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
    MissingFrame, 20 Aug 2010 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Newspapers were the medium, reporters were the industry. If you're talking about the "printing industry" well I can debate that one as well, but "newspapers" existed to report the news, and this usually meant following a story on the street. I'll grant that newspapers no longer do this, the good reporters have moved to other mediums. Unfortunately the other mediums don't lend themselves to in-depth reporting. These days the magazines are breaking stories, but soon they will be gone as well, and CNN rebroadcasting Twitter isn't what anyone should be called reporting.

    Today people are reading blogs for news. Some people may even mistake a blog like this one for news. It isn't.

    "Perhaps this is a good reason why anti copy laws shouldn't last 95+ years, so we can actually store the knowledge in hard drives and keep it around in databases and on our computers before it disappears."

    Absolutely correct.

    "uhm... you must be talking about yourself."

    Good one, pat yourself on the back. No go read the blogs to learn about your "facts" ...

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