Mass intermediation


Back in the day one of the buzzwords of the dotcom era for media companies and and businesses looking to get online was disintermediation. Here is whatis.com’s definition:

Disintermediation is giving the user or the consumer direct access to information that otherwise would require a mediator, such as a salesperson, a librarian, or a lawyer. Observers of the Internet and the World Wide Web note that these new technologies give users the power to look up medical, legal information, travel, or comparative product data directly, in some cases removing the need for the mediator (doctor, lawyer, salesperson) or at the very least changing the relationship between the user and the product or service provider.

For the media it meant that they looked to preserve their advertising revenues by moving their publications online and in some cases substituting newspaper sales with online subscriptions. Web portals like Yahoo! and Excite! provoked debate over disintermediation in the late 1990’s.

Now web bloggers and Google News have put it back on the agenda again. By going to Google News, news links could be plucked from some 5,000 English speaking sources worldwide.

With bloggers, the media moguls have realised that the process has been turned on its head with ‘mass-intermediation’. They are concerned that that this eclectic link selection process will have a detrimental effect on subscriptions, readership figures and advertising revenues. Dow Jones, publisher of the Wall Street Journal is taking the unprecedented step of making the US online version of the paper free for a week from November 8th to encourage take up and discussion of its content in the blogger community.

Now the news media industry feels a change brought by mass-intermediation but it is not sure how it will affect their businesses. Are blogs an online power that swarms on certain issues or stories? How should they harness the power of this online mob? I suspect that will be a very entertaining storm in a latte mug as people compare it to the punk or garage ethic, weave pointless business models around it, endlessly analyse it and compare it to fashionable theories like prosumption, social networks and communities.

There is a report from Morgan Stanley equity analyst Mary Meeker discussing the rise of blogging and how she thinks Yahoo! stands to benefit from incorporating RSS feeds from blogs into their My Yahoo! personal portal page, however that doesn’t mean that it can’t be easily copied by others such as MSN. Another interesting related article is at the Online Journalism Review by Mark Glaser called ‘Open Season: News Sites Add Outside Links, Free Content’.