Great blog post by George Brock, who thinks that disintermediation is not an unalloyed good, and that sometimes intermediaries are important and necessary. Extract:
What I’m trying to catch with the term “re-intermediation” is this. The way journalism’s intermediary role works has been massively altered, but the need for that function never went away. Whether or not we define it as journalism done by people called “journalists”, people need and want selection, distilling and interpretation.
Never lose sight of the fact that perhaps the single largest change underlying the “digital era” is the simple increase in the quantity and velocity of information moving between people. That proliferation increases the need for intermediary help, not the other way round. Organising and clarifying information (something that social networks do) can create value.
To me, the story of the last few years is one of regular, gentle reminders that raw, unsorted information has few fans. It’s obviously true that in the digital era someone who wants their information uncontaminated by journalism has a much better chance of getting it. But information sifted, verified, clarified and – yes – packaged has the greater appeal.
He’s right. I’ve been a subscriber to the Economist for many years not because I share its ideological views but because it’s a pretty good sieve that often highlights stuff that I might not have spotted otherwise and to which I ought to be paying attention.
Also: on the over-reach of disintermediation. Travel agents are usually the standard case study of intermediaries swept away by the wave of creative destruction. So we — the customers — now do all the bureaucracy associated with booking our air travel. So it’s only when you have to plan a complicated, non-standard trip that you realise how useful a knowledgeable intermediary can be.