: Forexmagnates.com)

Agents! Middlemen! When did they serve a purpose, and what was that purpose? Making money, providing a service, they did both.
Lets take a glance at travel agents. When did you last book a flight, hotel or car with a live person?
With the birth of websites like Hotwire.com and Travelocity, Priceline.com, or Kayak, the role of Travel Agent has been redefined.
Gone are the days of strolling by a Travel Agency, like Liberty Travel, and seeing posters of exotic far off destinations. Palm trees sawing the warm tropical breeze, rippled waves on an azure ocean, and the steel grey underbelly of a 747 against a bright blue sky. Lures, worms on a fishing line, dangling, waiting for us to bite, and then haul us in.
The middle man who diversifies and adapts to change will survive (Image Source: Is there a future for the middle man BMN.com)

The middleman who diversifies and adapts to change will survive (Image Source: Is there a future for the middle man BMN.com)

Now the travel agent has morphed into an online entity. The spokesperson is either a Gnome, or William Shatner. Is the middleman gone ? No, not really. For traveling purposes the middle man now sits in a cubicle monitoring your online booking. Liberty Travel has both store front locations and online services, for now.

What about those of us who dream of becoming writers, musicians, or actors? Do we still need literary/casting agents or managers? Lets face reality here. If you want to make the big league, yes you do need agents, people who KNOW people in the biz. But is it possible to write and publish a book, finance, cast, produce and direct your own film, create your own CD without these middle men? Absolutely.
With the help of Createspace.com and Unbound as well as other self-publishing sites, you can produce books, movies, and music. YouTube has given many a fledgling director and actor an opportunity to display their talents onscreen, as well as giving voice to poets, musicians,, make-up artists, dancers, they are all there.
In the field of self-publishing, the middleman/literary agent has morphed into a new role. There are online reviews to be bought, back cover reviews for a price, Kirkus comes to mind.
Goodreads will promote your book for a fee, and for a few dollars more there are others who will Tweet about your book.
Aha! That middleman, capable of adapting to change at all times. Indispensable though? Yes, we don’t need him to bring us the fulfillment experienced when we see our books in hardcover. But, will you sell a few extra copies using the middle man online? Maybe.
I tried a $25 Goodreads shout out for 1 month and never sold a single copy. But by tweeting, Facebooking, and blogging about my books, all these forms of advertising are free, I did sell my books. In the case of the ever changing face of self-publishing the middleman has become redundant. A savvy social network user can do what the literary agent used to do. Don’t believe me? Ask those in the publishing world why there are now new conferences being held worldwide to deal with the changes in their field of business.
What about making a movie? Financial backing, casting, crew, all of the people necessary to bring the words on a page to life, again the middle man has morphed. Kickstarter.com is helping to bring many film projects to fruition. Again, crowd sourcing on the Internet is a savvy users’ market. SEOs, key word searches, tags, broad audience projects, …… “These are a few of my favorite things!” And no middleman, again dispensable, …or maybe he’s just changed his clothes and is now Kickstarter.com, You Tube, Unbound, Kirkus, among others.
Is the middleman dispensable, or maybe he’s adaptable? Maybe the middleman now works within the company. Consider those drones again, except instead of replacing James Bond, they are delivering packages for Amazon.com. Does it sound far fetched now? Companies like Capital Grille which is owned by  parent company Darden Restaurants, also owns Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse, Red Lobster, Bahama Breeze, Seasons 52, Eddie V’s Prime Seafood,  and Yard House is so big it is now making its own napkins and  tablecloths. Eventually this company will make its own dishes, tables, chairs, you name it, and they will make it. The middleman now works inside the company.
But the truth about the middleman is that in some jobs he can’t be replaced. Unless we develop teleportation and make it a safe method of travel, we will need middlemen to get us from A to B, we will need middlemen to deliver our products to our stores, and we will need middlemen to do this work until life catches up with Star Trek. So the middleman isn’t dispensable, not yet anyway.
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