Shafer’s list of professions & technologies destoryed by digital disintermediation

by on December 18, 2008 · 9 comments

Jack Shafer, editor at large of Slate, is my favorite media pundit. Everything he does is worth reading, and his column this week is no different. It’s entitled “The Digital Slay-Ride: What’s killing newspapers is the same thing that killed the slide rule,” and in it he notes how “Hardly a day goes by, it seems, without some laid-off or bought-out journalist writing a letter of condolence to himself and his profession.” “The underlying cause of their grief,” Shafer argues, “can be traced to the same force that has destroyed other professions and industries: digital technology.” He recalls how people scoffed back in 1993 when Wired founder Louis Rossetto’s said that the “digital revolution is whipping through our lives like a Bengali typhoon” and destroying the old order. But no one is laughing anymore.  As I noted in my Media Metrics report, digital disruption and disintermediation has completely upended the media marketplace, as well as countless others. Toward that end, Shafer actually starts a list of professions or technologies that have been “typhooned” by the digital revolution. It’s a pretty amazing (and entertaining) list for those of us old enough to remember when all these things were dominate in our society and economy. Can you think of others?

• Bank tellers
• Typewriters
• Typesetting
• Carburetors
• Vacuum tubes
• Slide rules
• Disc jockeys
• Stockbrokers
• Telephone operators
• Yellow pages
• Repair guys
• Bookbinders
• Pimps (displaced by the cell phone and the Web)
• Cassette and reel-to-reel recorders
• VCRs
• Turntables
• Video stores
• Record stores
• Bookstores
• Recording industry
• Courier/messenger services
• Travel agencies
• Print and cinematic porn
• Porn actors
• Stenographers
• Wired telcos
• Drummers
• Toll collectors (slayed by the E-ZPass)
• Book publishing (especially reference works)
• Conventional-watch makers
• “Browse” shopping
• U.S. Postal Service
• Printing-press makers
• Film cameras
• Kodak (and other film-stock makers)

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