LAS VEGAS — I was lucky enough to have dinner with some of my favorite people in the business last night, and in one of my favorite destinations. Not a bad way to wrap up my travel season. Although the tone certainly shifted after the entrees turned into digestifs.
Brokers remain startlingly split on life after next year.
One longtime colleague — who’s admittedly never been known for his optimism — was certain brokers would be washed out of the health business by the end of next year. He saw a world where health care’s commoditized, where the states don’t just host the marketplace, but actually take over every aspect of it. He didn’t sound all that bitter about it, but his gaze has certainly already shifted to life after. He just couldn’t decide between volunteer work or working at a restaurant.
“It’s been a good run,” we both agreed.
Another friend shook his head, but his laughter wasn’t quite as robust as it usually is.
“Oh, it won’t be that bad,” he said. And while I agree with him, he almost sounded as if he was trying to convince himself as much as me. Of course, he doesn’t do much on the medical side, having gone all in on voluntary years ago. I guess I’d sound a bit more optimistic, too.
Another buddy of mine’s been arguing for a regime change for a while now. While not necessarily advocating for an industry upheaval, I think he sees it coming and, at this point, would rather just get it over with. Besides, I have a feeling he’s pretty confident in his position if everything goes to hell tomorrow. Or, more to hell.
Strangely — or maybe not — talk turned to newspapers and we took turns lamenting the slow, painful death of the newspaper business.
“How long do you think they have?” someone asked me. “Two years?”
“Maybe I’m overly optimistic,” I replied more confidently than I felt. “But I think they have maybe five.”
Newspapers, of course, will never go away completely. But the ink-stained broadsheets some of us still love are on their way to line the birdcage of history. Smartphones, tablets and broadband have revolutionized not only how we all do business, but how we live our lives. And that revolution hasn’t taken place without the blood of other industries, such as newspapers and magazines, to name just a couple.
Right after I said that, I glanced over at the table right next to us. There was a pinkish matchbox in the ashtray. And it dawned on me how ubiquitous both of these mundane objects used to be. Now they’re both like archeological finds, telling the story of a bygone era.
Are we the matchboxes and ashtrays of a better time? If so, what’s next? Even the carriers, whose deal with the devil in getting reform through Congress now looks poised to bite them back, are starting to worry. At least a few of the reps I talked to at this particular show.
Maybe it’s time to go home.