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. icon
    Overcast (profile), 20 Aug 2010 @ 7:51am

    The buggy-whip / car thing is always trotted out as an example, and it's a good one. But what about railways? Railways seemed like buggy-whips for a while - why bother to save them when there's a better way to travel (car) that offers more freedom?

    There are MANY industries - that just really aren't needed anymore. Not that they didn't have quite a need at some point but... TV Repair for instance. There's still a few that will be repaired, but it's so cheap to get new ones now... All but the newest are usually tossed.

    Lead Pipe industry is another one.
    Lead Paint production.
    Tubes for Car Tires.
    Pony Express.
    Wooden Ship Building.
    Cannon Ball manufacturing.

    As technology changes, we must adjust. Even the music industry has played a large role in making technology was it is today. Aren't they whining about the loss of 8-Track, Vinyl Records, and Cassettes too?

    Why can't they innovate some. It's a gold mine waiting to be tapped, but they are still panning for gold in the creek, rather than buying heavy mining equipment and tunneling..

    Google and many others prove this.

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