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 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re: Steel

    Ouch, yes that was definitely an absent minded mistype. I did in fact mean supply has shifted over seas. Unrelated to this scenario however, I would also stand by my statement and say demand has shifted largely overseas as well to more quickly developing Asian nations.

    The point I believe you're trying to make is that the steel industry never really died in America and that makes my analogy false. However, while I failed miserably to link the steel analogy into my comment better, I actually knew most of what you have explained here. The fact is, the steel industry was at one time the leading industry in America and is now just a shadow of its former self. It is most definitely true that American steel is still produced today as well. You mention, "...steel makers in North America never reinvested in their businesses to update and modernize plants..." This is a key aspect to why the music industry has and will continue to fail. They have refused to reinvest in a better stronger infrastructure that compels consumers to want their products. Instead, they have dug their heels into the ground and refuse to progress forward with innovation and entertainment that consumers are currently demanding.

    The RIAA is trying to drive people to think that music will cease to exist if the 'music industry' is allowed to fall which is a blatant lie and historically incorrect when you compare it to something like the steel industry in America, which continues to thrive, albeit on a smaller scale, after having fallen so hard previously. This was the connection I was trying to make between steel and music.

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