Services that give us access – from cars to music

Martin Thörnkvist is a media market analyst at Media Evolution and runs the music company Songs I Wish I Had Written. The text is taken from our publication “Access over ownership”, about the trend of wanting access to things instead of owning them.

One of the main reasons why the collaborative consumption trend is happening now is the ability and ease of connecting someone’s assets to someone else’s needs on Internet-based platforms. Instead of being limited to one’s own little network of friends, platforms become well-stocked marketplaces.

Services first grew out of the things we want that are most difficult and expensive for us to obtain. An overnight apartment in New York (Airbnb.com) or a car for weekend excursions (Zipcar.com and Sunfleet.se).

But the number of aggregating services has quickly emerged that aggregate cheaper things, as well as things that we don’t use so often. A circular saw to build a wardrobe (Uniiverse.com) or a bicycle in a city where you don’t live (Spinlister.com).

Time is another asset that we sometimes have lots of, but at other times it’s very scarce, so why not ask others for help to do things on sites like Taskrabbit.com and Hinnerdu.se?

Creating trust between people who don’t know each other

One of the biggest challenges – and merits – of these sites is to create trust between people who haven’t previously met yet can lend someone their apartment for example.

People do this by the classic internet method of ranking both those who own assets and those who want to access them by measuring history and voting. Several sites use the social graph that Facebook provides which shows whether people are a friend or friend of a friend of the person who owns something.

Flexidrive.se and Whipcar.com are services that let people rent their cars to one another. They have traditional insurance cover on top of the owner’s regular car insurance so you don’t have to worry about no-claims bonuses, etc.

15 million arguments for access

It is not difficult to understand why people like services such as Spotify, Wimp and Rdio. That someone else collects all the world’s music and makes it available for a few Euros a month is a pretty unbeatable deal. Owning media on plastic and paper quickly becomes irrational.

The music industry was the first to launch this type of service. But that’s just the beginning for the media industries. In the United States, Hulu.com aggregates TV programmes from a number of companies in a subscription service, Netflix.com does the same for films and it is rumoured that Amazon.com has plans to do the same for books.

It’s not our behaviour that prevents the existence of subscription services for books. Libraries have been places offering access to texts and knowledge for centuries.

In the era of service sites, Skillshare.com closes the circle well. The platform can be used by anyone to describe the knowledge they possess and offer local training.

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  • Anders

    One new service in the same area is Ridebite.com. They are a car rental service between people. A really interestinhg service that can change the way we own and consume cars in the future!