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
    TtfnJohn (profile), 20 Aug 2010 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Re:

    Wrong. Couldn't be more wrong.

    "the dark ages show what happens when you don't bother to save any industry."

    Huh? Let's have a look at this, shall we, the technologies available to Rome continued to exist in Western and Central Europe for some time after the last group of "barbarians" to angrily visit it decided all it was good for was sacking and leveling.

    Western and Central Europe quickly fractured into small, often tiny, Kingdoms which couldn't support the "industries" if they'd wanted to, which they often did. In short, while Rome had over extended itself and bankrupted itself paying for wars on credit, the size of the western empire still supported such industry.

    The common thread here is that all that was lost when Rome itself fell and the "barbarians" took over.

    Part of the Roman Empire fell. The western part. The Eastern Empire continued to exist and, largely, prosper for close to another thousand years and develop and extend the technologies and markets the west couldn't or had forgotten because they were of no use anymore. They continued trade with asia and the far east as they had for centuries before. As Islam rose Byzantium traded knowledge and with them as well. After western "christians" sacked Constantinople in a crusade, Byzantium exported what written Greek culture it had left east with Islam because they no longer felt it was safe with them. (Seriously compressed, btw).

    "Unfortunately, there are many important trades that are being less valued by society than entertainment." This has been true, I suspect, since the dawn of human kind. We crave entertainment and distraction from the grind of daily life. The more technically proficient and wealthy we become the more we seem to need it and seek it out.

    Keep in mind that we are not creatures of economics, economics is a creature of humanity. Should we vanish off the face of the earth tomorrow so would economics. Hard science wouldn't, it would grind on as it alway has. Social "sciences" including economics would vanish with us.

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