Should We Be Interested In 'Saving' Any Industry?

from the forward-or-backwards dept

We hear it all the time, whenever anyone talks about an industry being "destroyed" by new technologies: "how do we save x industry?" where "x" can stand for "recording" or "news" or "movies" or whatever. We saw it just recently when a professor wanted to "save" the newspaper industry by changing copyright law in ridiculous ways. It's also why we jokingly called our last event "Techdirt Saves* Journalism." The whole concept of "saving" an industry is so preposterous, which is why we wanted to mock it with the title of our event. I was reminded of this when reading this recap of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC) event, where Dan Gillmor was quoted saying:
"I'm not even slightly interested in saving the industry."
And it got me thinking about understanding the mindset of "saving" an industry more deeply. The truth is, whenever anyone seriously (not mockingly) refers to "saving" an industry, invariably, they're really talking about saving a few legacy companies in that industry from whatever disruptive innovation is shaking things up. It's never actually about "saving an industry," because the "industry" almost never actually needs to be saved. The industry may be in the process of being changed (often radically), but that's not the same thing as needing saving.

What's telling is that, through all of this, you almost never hear start-ups talking about asking for help trying to "save the industry" that they're in. That's because they know "the industry" is just fine, and in all of the upheaval there's really tremendous opportunity. So, anytime anyone talks seriously about "saving" any particular industry, challenge them on what they really mean, and see if they're actually just talking about saving a few companies, rather than saving an actual "industry."

Filed Under: industry, progress, protectionism, saving


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  1. identicon
    ZD, 20 Aug 2010 @ 7:27am

    Steel pt. 2

    Accidentally submitted; continuation.

    The real problem began when the market for recordings was valued unrealistically high.

    Artists, being the source of the product were originally considered more powerful than those recording and selling the material but as time continued, artists became smaller and weaker in the realm that would become the RIAA. Today, we have an industry bubble that has been blown up to an unsustainable size and the market no longer monetarily values it as greatly as it once did. We also have the big name producers of music and the big name recorders of music complaining that they aren't making enough money.

    The problem hasn't ever been music piracy. The 'problem' has always been the internet and the ever increasing exposure to smaller artists who often play music for their enjoyment rather than profit, demanding less money from their fans.

    It's easy for the RIAA to demonize piracy as the culprit to their demise but they are their own enemy, self righteous and unforgiving in their pursuit of ever larger profits. A market is only viable for as long as the consumer base is willing to support it. Once that base goes away or shrinks then it time to be forward thinking or to find another job. I don't hear the numerous indie artists bitching that they have a 9-5 while they play on the side. Get with the times or die like the steel industry.

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