I was interviewed today by Tom D’Auria at IMI TechTalk for KFNX News Talk Radio about The Share Economy.  He asked some very good questions about the difference and intersection between the Share Economy and the Membership Economy.  I thought it might be helpful to explain the difference between the Share Economy and the Membership Economy.

     Share Economy organizations are sustainable economic systems built around the sharing of human and physical assets, in which  the assets are owned by individual members of those organizations and not by the organization itself.  Some trendy examples include the following:

  • AirBnB–which allows members to rent rooms in other people's homes, as an alternative to hotel rooms
  • RelayRides–a community of car owners who are willing to "rent out" their cars directly from their parking spaces, when they'd otherwise be sitting idle, to people who need the cars for short durations
  • Napster.  The naughty granddaddy of the Share Economy–a community of music collectors who shared their files (unwittingly violating legal rulings about music

The Membership Economy is a larger trend than the Share Economy, which includes all organizations that require customers to "belong" to the organization as a gateway to access.  In addition to Share Economy companies, the Membership Economy includes organizations like Netflix, in which the assets are owned by the company and not by individual members, as well as professional organizations, loyalty programs and SaaS subscription businesses leveraging company-owned software and servers.  

Trust, analytics and security are critical when physical assets are shared, and so the rise of both trends have been highly depenent on enabling technologies including social media, always on digital connection, mobile apps and, on the back end, the advent of big data analytics. 

Both trends are creating exciting new options for consumers in terms of how to access and use resources–and should be carefully watched by innovators and established organizations alike.