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
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Aug 2010 @ 9:02am

    Re: Re:

    "the dark ages show what happens when you don't bother to save any industry. "

    Elaborate, exactly what does a lack of government protectionism have to do with the dark ages and prove that more government intervention would have helped anything.

    "then 50 or 100 years go by and we find that we have to rebuild lost industries from scratch."

    It's called innovation. The old industries die and so they get replaced by newer, more efficient, better ones. The old industries weren't doing good and so, yes, people should build new and improved ones from scratch. It's better than allowing a failed industry to continue via govt protectionism. The govt shouldn't reward the failures, it should allow the free market to reward the successful and allow the failures to die.

    "So looking at the newspaper industry; Anyone can gather facts and write a story, but if nobody does a "Good Job" then the skills of an actual investigative reporter will be lost"

    What skills, newspapers have no such skills. You're trying to save those with skill in favor of those without skill? How does that even make sense.

    and exactly what makes the newspapers more skillful than others, especially those who are experts in their field who focus on discovering the truth underlying specific topics vs journalists who are mostly too uneducated about much of what they discuss or investigate to even know what questions to ask or where to look?

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