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
    JC, 20 Aug 2010 @ 10:42am

    Re: Re: Re: Where is this ride going to end?

    I agree that voice recognition is virtually impossible to get right ... at the moment ... but technology is advancing at an incredible rate.

    I think the post had more to do with technology making business models obsolete than it did with specific implementation. For example, I could easily imagine retail stores moving to RFID (or something like it) making the need for cashiers redundant.

    As for customer service and call centers, I think as web technology improves people will move to more of a self service model with maybe a "person" you can chat with for help. At first the person will be some 2nd world labor, but eventually they will have searching algorithms so that 98% of the time your question can be answered by a machine (GoogleLite, but 100 times better than Google today because we're talking the future).

    I agree that our sudden and rapid adoption of technology will require the creation of a new type of culture; a culture that is based on change, the unexpected, and disruption. I'm think (and hope) that our new culture will actually eliminate concepts like "disruption". How can you disrupt something that is constantly in flux, never the same for longer than absolutely necessary.

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