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Access versus ownership: Which will be the default?

+The Atlantic looks at the threads that connect Steve Case's investments:

"A luxury-home network. A car-sharing company. An explosive deal site. Maybe you see three random ideas. [Steve] Case and his team saw three bets that paid off thanks to a new Web economy that promotes power in numbers and access over ownership." [Emphasis added.]

Full Atlantic article here: http://bit.ly/vm7MM2

From time to time at Radar we've been checking in on this "access vs. ownership" trend.

Lisa Gansky, author of "The Mesh," explained why businesses need to embrace sharing and open systems: http://oreil.ly/b3Al0Z

Corey Pressman, founder of Exprima Media, discussed the role customization will play in an access-dominant media world:

"... music access versus ownership is very compelling. I could see a possible near future in which 'accessible music' (streaming unlimited cloud access) trumps 'owned music' (purchased CDs or downloads). In this scenario, customization — creating customized playlists — is external to the media; customization is handled by the conduit, not the content."

More from Pressman here: http://oreil.ly/tZgtJb

In "What if a book is just a URL?", Radar contributor +Jenn Webb pointed out ebook companies that ignore downloads and instead provide access to material: http://oreil.ly/ep0bEk

In an interview with +Audrey Watters, education theorist George Siemens noted that in the education data/analytics world, "Data access and ownership are equally important issues: who should be able to see the analysis that schools perform on learners?" http://oreil.ly/pBPdC6

Business, media, publishing, data, education -- these are all areas where access vs. ownership has organically popped up in our coverage. And it's easy to see how the same trend applies to the technical side: access requires storage and ubiquity, which generally leads to a cloud solution (and then you get into issues like public cloud vs private cloud, who's responsible for uptime, what happens when there's a breach, who actually owns that data, how do you maximize performance, and on and on ...)

What's your take? Will access become the default? Or is ownership a hardwired trait?
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3 comments
 
People love to own stuff, but they also love getting a lot of something great for a little money. I see a both-and: People will subscribe to a good access plan, and they will purchase download of things they find there "for keeps."
 
The future looks like lots of access and not much ownership.

And yet if you compare the Flash games market (all about access, the games are all "out there" on the web) with the iOS games market (all about ownership, the games are inside your phone), the iOS games market is much more vibrant and much more mature.

The challenge for access providers is to give users that psychological sense of ownership and connection that means they belong, and keep coming back. The stuff you grant access to needs to feel like it's "inside" not "out there".

Facebook manages this well -- the Facebook games you play sit inside your personal space, so you get some of the feeling of ownership. You never got that with Kongregate.
 
The question of value is the first thing that comes to mind. To be successful, an "access" model must provide significantly more value than an "ownership" model with respect to price.

For example, consider owning a book versus having access to a book. I'm willing to pay let's say $10 to buy a book and acquire ownership of the physical object. To merely access the same book, I'm not actually willing to pay anything at all, save the time it takes to check it out from the library.

Look at Rhapsody or Spotify's business models. For the price of a single CD, they provide access to millions of songs, along with social and other value-adds that make the services worth the price. In other words, merely providing access is not enough. Access must come with enough incentive to convince the consumer that the price is worth abdicating ownership. ie. No one is going to pay the same price for a URL as they would for a book.
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