Gatekeeper, noun: One that guards a gate. A person who controls access.
A publishing house is a gatekeeper. A venture capitalist is a gatekeeper. A university is a gatekeeper. You ask for their blessing and a slice of their resources to help you do something.
“Gatekeepers don’t matter anymore!” The rallying call for everyone who doesn’t match the established criteria. For all who don’t want to give up a slice of their dream in exchange for permission.
Now, you can publish without a publisher. You can launch a start-up without funding. You can get an education without a university. The barriers are down. We can access tools and knowledge which, a decade ago, were reserved for a select few.
But here’s the thing. A gatekeeper was a quality control mechanism. Their purpose was to stop all the muck from polluting the marketplace.
Now, because it’s easier to do anything we want to do, there’s a lot more muck around. So, when people say “the gatekeepers don’t matter”, they’re right, but they’re missing something.
A gatekeeper served an audience. They were responsible for finding, developing and promoting what the audience enjoyed. Now, that responsibility falls to us. With increasing freedom and falling costs of participation comes a greater responsibility.
You can do whatever you want with ease. But now, you have to do some role-playing and be your own gatekeeper.
When someone pitches to a gatekeeper, the gatekeeper is asking himself, “does this work for the market, for the people I’m serving?”.
You have to ask yourself a variant of the same question:
“Am I doing this just because there’s no gatekeeper’s anymore, just because I can? Or am I doing it to bring value into other people’s lives? If it’s the latter, is it working?”