retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Call it a case that illustrates the death - or at least the disintermediation - of the middle man.

The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that “best-selling marketing author Seth Godin is ditching his traditional publisher, Portfolio, after a string of books and plans to sell his future works directly to his fans.” According to the story, Godin feels that between his blog and books “he now has so many direct customer relationships, largely via his blog, that he no longer needs a traditional publisher. Mr. Godin plans to release subsequent titles himself in electronic books, via print-on-demand or in such formats as audiobooks, apps, small digital files called PDFs and podcasts.”

The move actually suits Godin’s broader message - that companies need to be more nimble and fast when bringing products and services to market.

No argument there. Too many companies suffer from analysis paralysis, creating systems and structures that inhibit innovation and slow down their ability to compete in existing markets and explore new ones.

But it is the other line from the story to which anyone in the retail business ought to pay attention - that Godin believes that he now has so many direct customer relationships ... that he no longer needs a traditional publisher.

The lesson here seems clear. Retailers need to cultivate that personal relationship between themselves and customers so that they are so valuable that disintermediation is impossible ... even as manufacturers try to cement and personalize their relationships with shoppers.

Godin’s decision is just another in a series of stories from the traditional publishing world that illustrate how some industries are coming to the precipice, and need to make fundamental decisions about how to approach their futures. For retailers, it is critical to behave as if the precipice is just over the next hill. Because if one thing seems clear, it is that the precipice is closer than you think.

That’s my Tuesday morning Eye-Opener.

- Kevin Coupe
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