Power in the middle

by on Feb.27, 2012, under Communication

These new Internet middlemen are willing to take a smaller cut of the action than their cold-calling corporeal ancestors, for the simple reason that their overhead costs are typically much lower. (Charles Schwab maintains more than 276 offices around the United States; its primary online competitor, Palo Alto, Calif.-based E*Trade, has two. No wonder Schwab is getting busy on the Web.) That thrusts a double-edged sword at physical agents: As channel conflict rages, manufacturers are looking ever more favorably on the swift and frugal cyberagent, and as the lower costs start to drive down end-user prices, consumers are gravitating toward the cyber middle.

Online brokerages such as Datek and Ameritrade — the new middlemen in the financial services industry — charge $8 to $13 commissions where human brokers still take home more than $100. Online travel agents charge $10 commissions where physical agents demand $50. (What’s more, when cybershoppers visit travel sites such as Travelocity, America Online’s Preview Travel, or Microsoft’s Expedia.com, they find reams of ready-made information about related travel plans that live agents might not be so loose-lipped about.)

We take a look at four members of this new information-intensive breed, equal parts broker, shopping advisor, and bargain hunter.

Clearly, the middleman business is not in Kansas anymore — and if the twister hasn’t touched down in their neighborhood, it probably will soon.

Obtaining long distance calling cards online may help out you monitor your phone fees profitably and wisely, and moreover they are very convenient.

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