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
    pixelpusher220 (profile), 20 Aug 2010 @ 10:37am

    Re: Re: Re:

    I'd say it's safe to say that GM, Chrysler & Ford represent a pretty significant portion of the 'US' auto industry. Yes, Honda, Toyota and others have some manufacturing here, but in comparison me thinks the US companies are far larger in the US.

    The 'industry' would have gone on just fine as you say. But the workers in that industry would face massive upheavals that likely cost millions of job losses over the short term.

    As others have posted, the US auto companies were victims of largely self inflicted wounds. (I've never purchased a US made vehicle in my 20 years of auto buying experience...mostly due to quality and mpg issues of the US cars)

    So it may be nice and well to say GM should have gone the way of the Dodo, but until something else came along to take its place, there was going to be very significant hardship that spread throughout the economy.

    If you dispute that, please do so, but saving GM and Chrysler was the right thing to do given the state of the economy as a whole.

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