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 @ 12:26pm

    I always have a hard time with this one. While I don't believe that any industry deserves to be saved, I'm less certain about how you allow an industry to die gracefully.

    I think the bailout happened for two basic reasons. 1) A lot of Americans are scared, either by 9/11, or the rise of Atheism, or the increased influence of the church in politics, or whatever crazy "big fear" happens to be gripping them at the moment. 2) Too much change has occurred over the last 20 years for many Americans to feel safe.

    When you combine fear and the feeling of being unsafe people become very irrational and you start to hear things like this: "GM can't die, we have to save the Big Three or the terrorists have won." "Oh Lordy, yesterday I was driving to the supermarket and a Liberal was waving a sign about how God is dead when my car broke down. I wanted to ask him for help but I wasn't sure if he was a Muslim so I just made a run for it. Now I need to buy a new car and GM is going under! Help me government, I won't have anything to complain about if you don't spend my money fixing the auto industry!!!"

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