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“Disintermediation never happened”

I posted yesterday on the Software 2008 talk by JupiterResearch’s Edward O’Hara on the Key Trends in 2008, but those trends weren’t the most interesting thing he had to say. Edward is a colorful speaker, so he had plenty of great lines, but my favorite was “Disintermediation never happened.” And he went on to not only back up his claim, but to explain how the big news is the exact opposite of disintermediation is the trend to watch.


For Internet old-timers, like me, “disintermediation” was a much bandied-about term in the ’90s, referring to the expectation that the Internet could banish the gulf between manufacturers and consumers occupied by distributors and retailers—the intermediaries. The theory went that the Internet made it cost effective for manufacturers to reach their customers directly without the inefficiencies of the long distribution channel that kept marking up the product.
Despite Edward’s claim, some disintermediation did happen. Dell led the way for PC makers to sell direct to customers, which remains disintermediation’s most visible and successful example. But Edward showed how the Internet has actually ushered in the age of what JupiterResearch calls “Complex Intermediation.”
Edward showed a slide that contained all number of new intermediaries that get between the originator of a product (or of content) and the eventual consumer:

  • search engines
  • online retailers
  • online portals
  • social networks
  • video networks
  • blogs
  • instant messages

He could have thrown in affiliate marketers, too. Every time marketers start thinking about syndicating a message, or fomenting viral marketing pass-along, or posting content in a public place, they are introducing an intermediary into the conversation between them and their customers.
Edward makes the telling point that far from disintermediation, most companies ought to be working with as many intermediaries as possible.
Have you ever understood something, but had someone come along that explained it better so that it deepened your understanding? Thanks, Edward.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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