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
    Hephaestus (profile), 20 Aug 2010 @ 8:03am

    Re: Steel pt. 2

    "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."

    While the smaller artists and the abundance of non label artists does play a big part in the fall of the record labels. The bigger picture is three fold. The first being that there is alot more to entertain us than their used to be. Texting, cell Phone, e-mail, gaming, blogging, farmville (ick), surfing the net, etc. The second is that the record labels had a rising level of resale on products (records, 8 tracks, cassettes) that wore out due to planned obsolescence. The third was the changes in storage media, records, then 8 tracks, then cassettes, then CD's, then the mp3. The mp3 is the end of the line, it never wears or looses sound quality, it never needs to be replaced.

    As a side note. Most people when they have a hard drive crash and loose all their music infringe and redownload it because of the cost and there is no lost music replacement from the labels. That leads them to continue to infringe. Right now we are at a point where singles music sales are still rising (slightly) but that will end and turn down over the next year or two as hard drives wear out and the disruptive curve slides up through the age groups.

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